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Inside Tuesday’s Valley primaries

Story by Chris Graham

I look at the voter turnout in Tuesday’s presidential primaries here in the Central Shenandoah Valley, the breadbasket of the Virginia GOP, and have to wonder about the fall elections.
It was a bare majority, but still a majority, of voters who voted the Democratic primaries in Greater Harrisonburg and Greater Augusta Tuesday.
My thinking on this is that if Dems are outpolling Republicans in February when there wasn’t much on the line in either primary, it’s only going to be more pronounced in November when the stakes are winner-takes-all.
Disagreeing with me on this point are James Madison University political-science professor Bob Roberts and Bridgewater College history and political-science professor David McQuilkin.

“I think basically what you had was there was more interest (in the Democratic primary) – and it was a contest that I feel had more significance in terms of who was going to be able to ultimately come out. I think McCain was clearly going to win on the Republican side,” McQuilkin said in an interview for today’s “Augusta Free Press Show.”

“There was not that much competition statewide for the Republicans for them to press the Republican turnout. And there’s some indication that Republicans and independents voted in the Democratic primary,” Roberts said in a separate interview for today’s show.

McQuilkin concurred with Roberts on that last issue regarding indications that Republicans and independents voted in the Dem primary – but I believe that if these indications end up being found to be true, they would only prove my point that Republicans in the Valley and thus statewide have something to worry about. Because the big winner in Tuesday’s primaries was Barack Obama, an Illinois Democrat whose appeal seems to span the political spectrum.

Roberts contends that Republican voters in the Valley, ” if given a choice between a Democrat and a Republican, are going to vote for a Republican.” But then he adds to that observation this one: “Whether the intensity of the support is there is the issue. Will some marginal Republicans or very conservative Republicans sit home? That remains to be seen. We don’t know. Will some Republicans just not vote for John McCain because of some of his issues? I doubt it. I think they ultimately will come out.”

I’m not so sure about that. Valley Republicans are historically conservative, and I don’t get the sense that Valley conservatives are looking at McCain as being one of them enough to assume that they are going to come out in large numbers on his behalf.

Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.

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