In a campaign year dominated by the
economy and jobs, Michael Washington says little matters more in
his Virginia community than the flood of layoff notices
threatening to stun defense workers days before the November
Washington, who manages employee benefits for companies in
Norfolk’s naval shipyards and elsewhere, says southeast
Virginia’s economy would be crushed by $500 billion in military
cuts that will start in January unless Congress and President
Barack Obama stop them. Everything from florist shops to
restaurants to his Norfolk firm’s commissions would take a
“trickle-down” hit, he said.
While Washington said he won’t back Obama’s re-election, in
part because he doesn’t think the president is strong enough on
defense, he hasn’t decided whether to support a second term for
Republican Representative Scott Rigell, who’s serving in a
Congress where partisan gridlock led to the threat of automatic
across-the-board budget cuts.
“All politics is local, and when there’s a 10 percent cut
to defense, that’s us,” said Washington. “Throw them all
In Virginia, a key swing state in this year’s battles for
the White House and both houses of Congress, there are early
signs that the threatened defense reductions are becoming a
potent political issue.
“This is a conversation that’s happening in board rooms
now, but it hasn’t seeped down to the average voter yet,” said
Jennifer Duffy, Senate editor of the nonpartisan Cook Political
Report in Washington. “It’s going to get baked into the cake
sometime in September or October, and I do think it matters.”
The economies of Virginia, Hawaii, and Alaska, in that
order, are the most dependent on defense spending, a Bloomberg
Government study in November found. Virginia is home to the
Pentagon, Naval Station Norfolk, Joint Base Langley-Eustis,
Forts A.P. Hill and Belvoir, and major defense contractors.
Almost 14 percent of the state’s gross domestic product stems
from defense spending, according to the report.
Scaled-back defense spending also would have election-day
effects in Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania and other swing
states, those that are closely contested.