Voting & Polling in Harrisonburg

Putting up a Gary Johnson sign last night.
Putting up a Gary Johnson sign last night.

At about 1 PM, I visited my polling place, Keister Elementary, to cast my ballot in the 2016 election.  The drive leading up to the school was blanketed with signs for the various candidates.  Outside of the building, there were people handing out both Republican and Democratic sample ballots.  The fact that the Republicans openly encouraged voters to cast their ballots for Independent City Council candidate George Hirschmann seemed to further prove that he is not, in fact, an independent, but rather a Republican who is trying to obscure his party status.  In addition, a woman stood outside conducting an exit poll, which I thought was quite exciting!  More on this issue in a moment.

I expected that there would be quite a long line inside, but was surprised that I only had to wait for a minute or two.  Apparently, traffic had been particularly heavy earlier and many people had already voted, but I just happened to be there during a lull.

Voting was actually fairly difficult this year.  I knew my vote for president, of course, but hadn’t decided upon the names for my write-ins for various offices where I either didn’t know or care much for the candidates listed.

Anyway, when I got back outside, the pollster asked for whom I cast my ballot for president and whether I had voted in the 2012 presidential election.  I told her that I voted for the same candidate in 2016 that I did in 2012.  I then asked if she could tell me the results of her poll thus far.  Although I expect that Hillary Clinton will win Harrisonburg, given that Keister is one of the most Republican precincts in the city I assumed that Donald Trump would be winning the exit poll or that it would be very close.  However, that was not the case.  Of the multitude of respondents, about 60% said they voted for Clinton, 30% were for Trump, and Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Evan McMullin, and write-ins split the remaining approximate 10%.  Yes, in this exit poll Clinton had about twice the votes that Trump had.  The pollster theorized that perhaps Trump voters were far less likely to admit that they cast their ballots for Trump, but I thought this unlikely.  What it told me is that if these numbers hold, Hillary Clinton will win Harrisonburg by a far larger margin than I anticipated and will likely perform even better in Virginia than what people say.  If she wins Virginia by a sizable factor, then it might end up being a very quick election night reminiscent of 1996 when Bill Clinton bested Bob Dole.

Yes, Keister is only one of many polling places in Harrisonburg, but the exit poll doesn’t seem to bode well for Mr. Trump and the Republicans.  It will be fun to discover if this poll is accurate or not!

The Worst Election

Image from ifunny.co
Image from ifunny.co

Tomorrow, millions of Americans will go to the polls and cast their votes for electors for president.   Although I started following politics in 1994, volunteered on my first campaign in 1995, and cast my first vote for president in 2000, this election has been, without a doubt, the worst election I’ve ever seen.

There are several reasons that 2016 has been particularly terrible.  First is the candidates themselves.  Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are some of the most reviled people in American politics.  Whether it’s due to perceptions of corruption and dishonesty, or claims of racism and sexism, the average American has a negative perception of both.  Most Republicans who once condemned Trump and Democrats who declared Clinton unacceptable during their respective party primaries, in a display of blatant hypocrisy, have since come out in favor of their candidates.  It is amazing to me that some people can give all sorts of reasons why a candidate is abysmal and should not be elected, but then completely ignore these glaring flaws simply due to their attachment to party labels.

Now, we do have third party choices too; in Virginia, we have five candidates on the ballot.  Besides Trump and Clinton, we also have Johnson (Libertarian), Stein (Green), and McMullin (Independent).  However, none of these candidates have been particularly outstanding, nor have they run particularly competent campaigns, nor have they made much of an effort to make either a long or short-term effect on politics in this state.  But, even if this weren’t the case, the media and the political system itself has done a pretty good job marginalizing third party candidates, framing the election as a choice between the lesser of two evils, and, there is little doubt in my mind that both the Republican and Democratic choices are indeed evil and thus unsupportable.

However, what I would say is the absolute worst aspect of this election has been the nastiness exhibited by average Americans.  Yes, we all have differing political opinions, but rather than expressing these views with civility and respecting opposing viewpoints, many have resorted to personal attacks and name-calling.  As one metric, in every election cycle, I have lost several Facebook friends.  However, in the last several months of this election, I have either been defriended or have defriended by at last a dozen folks.  The majority have been Republicans and/or Trump supporters, though to be fair, I know far more Republicans than Democrats.  While some have quietly defriended me because of my steadfast belief that Donald Trump is unfit for office or due to my inclination to cast my vote for Gary Johnson, others have been unbelievably nasty.  Yes, some say things like I am throwing my vote away, but others have told me that Donald Trump is owed my vote and if I vote for any other candidate I must be: an idiot, moron, stupid, a fool, ignorant, a traitor, or even suffering from a mental disorder.  Besides the name calling, they say that this election is simply too important and thus I must surrender my political free will by helping elect an evil person in order to prevent someone who is even worse from winning.  Although I’d like to think that my friends could show at least a modest amount of  respect, this election has brought out the worst in some people.  There are both good and bad people supporting Clinton & Trump as well as sound and poor reasons to cast a vote for them and the same can be said of the various third party candidates.

Last week, I met my pastor at a local cafe, mainly to discuss politics and, at the end of our talk, she asked if I would give the opening prayer at church the Sunday before the election.  I agreed to do so and, after thinking about these recent experiences, offered something similar to what is below.

Dear God,

First, let me thank you for those who came out to hear your word this morning at Court Square Theater. Yes, some days it is difficult to come, maybe because the message is tough, or we’d rather watch football in London, or maybe it’s just that our beds are simply too darn comfy.

With the advent of next election in just a few short days, we have struggled mightily as a people. We have been divided into camps and told that we must hate those who hold opinions different than our own. Whether we consider ourselves to be Democrats or Republicans, or Libertarians or Greens, independents or something else, are we not all made in your image? Is it your plan for us to make our friends and family enemies due to mere political disagreements? So many pundits and politicians have been goading us into fear, urging us to make choices based on which person or persons we detest the least. Where once there was reasoned political dialogue, as we get closer and closer to Tuesday, civility has all but disappeared and has been replaced with naming calling and insults. The temptation to lash out in the same way others treat us is strong, but we ask that you would imbue us with the strength not to fall into this trap. Remind us that we are your people and you call us to be better than this world.

We pray for our pastor, our theologian in resident, our worship team, and each and every person here today, and those who are unable to join us. May you watch over us, guide us in your wisdom, and correct us when we stray. Please direct our nation and our leaders, no matter which candidate emerges the winner in Tuesday’s election and may we be mindful and courteous to everyone even when some people attempt to divide us over our skin colour, sex, national origin, and yes, even political affiliation.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, we ask these things.

Amen

As I told the JMU student that I am tutoring, Election Day to me is like Christmas is to most people.  However, this year I am relatively certain that I don’t want most of the gifts the American people will be unwrapping tomorrow but unfortunately we can’t return them.  My great hope is that no matter how things turn out, Tuesday will be the end of the awful 2016 elections, citizens will accept the results, we can put this particularly nasty season behind us, our overblown fears will subside, and we can work for greater civility and support candidates that actually share our values, as opposed to relying on party labels and this whole lesser of two evils nonsense.

No Faith & No Freedom

faith-freedom-logoEarlier this month, the nonprofit group Faith & Freedom Coalition released their voter guides for the 2016 election.  On their website, they offer free “nonpartisan”  information.  Simply click on the link for your state, and presumably, you receive information tailor-made for your ballot.  Interested to see what they had to say, I decided to check it out.  For Virginia, they listed Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as well as their stances of a variety of issues.  However, here in Virginia, five candidates qualified to make the ballot for president.  In case you didn’t know, the other candidates are Gary Johnson (Libertarian), Evan McMullin (Independent), and Jill Stein (Green).  Would the Faith & Freedom Coalition really leave out over half the candidates?

I decided to try another state.  After all, only three candidates appear on every state’s presidential ballots, but some states feature candidates that others do not.  The results were the same.  They only included information for Clinton and Trump.  I tried another and another and another.  Each time, the voter guide for the next state was the same as the one which preceded it.  Why would the Faith & Freedom Coalition exclude a majority of the candidates?  Wouldn’t doing so intentionally cause them to be guilty of a sin of omission?  Check it out for yourself.

14642453_10154023403516705_7858503810550547758_nGiving them the benefit of the doubt, that they didn’t actually do their research about who was actually on the ballot in each state, I left a message for them on their Facebook page alerting them of their error.  When I went today to check if they responded, I discovered that they had deleted my comment and banned me from posting any further messages.  This response is particularly amusing and hypocritical, especially given that before posting their voter guide they put up the image you see to your right.

Unfortunately, as I’ve written in a previously piece entitled “The Fall of the Religious Right“, I am coming to the opinion that the Faith & Freedom Coalition may very well be one of these sham faith groups, claiming to be nonbiased and nonpartisan, but serving as a shill for the Republican Party to herd unwary Christians into supporting the GOP and their candidates even when these candidates, like Donald Trump, have held contrary opinions on almost every major issue, including abortion, and subscribe to a personal morality far removed from traditional Christianity.  After the tape of Donald Trump’s bragging of supposedly committing sexual assault emerged, Ralph Reed, the founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, became one of Trump’s most ardent defenders.

Given this effort by the Faith & Freedom Coalition to misled people into believing they only have two choices, I would strongly recommend that my friends and local church congregations not distribute these deceptive “voter guides”.  How is a group who engages in this sort of activity any different from the corrupt Commission on Presidential Debates?  Perhaps, if the Faith & Freedom Coalition were a little more honest about their efforts, they should call themselves the No Faith & No Freedom Coalition for it seems that with this voter guide they have no faith in the American people to make the right decision if properly and honestly presented with all of their options and that they have no desire to expand political freedom beyond the two choices that a growing number of American Christians find equally unacceptable.

Greetings from Tennessee

A view of Cherokee Lake
A view of Cherokee Lake

Hello readers and greetings from eastern Tennessee.  For the last several days, I have been here and will remain for a while longer, visting family, cat sitting, and the like.

Of course there have been political developments since last I’ve written.  After all, with a presidential election bearing down upon us, there is always something new to talk about.

As I’m sure you know, tonight is the first debate between Hillary Clinton (D) and Donald Trump (R).  Unfortunately, the debate excludes the voices of Gary Johnson (L) and Jill Stein (G), two candidates who are on enough ballots to win the presidency. but are not allowed on stage nevertheless.  Although the debate is likely to be entertaining, with Trump and Clinton attacking each other relentlessly, I assume it will be fairly substance free.   Therefore, I not planning on watching, instead visiting the local gaming store or watching Monday Night Football.

I wish that I could say something positive about any of the presidential candidates or campaigns, but I can’t really.  The Gary Johnson campaign (my choice) has been a disappointment thus far, with the odd Johnson sticking out his tongue interview, Bill Weld showing he is more of a liberal Republican than a Libertarian, and the general lack of organization and professionalism overall.  As for Clinton and Trump, well, the borrow a quote from Henry Kissinger regarding the Iran-Iraq War, “it’s too bad they can’t both lose.”

In about 48 hours, I will be in Knoxville taking the GREs.  I last took them about 8 years ago.  I hope I will do as well as I did then.  It would be nice to do something more meaningful in politics.

On Thursday, the Knoxville Libertarian Party will be holding a meeting.  Their featured speaker is Glenn Jacobs.  For the WWE fans out there, you might know him by the name Kane.

Well, the cause of liberty can and will continue, but for the moment I think I’ll take a bit of time for myself here in eastern Tennessee.  Nevertheless, I suspect you’ll catch me on tomorrow’s podcast of Freedom Gulch.

Best wishes and I look forward to writing you again soon!

A Campaign of Fear and Hatred

As the 2016 presidential election kicks into high gear, the attacks against Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seem to be intensifying.  Everyday we heard things that suggest Donald Trump is a racist and a bigot and is totally unqualified to serve in office.  Others say that Hillary Clinton is a liar and a crook and that she’d be in jail if not for her political connections.  Although some people might decry this overly negative campaigning, unfortunately it is the way politics has been trending for quite some time.

For example, when I started out in the mid 90s, I was taught by folks on both sides of the aisle that Republicans shouldn’t associate with Democrats and vice versa.  Adherents to the other political party were stupid, not to be trusted, and often just plain evil.  One should never treat one’s opponent with civility if it can be helped, because they certainly wouldn’t offer you that same level of respect.  Unfortunately, this problem has gotten even worse.

img_2133-1
Robert Sarvis (L) and Ken Cuccinelli (R) in 2013

Toward these same lines, we’ve had a preview of this year’s horribly negative campaigning before, right here in Virginia in the 2013 race for governor.  The Ken Cuccinelli campaign branded Terry McAuliffe as a corrupt businessman who was totally unqualified to serve in any office, let alone governor, while the McAuliffe folks painted Cuccinelli as a right-wing zealot who wished to turn back the clock on the rights of many individuals.  Both sides went heavily negative and although there were positive selling points for both men, these topics were generally forgotten as both campaigns tried to portray the other as an absolutely horrible outcome.  During the campaign, I spoke with some Cuccinelli staffers who actually declared that their primary goal was to expose McAuliffe in the worst possible light so that by Labor Day most Virginians would consider him completely unelectable.  From what I witnessed, I suspect the McAuliffe folks decided to employ a similar strategy of demonization against Cuccinelli.  They both framed the campaign as the choice of the lesser of two evils and voters were urged to vote against either McAuliffe or Cuccinelli rather than feeling positive about either.  As a result, many of my Republican friends then and now still refer to our governor as Terry McAwful.  However, in that ugly morass was a third candidate, Robert Sarvis.  Although the powers that be conspired to keep him off the debate stage, he still managed to capture 6.5% of the vote from Libertarians and those who were sick of the race to the bottom campaigns of both the Republicans and Democrats.

And here we are again in 2016.  We have a Republican and a Democratic candidate who both suffer from exceedingly high negatives.  Unfortunately, many polls indicate that the average American views Trump and Clinton in an unfavorable light.  Odds are, if the Republicans or Democrats nominated a candidate that was at least halfway likable, he or she would be enjoying a huge lead over his or her primary opponent.  The problem is that negative campaigning does work…at least to a point, provided that there are no other candidates in the race.  In November many Republicans and conservatives will hold their noses and vote for a deplorable man like Donald Trump if they are convinced that they have no other choices and that he is the only way they can stop their greater foe, Hillary.  Likewise, many progressives and Greens despise Hillary Clinton for being corrupt and loath the revelation that Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and the Democratic National Committee rigged the primaries against Bernie Sanders.  However, if the don’t support Clinton how else can they stop a thug like Trump?

Well, fortunately voters do have other options as there are two (or possibly three) other candidates who could garner enough electoral votes to win the election.  They are: Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party, and potentially Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party (although working toward it, he has not reached the ballot access threshold yet).

I remain fully convinced that if the United States were like every other democratic nation, which offers voters a variety of choices and not simply only two (or often one) candidates, this era of increasingly negative campaigning would be drastically curtailed.  After all, if two candidates or their campaigns decide to make it their primary mission to prove that the other is wholly unsuitable for office, then voters could choose a third option and reject the campaign of fear and hatred that both of his or her opponents offer.  If a third party candidate could win a major election from time to time, campaigns would soon come to the realization that they would actually have to sell their own candidates and promote their own supposed principles, rather than presenting themselves as the better of two horrible options.  Maybe then we could get candidates that we actually like, ones that can be trusted to uphold some kind of values, and perhaps party platforms would be more than lofty ideals that are often ignored or even repudiated by their own candidates.  Now, wouldn’t that be something!?

The 2012 Elections Postmortem

In the days leading up to the November 6th elections, predicting the outcome of the presidential seemed a bit murkier than one would expect.  A few polls, like Gallup, had Mitt Romney ahead, while others, like Rasmussen, showed a very close race, and some, like Huffington, heralded another strong victory for President Obama.  It seemed to me that a lot of news outlets reported on the outcome that they hoped would occur rather than what would actually happen; Republican pundits predicted a solid Romney victory and their Democratic counterparts made similar claims.  Fellow Republicans were critical, but in 2008 I wrote about Barack Obama’s victory on the day prior to Election Day, as I believed the results were already a foregone conclusion.  However, I wasn’t quite as certain this time around.

In the end, however, Mitt Romney stood no chance of becoming our next President.  In the electoral count, he faired only slightly better than John McCain did in 2008.  He won the tradition Republican states of North Carolina and Indiana unlike McCain, but failed to capture key battlegrounds like Virginia, Ohio, Colorado, and Florida.  Curiously, both Romney and Obama failed to garner as many votes as the candidates did in 2008.  It seems obvious that Obama’s numbers would decline as his presidency has not been particularly popular and the great excitement (or novelty) generated from electing our first black president in 2008 is gone.  But what about Romney?  Although some activists have been urging people to resist resorting to the “blame game”, ultimately I believe that voters had a hard time supporting a rich New England liberal who had difficulty relating to the plight of the average American.  In addition, the actions taken by the RNC and the Romney campaign, which can only be described as unnecessary and spiteful, to exclude Ron Paul and his supporters at the Tampa convention tore open the growing rift in the Republican Party between the establishment and the liberty movement.  As stated earlier, a majority of Paul supporters I know either voted for Gary Johnson, wrote in Ron Paul, or simply stayed home on Election Day.  Speaking of the other party candidates, Libertarian Gary Johnson finished in third with almost 1%, Green Jill Stein was fourth with .35%, and Virgil Goode was fifth with .1%.

Moving on to Virginia’s U.S. Senate contest, as we approached Election Day it became increasingly obvious that George Allen would lose to Tim Kaine.  The conventional wisdom was that an Allen victory hinged heavily upon Romney’s coattails.  If Romney won Virginia by a large margin, then it was likely that Allen would also be victorious.  However, if the election was close or if Romney lost the state, Allen would be defeated.  Although the crossover wouldn’t have influenced the outcome, it is still important to note that Romney had the support of 37,766 more Virginians than did George Allen.

The House races in Virginia were not particularly exciting.  Each incumbent won re-election with a comfortable margin with the exception of Scott Rigell in the 2nd who won by 24,000 votes.  In the 6th, Republican Bob Goodlatte easily dispatched Democrat Andy Schmookler.  However, Schmookler did best Goodlatte in the more urban areas of the district, capturing the cities of Harrisonburg, Lexington, and Roanoke, and boasting a fairly close contest in Staunton.

Given that Harrisonburg voted Democratic for president, senator, and representative, it should come as no surprise that the Democrats faired well in the city council election.  With eight candidates on the ballot, three Republican, three Democratic, and three independent, Democrats Kai Degner and Richard Baugh were re-elected along with newcomer independent Abe Shearer.  Only Degner and Shearer cracked the 6,000-vote mark.  All but one of the other candidates was in the 4,000-vote range; Roger Baker finished in last place with less than 2,500 votes.  Political newcomer Christine Johnson finished at the top of the Republican office seekers, missing out on third place by only 202 votes.

So what does the future hold politically for Harrisonburg, the 6th congressional district, Virginia, and the nation as a whole?  Well, it depends on a number of factors including the strength of the candidates and the overall political climate.  Will the GOP learn anything from the 2012 elections?  It is obvious that they didn’t figure anything out from 2008.  Without strong conservative candidates that can clearly articulate the merits of a constitutionally limited government, the Republican Party will continue to suffer nationally, statewide, and locally.  Let me end this article with a bit of advice: Past big government Republicans who lost in a previous election don’t somehow miraculously transform themselves into either conservatives or winners.  So don’t retread on me.  Don’t retread on me!

JMU & The 2012 Presidential Race: Part II

About a week ago, I wrote about the attitudes of James Madison University students regarding the 2012 presidential election.  Although you should read the previous post below if you have not done so, the summary is that 42.6% of students surveyed support President Barack Obama, while Mitt Romney has 27.8%, Gary Johnson has 2.8%, Jill Stein has 1.9% and a large percentage, 24.1%, were undecided.

After the second presidential debate, but before the third, I conducted another door-to-door poll of a different batch of off-campus JMU students to gauge how their opinions had shifted.  The two questions asked were the same as before.  Are you registered to vote in Virginia and, if so, which of the presidential candidates would you support if the election were held today?  This time, 95 students answered.  Like the last survey, their answers closely mirrored the previous results.  Democratic candidate Barack Obama improved slightly, rising by .6% to 43.2%, while Republican Mitt Romney declined by 1.5%, falling to 26.3%.  Libertarian Gary Johnson dropped as well by .5% to 2.1%.  Interestingly, none of the respondents this time mentioned Green candidate Jill Stein as his or her top pick.  As before, zero students made any comment about Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode.  With this numbers, you will note that a considerable number of students were once again undecided, showing an increase of 4.3% to now rest at 28.4%.  Continuing the previous trend, when considering just Obama versus Romney responses, Obama dominated with 62.1% to Romney’s 37.9%

With the two surveys combined, Barack Obama is the favorite of a plurality of James Madison students with 42.9%, Mitt Romney is second with 27.1%, Gary Johnson is third with 2.5%, Jill Stein is fourth with 1%, although not a candidate, Ron Paul is fifth with .5%, and a vast number of students are still undecided with 28.4%.  In the Obama/Romney head-to-head, Obama gets 61.3% to Romney’s 38.7%.

Although I’m admittedly a political animal, I’m surprised that the number of undecided voters remains so high among JMU students.  What explains this trend?  Do they suffer from a lack of information, is apathy high, or is there simply a strong dissatisfaction with both of the two major party candidates?  After all, as one undecided student commented, she didn’t particularly care for either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.

Given the previous results, I would assume that at this point a majority of undecided students will break along the same percentages as their brethren have done, unless something changes.  But a lot of factors could alter this outcome in the 13 days that remain.  I hope to have one final survey of JMU students before Election Day to gain a clearer picture.

JMU & the 2012 Presidential Race

On Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday of this week, I’ve visited three different off-campus JMU apartment complexes in Harrisonburg.  Part of the purpose in doing so was to assess the opinions of the students regarding the 2012 presidential election.  The general theory is that JMU students who registered to vote in Harrisonburg in 2008 supported Barack Obama by huge margins and helped him to capture the city last time.

For a bit of historical perspective, in the 2004 presidential election, when students had to vote in their hometowns rather than at their college or university, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections about 11,000 people voted in Harrisonburg.  George W. Bush won about 6,100 or 55.9%.  In 2008, John McCain had slightly less votes than Bush did four years prior, but only took 41.2% as around 14,500 people voted in the city. While about 1,000 more people voted in Harrisonburg in 2004 as they did in 2000, 3,500 more showed up in 2008 as compared to 2004.  A large portion of this increase was no doubt due to changes in Virginia law, which allows students to vote where they attend university.

So one important question to consider is will JMU break heavily for President Barack Obama this November?  With this thought in mind, I asked the JMU students two questions.  Are you registered to vote in Virginia and, if so, if the election were held today, which of the candidates would you support?

Now, a considerable number of students were not at home at the time of my visit, a handful was not registered to vote, some were registered in their hometowns in other states, and still others refused to answer.  However, 108 students did respond.  Perhaps not surprisingly, Barack Obama, the Democratic candidate, won a plurality, 46 or 42.6%.  Mitt Romney, the Republican candidate, finished in second place with 30 votes or 27.8%.  Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate, was a distant third with 3 votes or 2.8%, Jill Stein, the Green candidate, was fourth at 2 votes or 1.9%, and, although not a candidate, one student planned to write-in Representative Ron Paul.  Even though he is listed on the Virginia ballot, none of the students mentioned Constitution Party candidate, Virgil Goode.  However, you should note that a sizable portion of respondents, 26 students or 24.1% stated that they are undecided.

If these survey numbers are indicative of the entire student population, then the race is still pretty fluid at JMU.  As expected, Barack Obama is ahead, but not by an insurmountable margin.

I assume that whichever candidate or campaign works the most diligently to court these undecided voters will not only win the JMU vote, but also likely claim Harrisonburg as well.  Toward that end, rumors swirl that President Obama will visit JMU prior to the election as he did back in 2008.  And what sort of impact did the second presidential debates make? What will happen?  We’ll find out soon!

Ryan in Rockingham County

Paul Ryan in Rockingham County
Photo by Helen Shibut

Paul Ryan, the Republican Representative for Wisconsin’s First Congressional District and Mitt Romney’s running mate, made a campaign stop at the Rockingham County Fair Grounds on Friday.  His visit marks the first of any presidential or vice presidential candidate to the central Shenandoah Valley.

Besides Representative Ryan, speakers also included: Delegate Tony Wilt of Rockingham County, Delegate Steve Landes of Augusta County, State Senator Mark Obenshain of Harrisonburg, and Representative Bob Goodlatte of Roanoke.

The event itself was quite well attended.  Most estimates I’ve read peg the audience about 3,000.  Like the recent Obama rally in Charlottesville, each person had to pass through “airport style security” overseen by both the Secret Service and the TSA.

Reaction to the gathering was mixed.  Although most of the people that I spoke with enjoyed Ryan’s speech, the event was plagued with a number of shortfalls.

First, no one could bring in liquids, which was expected.  However, the fact that one could not even get a cup of water without paying for it seemed completed absurd.  Would a person have to suffer through their thirst if he or she could not pay $2.00 for a beverage?

A view of a portion of the crowd and the fence that segregated attendees.

Second, the venue did not allow for a majority of the spectators to see Paul Ryan.  The organizers set up a ring of fences around the platform and only a portion could enter this circle.  Although raised, the platform was not nearly high enough for many people to even catch a glimpse of the man who could very well be our next vice president.

However, one positive aspect, as compared to the Obama event, was that the police did not close down traffic in a highly central location for the better part of an hour, which would have wasted the time of countless residents.

Overall, I would rate Ryan’s event a success even though, as mentioned, there were several aspects that could have been and should have been handled in a better manner.

So the next question is will any of the five presidential candidates: Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, Gary Johnson, Virgil Goode, or Jill Stein, make a stop in the Shenandoah Valley between now and the election?  If you will recall, four years ago Barack Obama won the city of Harrisonburg after making a speech at JMU while John McCain merely sent a relative to the local GOP headquarters.  After all, personal campaigning is an important element to electoral success and Ryan’s visit on Friday should serve to bolster the local Republican effort.  Now how will the other candidates respond?  Our first answer comes tomorrow when Libertarian Party candidate Judge Jim Gray speaks at JMU.

As a final note, I want to shout out a special thanks to Helen Shibut of Madison Liberty for the picture of Paul Ryan.  As mentioned, I happened to be one of the countless spectators who could not get close enough to get a usable shot.