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In hard-fought Virginia, last-minute ads and rap from MC Hammer

November 06, 2012|By Melanie Mason

ANNANDALE, Va. -- The Obama sticker on his sweat shirt aside, graduate student Evan Milbery struck a bipartisan note Tuesday morning as he took in the scene at his polling place.

"On election day, there's no red states or blue states. Only purple fingers,” the 24-year old said, alluding to the frigid early-morning temperature here.

Despite the chill, an orderly line of voters snaked around the Annandale Fire Station 8, one of 237 polling places in Virginia’s Fairfax County. Virginia is among the tightest of battlegrounds in this presidential election, with President Obama up just 0.3 points in Real Clear Politics' average of state polls. The northern suburbs of Virginia, including Fairfax County, helped power Obama to a 6-point victory over Sen. John McCain in the 2008 election.

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Mitt Romney has made a hard run at the state this time around, and Virginia also has a competitive Senate race between former Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine and former Republican Sen. George Allen. The result: Voters in Fairfax County and throughout the state have endured a steady barrage of television ads, phone calls and door knocks. Democrats and Republicans alike expressed relief that the political siege would soon end.

"It's been very annoying," said Debbie Stone, a 59-year-old registered nurse, to which a fellow voter chimed in, "You aren't kidding!"

Stone said she'd heard from the parties, the candidates and the National Rifle Assn. -- all a wasted effort, she said, because her mind was made up long ago.

"I'm a die-hard Republican,” she said. "Maybe if I was undecided it would've been helpful. But I would've rather heard from friends" than the campaigns.

But some voters said the advertising did make an impact.

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Carla Bailey, a 48-year-old consultant and Army veteran, said all the advertising made her feel like Abigael Evans, the 4-year-old YouTube sensation whose tears over "Bronco Bamma and Mitt Romney" personified an election-weary country.

Bailey, an Obama voter in 2008, said she would have been open to supporting the GOP but was unimpressed by Romney, a view that solidified after seeing a hard-hitting ad produced by Priorities USA Action, the pro-Obama "super PAC," that took aim at Romney's years heading the private equity firm Bain Capital.

The ad, called "Stage," described workers who were fired after Bain Capital took over their company in the 1990s. Bailey said of all the ads flooding her television, it was the one that stood out the most.

Longtime voters at this precinct said the 25- to 30-minute wait to cast their ballots was slightly longer than average. But lines were even longer five miles away at George Mason University, where students waited up to an hour to cast their votes.

The university played host to both presidential contenders: Obama visited the school twice in October, while Romney staged one of his final campaign rallies Monday at the university’s Patriot Center area.

Inside University Hall, students and other local voters stood in neat rows sorted by last name, the mood quiet and almost solemn.

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It was more raucous outside, where a number of GOTV operations, including Young People for America and Rock the Vote, were prodding would-be voters with hot drinks and sweets. Rock the Vote volunteers were offering unconventional rides to the polls via a "conference bike" -- a doughnut-shaped, seven-seater bicycle complete with boombox pumping MC Hammer and a bullhorn enticing students to hop aboard.

The sell seemed to be working. Of the 1,100 or so registered at the polling site, more than 500 had voted before 11:30 a.m.

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melanie.mason@latimes.com

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