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Doubts Creep In GOP Stronghold In Va.


President Barack Obama has pulled ahead of Governor Romney in another battleground state - Virginia. That's according to recent polls. This past week, we drove west from Washington, D.C. to the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia to talk to voters about the presidential election. On the way, we stopped at an apple barn to see some of the other choices Virginians face.

JOE LIZER: Crispin or Golden Delicious, which are both a large, yellow apple and on the sweet side, and either Empire, which is like a Macintosh, or Ida Red, which is like a Jonathan, would be an excellent combination for a pie.

WERTHEIMER: That's Joe Lizer, who owns the Virginia Farm Market in Winchester, Virginia, and bakes the pies he sells. Winchester is the county seat of Frederick County - George Washington really did live in the County - and Mitt Romney is very likely to get strong support there. Senator John McCain got 60 percent of the vote when he ran for president in 2008. Rutledge Patterson is a local businessman, a conservative republican, who really likes Romney.

RUTLEDGE PATTERSON: I like about Romney 'cause he has a business background. I like the fact that he wants to lower taxes. I like the fact that he wants to maybe make the government smaller and try to reduce the deficit.

WERTHEIMER: What about this most recent thing where he talks about the 47 percent.

PATTERSON: If the caboose gets too big, the engine fails. You know, if there's too many people on the dole, where's the money coming from?

WERTHEIMER: We met Mr. Patterson at the Daily Grind on Loudon Street in Winchester's old town. That's a pedestrian street lined with shops and restaurants. Some of the buildings go back to colonial times. We talked to two other businessmen outside that coffee shop. Eric Cales is an IT specialist who's voting for President Obama, but he is not enthusiastic.

ERIC CALES: I would prefer to stay with the devil I know as opposed to the devil I don't. I don't either one of them are a good option for our country, and I just feel that it's better to go with what you know as opposed to the devil that's lurking in the dark.

WERTHEIMER: Why not Romney?

CALES: Why not Romney? I just believe he's too arrogant. I mean, he's talking about where the middle class falls, he doesn't even know what middle class is.

WERTHEIMER: Eric Cales works for John Black. Black has a background in defense and intelligence. He voted for Mr. Obama last time because they're both from Hawaii. But he says he has serious national security concerns and this time he's voting for Mr. Romney.

JOHN BLACK: Romney's an interesting character because if you study his actions back to when he was governor and when he does things, I like that man a lot more than I like what I see of the candidate. And I'm hoping that deep down inside that's the man. He's just a lousy speaker, a lousy politician, a lousy campaigner. He's the worst campaigner I've ever seen in all my years and I've been around the block a few times. I'm not a big fan, but I've been totally disillusioned by Mr. Obama.


WERTHEIMER: Young moms were waiting for their preschoolers outside the Weekday School at the First Presbyterian Church on Loudon Street. Pam Ramey told us she's voting for Romney and she likes his choice of Paul Ryan for vice president.

PAM RAMEY: He's very cute.

WERTHEIMER: He certainly is.

RAMEY: He's young, and I think that's good. Young ideas.

WERTHEIMER: Pam Ramey describes herself as a homemaker and rock solid Republican - not especially disturbed by Mr. Romney's remarks at a private fundraiser in which he said that 47 percent of Americans don't pay income taxes and see themselves as victims entitled to government support. My job, he said, is not to worry about those people.

RAMEY: He needs to be concerned about all the people, but, you know, I get where he was going with that. I just think maybe it wasn't the right phrase that he used.

WERTHEIMER: Does that affect any of your thoughts about what you might do?

RAMEY: As far as changing my mind?


RAMEY: No. I just think it wasn't a polished thought.

WERTHEIMER: Polls show President Obama does have strong support from women voters in Virginia. One reason may be this year's attempt by Republican state legislators to require an invasive vaginal ultrasound for anyone wanting an abortion. Maggie Major, another stay-at-home mom, says she's voting for President Obama purely on women's issues. But for that, she'd absolutely consider Republicans.

MAGGIE MAJOR: I feel like nobody should have any input whatsoever in what I can do with my body. Period, end of story, reproduction or not. It's none of their business. The bottom line is: it's none of their business.

WERTHEIMER: So, would you say that Virginia's politicians radicalized you on this?

MAJOR: I wouldn't call it radicalize me. I think that I have a very common sense approach to it. I think that the Republicans could really grasp a huge number of women voters. Because I think that we're all - once you start having children, you become a little bit more conservative maybe. It's unfortunate. I grew up Republican. I voted for Bush, which is crazy. But when you start thinking about what they can actually tell you what to do with your own body, it's scary.

WERTHEIMER: We also met a doctor. He's pro-life, an independent who's solid for Governor Romney, but not in love with his candidate, at least not yet. This is Dr. John Mikus.

DR. JOHN MIKUS: You know, I don't think there's ever going to be that ideal right one. But in studying more of the philosophies and listening to more of the speeches and stances of Mitt Romney, I find myself more leaning towards his thinking and I feel more comfortable with him now. And I'm really looking forward to the one-on-one debates to let me and the rest of the country figure it out.


WERTHEIMER: Winchester is a relatively prosperous town. A street musician plays for tourists and locals, including lots of movers-in who don't necessarily share the area's political traditions. We met one of them having lunch at the Village Market and Bistro on Loudon Street. John Paul Marcantonio works at Rubbermaid. He voted for Mr. Obama in 2008, but this time he's undecided.

JOHN PAUL MARCANTONIO: Personally, I think we've started to swing over the line with from what I'm comfortable with in terms of entitlement culture in the country. And so what I have a personal battle with right now is, you know, I'm socially very, very liberal, becoming more and more fiscally conservative as I get older.

WERTHEIMER: So, are you considering Mr. Romney?


WERTHEIMER: And what is it you like about him?

MARCANTONIO: Not necessarily about him - about policy. I mean, I want to understand a little better some of his policies and platforms. I think he's been a little bit light on describing exactly what he would do if he's in office. Hopefully, we'll see that through some of the debates and some of the other platforms he puts out.

WERTHEIMER: Voters in a Virginia county which produces lots of Republican votes, and lots of wonderful apples.


WERTHEIMER: You're listening to NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

As NPR's senior national correspondent, Linda Wertheimer travels the country and the globe for NPR News, bringing her unique insights and wealth of experience to bear on the day's top news stories.

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