FAIRFAX, VA – About five miles outside the Beltway west-by-south-west, abutting Fairfax City and George Mason University is a comfortable suburban neighborhood known to the Virginia Board of Elections as “Villa.”
I call it lower-upper-middle-class. The lawns are generally well kept. The cars are generally Toyota Siennas and Honda Accords. The playground at Fairfax Villa Elementary School is modern, clean, and — if my three oldest kids’ reaction is typical — tons of fun.
Alongside your suburban soccer moms, you’ve got your hunters with pickup trucks and immigrant families. All in all, the neighborhood is fairly diverse. The elementary school population is half white, and plenty of black, immigrant, Arab, Asian, and hispanic voters showed up at the elementary school polling place.
And, for the past decade at least, as goes Fairfax Villa so goes Virginia. The precinct has picked the winner in all of the biggest statewide races, and has voted within a percentage point and a half in the three biggest.
In 2004, John Kerry won Fairfax County, but lost Virginia 54-46. To be precise, Bush got 53.7% in Virginia. He got 52.5% in Fairfax Villa.
In 2008, Virginia voted 52.6% for Obama, and Fairfax Villa voted 53.0% for Obama.
A year later, in the governor election, the precinct and the state swung back to Republicans, big time. Virginia voted 58.6% for Bob McDonnell, and Fairfax Villa voted 60.1% for McDonnell.
This year? I found a handful of voters who backed Obama in 2008, but are backing Romney this time around. Republicans here tend not to be firebrand conservatives.
Tim Justice, who voted for Romney, tells he hasn’t voted in many years — “I wouldn’t for George Bush.” Justice owns a small business installing heating and air conditioning. He says of Obama, “the last straw was the comment he made, that you didn’t build your business. He pissed me off enough that I took off work early to come down here and vote against him.”
One woman in her 20s or 30s told me she voted for Obama in 2008 and Romney today. “I got caught up,” she says of the 2008 Obama love. But she resented how he just “pushed through” Obamacare. She adds “his transparency was not so transparent.”
Democrat Claire Talbert has grown up here. She went to Fairfax Villa elementary school, and her mom was Democratic precinct chairwoman. She says here precinct took a big turn towards Democrats twenty years ago, when University Drive was paved — the neighborhood was no longer isolated from GMU, and more Mason employees began living in the neighborhood.
In the past, this lower-upper-middle-class suburban neighborhood has been a bellwether. With exit polls showing us a 50-50 tie, maybe Fairfax Villa can give us some more information.