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The Virginia cocktail party theory

Lars Gesing, CU News Corps Assistant Director

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Logo final_highIn our Anecdotal Evidence column, movers and shakers share personal stories of how intriguing (and often odd) presidential campaigning in their respective swing state can be.

Frank Leone – Attorney and Virginia DNC Member

Frank Leone. Photo: Lars Gesing/CU News Corps

Frank Leone. Photo: Lars Gesing/CU News Corps

Larry Sabato was my major adviser at the University of Virginia. We talked about Virginia politics. He had the cocktail-party theory.

“Virginia is primarily a suburban state. Suburban voters like people who they would have at their cocktail parties. The example at that time, which was back in the 70s, was John Warner, our senator, who was married to Liz Taylor. So John Warner might come to your cocktail party and bring Liz Taylor. You definitely want Liz Taylor at your cocktail party.

“The Democrat was a guy named Andrew Miller, the attorney general. He was fine, but not very interesting.

“Henry Howell was the Democratic candidate who was running for governor in the 70s. He was really populist, he would talk really loud, he would spit and spill mustard on his tie. You don’t want him at your cocktail party. You want John Dalton, who was a lawyer from Richmond and a much more sedate guy who at least wouldn’t scare people.”

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Explanatory multimedia reporting from CU Boulder journalism students
The Virginia cocktail party theory