Asian Americans Could Decide Elections
McCain, Obama Woo Swing State VA
By: Jennie L. Ilustre
Virginia, with its 13 electoral votes, has become a crucial state that could decide the country’s next president. At press time, it was still up for grabs. Real Clear Politics showed several poll surveys in which both candidates were tied, or else had one candidate leading within the margin of error.
News reports also showed 19 per cent of likely voters nationwide still have not made up their minds on their choice of candidate.
Republican candidate Senator John McCain (AZ) and Democratic candidate Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) recently held events in Virginia on the same day, September 11, with McCain bringing along his running mate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Palin, fresh from the Republican national convention, had energized the conservative base.
A former head of the Asian American Action Fund, a political action committee based in the nation’s capital, noted that in 2006, Asian Americans likely propelled candidate Jim Webb (D) to victory in the tight contest for the U.S. senate seat. Senator Webb is married to a Vietnamese American lawyer.
Asian Americans could probably be a factor again in the November 4 presidential elections. Remarked James Cheng, Republican volunteer strategist in Virginia: “I think the Asian American vote is very important. Our community is known as very independent, and independent voters will be the key in this election. This is especially true in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and a few other states, where the polls show a virtual tie between the two major candidates.””
He added: “I believe that McCain/Palin is the right choice for Asian-American voters. Our community’s core values of hard-work, low taxes, good education and family values are what this ticket stands for. Also, I owned my own business before and I believe that McCain/Palin is the right choice for entrepreneurs and business owners. Low taxes, and a pro-business policies are important to keep our country’s economy and jobs growing.”
Vellie Dietrich Hall knows about elections, having run for Fairfax County Supervisor’s seat in Mason District in 2006. Currently, she serves in the Republican Party’s Virginia State Central Committee. She was recently appointed as Honorary Co-chair of Women for McCain-Palin.
In telephone and email interviews, she told Asian Fortune: “ “The McCain-Palin ticket addresses the major concerns of Asian Americans, which are really the same concerns of the mainstream, the economy and national security. It stands for peace and prosperity. It is for a strong defense, fiscal restraint and low taxes.”
She added: “Since the September 11 national tragedy, under the Republican administration it should be pointed out that we have not been subject to attack. The McCain-Palin ticket will provide leadership in economic, energy and national security. As President, Senator McCain would also fight for an independent, stable Iraq.”
Ms. Dietrich Hall also pointed out that McCain is for a strong Asia Pacific region and immigration reform. “To maintain and even expand the support that the Asian community gave President Bush in 2004, reaching out to all of the ethnic groups in the Asian community is essential. That’s what we’re focused on doing,” she added.
Betsy Kim, Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Vote Deputy Director for Obama for America, said: “Senator Obama offers the best choice for the 13 million Asian American and Pacific Islanders in America, and for all Americans. Barack Obama and Joe Biden represent a record of experience and support for AAPIs and a deep understanding and appreciation of the AAPI community and its priorities.”
She added: “The Obama-Biden campaign has hired a national AAPI Vote Director and Deputy Director to run a national AAPI vote program. The program focuses on battleground states with large AAPI populations, including Virginia. In Virginia alone, we have recruited hundreds of AAPI volunteers who are talking to other members of their communities, friend to friend, neighbor to neighbor, about why Obama is the best candidate for our community.”
“Raised in a multi-racial family with a half-sister who is Indonesian, Obama has strong personal ties to the AAPI community,” she noted. “He recognizes the achievements of AAPIs who have contributed so much to the success and prosperity of our nation and who must be a part of our effort to change America.”
Half of respondents in the Washington Post-ABC News poll late last month said the economy was the No. 1 issue with them in their choice of president. The Post reported Obama had a 10-point edge among likely voters who trust him to best handle the problem.
The same poll, however, shows a conflicted electorate. McCain scored a similar lead over Obama on the question of which candidate was better able to handle the anti-terror war and “an unexpected major crisis.”
Virginia has never voted for a Democrat for president since 1964. But the red state has recently been trending blue (Democratic), prodding Obama to invest more time and organization in Virginia.
Several news reports say the economy, which historically favors the Democrats, has also given Obama an edge, with the Wall Street meltdown necessitating a plan to bail out the nation’s major financial institutions. At press time, Congress and the administration have not agreed on the controversial economic rescue plan of $700 billion.