As President Obama prepares to make several campaign stops in Virginia over the weekend, the looming threat of defense budget cuts could prove to be his Achilles’ heel in this crucial swing state.Congress’ failure to reach a deficit reduction deal means that the series of automatic cuts will go into effect, despite the Obama Administration’s assurances to the contrary. Defense and intelligence funding in particular are projected to take massive hits. But even if common sense prevails and Congress is able to resolve the sequestration issue, the defense budget is likely to fare worse under an Obama second term than under a Romney presidency. That fact may flip Virginia and possibly the 2012 election.The southeastern region of the state is dominated by military presence and defense contracts, and cuts in funding threaten its prosperity, as the Financial Times reports:
On the ground, voters might have another overriding concern. Hampton Roads, as the region is known, has a heavy concentration of naval shipyards, military facilities and families of US soldiers and sailors. Its residents will want to know how the Obama administration plans to prevent automatic spending cuts to the defence budget worth $500bn over 10 years starting in 2013 – another element of the country’s looming fiscal contraction, or “fiscal cliff”.Bobby Scott, a veteran Democratic congressman from the area, says about 50 per cent of the local economy is dependent on the Pentagon. “When you pull that plug, everybody suffers,” Mr Scott says.
Voters in Northern Virginia also will likely be affected by these cuts. Historically, government workers and other beltway types have tended to vote Democrat. It’s not surprising, since the federal government supports their lifestyle.But a lot of government workers in the Northern Virginia are employed either directly or indirectly by the defense and intelligence sectors. After all, both the Pentagon and the CIA headquarters are in Northern Virginia.Questions about defense spending could split the government employee vote in Virginia between civilian focused employees and contractors one one side, and the Pentagon and intelligence focused voters who are concerned with their future livelihood.Virginia was a Republican bastion until the 2008 election. Obama would be virtually guaranteed a victory in November if he can hold onto this state, but if the defense funding issue splits the government employee vote in Northern Virginia, and strengthens Romney in the southeast, then Virginia might just swing back to the GOP.