Debate Watch in Northern Virginia

Oct 19th, 2008 | By ffolwell | Category: Latest News, Uncategorized

Woodbridge Republicans Say Election Is Not Over

By Zheng Jialiang (Jelen) with Gong Jietong (Yamaha)

Woodbridge, Virginia – About 60 GOP partisans in Woodbridge, VA., gathered Wednesday night to watch the third and final presidential debate between Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama.  In the end, they praised McCain’s aggressive performance and claimed the election was not over yet.

“McCain really did a great job tonight,” said Ken Whitlock, a member of the Republican executive committee of Prince William County, which includes Woodbridge.

“He was very aggressive.  He pushed right back when Obama made a dumb comment. And that’s what he should have done much earlier than now,” said Whitlock, who admitted McCain did “just so-so” in other presidential debates.

“It’s not over till it’s over,” said Lyle Beefelt, chairman of the Prince William County Republican Committee. “Things change. There is always time to come back. McCain absolutely can win this election.”

Three weeks before the Nov. 4 election, the debate, held at Hofstra University in Long Island, New York, came at a tough time for McCain as several national news polls showed Obama gaining strength nationally.

A Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll gave Obama a 4-point edge over McCain, but a CBS News/New York Times poll showed on Oct. 14 that Obama was leading by 14 percentage points – 53% to 39% – over McCain.  It was the fifth survey this week to register Obama’s lead in double-digits.

“Polls are not believable,” said Beefelt. “They are just helpful to see the dynamics of the race, but can not predict what will happen on Election Day.”

Virginia is a key battleground state, with 13 electoral votes up for grabs. Traditionally a state that went for the Republicans, it is up for grabs this year.

We have a Democratic governor, ” said Ruth M. Anderson, organizer of the debate watching party in L&B’s Pizzeria, Woodbridge. Anderson is the president of Prince William Republican Women’s Club. “More democrats moved into Virginia. And people moved to our county from the north because they wanted to find good houses here. ”

However, for the sub-prime mortgage crisis ignited last year, Prince William County became a stricken area in Virginia hard hit by foreclosures. In 2005, the county had 52 foreclosures. In 2006, the number jumped to 282. In 2007, there were 3,344. Through August of this year, there were 5,485.

“The economy here is terrible,” said Beefelt, pointing to some foreclosed houses nearby.

Dianne Swarely, a volunteer for Team Sarah, a local women’s organization for the Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. Insisting Obama is a socialist, Swarely is voting for McCain because of his tax policy.  

“McCain does not want to raise taxes,” said Swarely. “Obama will raise taxes. He will take money from working people and give it to the poor. I am sorry. They don’t get to get my money.”

Julie Lucas, organizer of Team Sarah, also is a strong advocate for lower taxes.

“I am a small business owner myself,” said Lucas, who worked in financial service for 13 years. “It helps to create jobs. And that’s the backbone of this nation.”

Melissa Judkins, a graduate student from George Mason University, is against abortion. She is also a volunteer for GOP in Virginia. “I have a lot of friends suffering from abortion. I don’t think this is good,” said Judkins, who believes McCain’s history and character could well represent America in the world.

“I support McCain also because I’m from a military family. My father works for the Air Force and my mother works for the Department of Defense. From them I learned a respect of military,” Judkins continued. 

Devon Gray,  from the Health Care Professionals Coalition, called Obama’s health care plan a “mandate.”

“We are trying to help people to get more control over their health care,” said Gray. “That’s what Senator Obama is not offering. There is too much interference. His program will be too expensive to afford.”

Gray believed McCain is the best person the presidency. “Senator Obama never stood up against his own party,” said Gray, who converted from the Democratic Party to GOP in 2003 because he felt the GOP was more realistic on social issues. “McCain has shown he can work across the aisle right now more than anyone else.”

Asked if he would feel disappointed if Obama finally takes power, Gray answered, “I know if Senator Obama wins, McCain would still will do the things he thinks should do for this country.

“Whoever wins this race, we have got tough job ahead of us,” said Gray.

Education Leaders Watch the Debate

By Gao Wenhuan (Eliot) and Hua Qi Sara)

Arlington, Virginia – Karabelle Pizzigati quickly glanced at her watch, “Only 15 minutes to go,” she said, as Bob Schieffer, moderator of the third presidential debate, brought up the subject she was waiting for:  Education.  The audience on the second floor of Crystal Gateway Marriott restaurant in Arlington, Virginia, burst into cheers.

On Wednesday night, a focus group of state education leaders gathered to watch the final presidential debate between Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama as they discussed economic crisis, health care, education and other domestic concerns.

Dr. Pizzigati, President of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) was glad education issues finally jumped up in the last debate. She felt both candidates presented their specific viewpoints on education, but she agreed more with Senator Obama’s public school policy.

“I thought Senator Obama was more on point to answer the questions of the moderator. He gave more specifics than Senator McCain, although I think that Senator McCain did provide more specifics than in the past debates.”

As a veteran policy and leadership development consultant on children and family services, Dr. Pizzigati has served as the staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families. She regarded Senator McCain’s proposal as more support on vouchers, “which essentially provide funds to individual families to pay for the school of their choice” and Senator Obama’s proposal more in favor of “strengthening the public school system”.

“Vouchers do not reach all students, but for public schools, they are attempting to reach all children. But if you start peeling that (public school funds) away, and under-resourcing it more than it is already under-resourced, what you have is a system that could collapse on itself and be left with only those children who need the most and have the least,” she said.

“Public education should be for everyone, and you should support everyone whether their children go to public school or not, and public money should be for public schools,” said Dr. Pizzigati.

However, Mark Cluff, vice chair of state board of education from the state of Utah has quite an opposite opinion. Cluff said education was the issue he cared about most in the campaign, and he recognized that both candidates will put more money into education, but instead of supporting more public schools, he was more in favor of Senator McCain’s vouchers.

“I support vouchers. I think they are a small piece of the big picture. Voucher is a way to go to help a small number of students. Some students who aren’t succeeding in the schools, and a voucher is an opportunity to find another school that may be better for them or may not, let them decide by themselves,” Cluff said.

As a software company manager, he said in broad view, he has problems with both candidates, but Senator McCain will do better. “I don’t want the government to grow too much, individuals should rely on themselves. In the last 50 years, the government has grow bigger and bigger, Obama wants to grow government and increase taxes, McCain wants to do things on their own, and leave things to themselves,” he said.

Eileen Clarke, a delegate and retried English teacher from Hawaii, sat in the second row of the audience. She was glad that the debate showed the difference of the personalities of two candidates.

“I think Obama explains his plan more specifically, he responded more directly to the questions, I think he succeeded in sharing his plans and explained more explicitly on economy, energy issues and education,” Clarke said, “McCain is responding more to senate Obama rather than to the questions. Where I felt is he did not share too much of his own plans and his own ideas, what I would like to hear.”

Dana Man, a retried engineer and delegate of board of education from Wyoming said the debate showed Senator Obama is ready to be President. She said she was disappointed that Senator McCain is “just like to privatize our school system.”

“I don’t think that’s what we are about to do. We should give every child a chance to do their best.”

She used to work for the democratic national committee and met with Obama in 2004. “He is going to work out resolutions and solutions on economy, Wall Street. He is smart and very honest. I think people needs flexibilities,” she said.

By Zhang Yan (Nightingale)

Arlington, VA— The gathering was billed as a nonpartisan debate watching party, but battle lines quickly were drawn at Summer’s Grill and Sports Pub in Arlington.  Democrats and Republicans sat in separate sections, each cheering their candidate during the final presidential debate on Oct. 15.

In the Republican section, the TV was turned to the conservative Fox News Channel.  Democrats watched the more liberal CNN.

Michael William Calsetta, former president of the Conservative Democratic Alliance, organized Wednesday night’s party. He is a self-proclaimed Democrat for McCain/Palin.  He has come to the conclusion that America needs another Teddy Roosevelt and John McCain is that kind of Maverick, says Calsetta.  

During the debate, Obama pointed out that Sen. McCain had voted four out of five times for President Bush’s budgets.  McCain fought back, distancing himself from the Bush administration and showing determination to lead the country’s economy in a new direction.  He turned to Obama and said, “If you wanted to run against President Bush, you should have run four years ago.”

Hearing this, the Republicans clapped and cheered loudly.  Later in the debate, Democrats in the other section shouted, “ boo” when McCain praised vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin as a role model to women and other reformers all over America.

The two sides in the pub exchanged barbs back and forth all night long.

Virginia, a key battleground state with 13 electoral votes, could play a critical role in deciding who will win the general election. This traditionally conservative state hasn’t voted for the Democrats in a presidential election since 1964. However, new polls from CNN/Time/Opinion Research suggest that Obama has a 10-point lead, 53-43 percent.

Sitting at the bar, Andy Ramage was watching a soccer game before the debate began.  Despite the fact that he is for Obama, he thought both candidates were tied in the first two debates. 

“In the first debate, they offered more substances for their arguments. However, in the second one, they didn’t really answer the public’s questions,” said Ramage, who works for XM Satellite Radio in Arlington.

Ramage was not expecting Obama to come up with fresh perspectives. “Obama will stick to his cue cards,” he said.

David Miller, an Obama supporter, kept a closer eye on the soccer game than the debate.  “Most of what they talk about are planned words,” said Miller, who works at the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission in Maryland.  “I’d rather read the in-depth analytical pieces in tomorrow’s newspapers.”

Steven Hamilton, a consultant on economic development for a multinational corporation in Arlington, was disappointed with both candidates’ performance.  He shifted from being a Republican to being a Democrat at a young age, he said.

“The public generally has been disappointed when the two candidates talk about the financial crisis. They should give much fuller answers about what caused the crisis and what should be done to get people out of this difficult situation,” said Hamilton.

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