The View from Loudoun, One of the Nation's Wealthiest Counties
“When I got here some 20 years ago, the place was unabashedly, and with a long history, Republican, “ says Dan Morrow, publisher of the Middleburg Eccentric, a community newspaper in Loudoun. “Then the county began to explode coincidently with the booming economy, the Internet boom of the Nineties.”
Today Loudoun County is not predictable when it comes to presidential politics. The race will be close in this Bush-Obama county. Loudoun has the highest median income ($119,134) of any county in the country and also saw one of the largest population increases over the past 10 years, with 325,000 people calling the Northern Virginia county home today.
Morrow says Obama’s weak performance Wednesday night creates a larger sense of importance in next Thursday’s vice presidential debate between Biden and Ryan. We interviewed Morrow about the election and the county.
“Politically, Loudoun County is divided by a North-South road that passes right through the center of the county seat in Leesburg. Highway 15. And it runs from Pennsylvania through the little town of Gettysburg, down past Charlottesville, slightly to the east of Charlottesville and then down to the Chapel Hill area in North Carolina. And, because of Gettysburg on the one hand and Mr. Jefferson’s Charlottesville on the other hand, that central route has been designated nationally as an area called The Journey through Hallowed Ground. It’s Jefferson’s declaration of independence and all those principles to Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, and all of people’s struggles and battles that occurred on that road, to establish those principles at the heart of America’s vision of itself.”
“Now in Loudoun County, to the East of that line the population is Washington-focused, and by Washington-focused I mean Washington and then Tyson’s corner, beltway, Dulles corridor, high education, beltway bandit, and their suppliers’ constituency. And because so much of Washington has been moved into offices in Tyson’s corner in Virginia, Loudoun county has become not an outer suburb but an inner suburb, and so it’s subtracting all those really strikingly wonderful people of all races, of all ethnic backgrounds, sharing disproportionately, the education levels necessary to hold those highly complex jobs. We talk about those being highly educated. I think we have the highest proportion of PhDs per capita in any county of the United States. You have that population growing at a steady, steady pace in the Eastern part of the county. In the West, if you look at the Washington Post’s wonderful map they did on population growth in the county between censuses, in the fastest growing county in the United States, there was practically no growth in the county West of Route 15 because much of the land is held by very wealthy people, because the land is spectacularly beautiful there are well-organized efforts to preserve and protect both the historic sites and the beauty of the landscape itself. So in the West, compared to the East, you have both population that is not growing, and therefore less susceptible to constant influx as I just described, and you have a board of supervisors who tries to keep new development and new housing East of that North-South Route 15 boundary.”
“If you look at the press, everybody concedes that Obama lost the debate, but they also, everybody concedes that Romney was just selling products based on claims that absolutely were not true. And my initial reaction was, “Well what do we expect?!” This is a guy who’s been making his living as a salesman all his life! His livelihood, his reputation, his training, is to sell ideas whose truths are at best dubious. And you can talk about that in terms of his life in business, he sells stuff off that he considers not so valuable to people who are willing to pay for it. That’s how he rescues companies, right? But he’s also been an evangelist for the Mormon Church all his life. He has been selling the validity of that point of view in terms that ordinary persuadable people can accept, all of his life. Since he was a child. It’s part of his being. And he is a better salesman. He’s a better salesman than Barack Obama. Because Barack Obama has never been a salesman. He’s been an organizer.”
“Having once been head of sales development and training at the Washington Post, it’s a field in which experience and training really makes a difference. When Romney was being coached on the debate, he already had in his pocket all the techniques that one gives to salespeople and evangelists. How to overcome objections. How to heighten people’s fears of the consequences of not addressing the issues he’s addressing. And then selling them his solutions on the basis of needs that he has managed to heighten by talking about the dire consequences if they’re not met. There is a trainable technique to do it; I’ve done that, I did that for a living. Mitt Romney is a fabulous salesperson. He has all the elements. He’s bright, he’s good-looking, he’s experienced; started selling when he was a child! I mean, think about it. I hadn’t thought about that really until our discussion and looking this morning at some of the reviews of the debate. But I haven’t seen anybody mention that. I mean, he’s a sales guy!”
“This is a county of many high-end consultants and salespeople. What do high-end consultants do? They go to their clients and the government, and do needs analysis. They respond to RSVPs and to needs analysis. And when they make their presentations, what they try to do is elicit from the people they’re selling to the things that they’re most afraid of, figure out which of those things their product can possibly address, heighten the concern about not solving them, and then selling the product. And that’s precisely what Mitt Romney’s doing.”
“If I were going to put that in chart form I would say Romney clearly solidified support that might have been wavering. Solidified existing support that might have been wavering, I think he nailed that down. And two, for any of those people who were still undecided, he clearly will have won some converts. I don’t think the President converted anybody in the debate. I also don’t think the President lost anybody last night. It wasn’t as if he were so bad that people would say, “You gotta be kidding, I’m gonna vote for Romney.” So it’s going to be very interesting to see the new poll results. But my gut feeling is you’re going to see a lot of the Romney supporters who were persuadables fall back into the “I’ve made up my mind about Romney” camp. And you’re going to see most of the rest of the world unchanged except for that tiny group of true undecideds, which is relatively small.”