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By almost any analysis, the presidential race is too close to call, and Virginia will play a key role in how it plays out.

Both President Obama and Gov. Romney have much to recommend them. Consider their qualifications carefully as you make your way to the polls.

Unlike many, we strongly believe that the country is in a better position in 2012 than it was when President Obama was elected in 2008. Too many people forget how close to the edge of collapse – financial and otherwise -- we were, and the government’s actions to stop job losses is to be commended, particularly the moves that saved the American automobile industry.

The Obama administration prevented a collapse of our banking system and instituted a stimulus plan that appears to have not only stabilized the economy, but to finally have it moving forward again. We are not there yet, but almost all economic indicators are improving.

If there is a problem with the Obama presidency, it’s a problem of overexalted expectations, and the president needs to be scolded for the promises that simply weren’t going to come true in the existing economic climate.

However, this shouldn’t overshadow the successes of his first term. When he took office, everything was in rapid decline. In itself, this is a strong indicator that the president’s policies deserve more time to show success.

If conservatism would have been the wrong choice to stop the economic free fall in 2008, a centrist approach is necessary in 2012.

Despite his many accomplishments, the president has been unable to find middle ground with a stubborn Congress, and the debt accumulated during our attempts to push recovery is a sword hanging over our heads.

Gov. Romney has made what appears to be a sincere push to the center of American politics and has been articulating an apparently genuine desire to create bipartisan solutions using his experience in business.

Despite the acrimony that pervades all national elections, we know that Gov. Romney can work with members of the opposing party. His experience as governor of Massachusetts demonstrates that he can reach across the aisle.

During his time at the helm, in Boston, he steered the state out of a budget deficit and helped implement a workable state health-care system.

And while there are elements within the Republican Party that seem fixated on social issues, Romney has made it increasingly clear that his focus will be on dealing with the economy and issues that unite, not divide us.

Both men are credentialed and qualified. The question to consider as you head to the polls next week is not whether the country is better off than it was four years ago, but which candidate will put us in a stronger position four years from now.

Virginia’s rule limiting a governor to one term leaves us with an abundance of strong, qualified candidates on the national stage.

This year, we are faced with a decision for U.S. Senate between two former governors, each with experience on the national stage : Tim Kaine as former Democratic National Committee chair and George Allen as a former U.S. Senator and national figure within the party.

Both are genuine public servants and both want nothing but the best for Virginia.

Their experience means that they have a better understanding of the state and how government works than many of those running for office in other areas. Both have called for a bipartisan approach and their respective personalities make these claims ring true.

Allen had a singularly successful term as governor, during which time of prosperity. He made welfare reforms and generally put the house in order.

And he is not a culture warrior obsessed with the social issues that seem to emanate from Richmond in recent years.

Alternatively, Gov. Kaine was faced with a more challenging scenario during his tenure, which saw the beginnings of the economic recession.

It was a time for tough choices, which forced him to cut the state budget by $5 million, but there was still the opportunity for an investment in education.

The end result was Virginia maintaining its bond rating and its Forbes rank as the best state in which to do business.
Additionally, he has demonstrated a unique intellectual agility and an openness to new ideas and approaches that the country needs.

By all accounts from those with whom we have who have been represented by Rep. Robert Hurt for the past two years, the Chatham attorney has done a very credible job – and an outstanding job, if you strongly support the Republican view.

But Hurt persuasively argues that he has demonstrated a strong ability to work with folks on the other side of the aisle, and his work in Virginia's General Assembly bears that out.

Gen. John Douglass served his country well for 35 years in the United States Air Force, and served in the White House for both President Reagan and President Clinton. More than that, he lives near Hume. Given the size of the newly drawn 5th District – larger than the State of New Jersey – being represented by someone close to home has its attractions.

During the Warrenton debate, Douglass spoke strongly about reining in campaign contributions and campaign spending, an issue whose need to be addressed grows daily.

Republican Rob Wittman is a Fauquier incumbent, though after redistricting, he represents just four precincts in the southern part of the county -- Bealeton, Lois, Catlett and Morrisville.

Wittman supports cuts to the national budget, efforts to make health care easier to afford, but not the Affordable Care Act.

He also supports efforts in schools to emphasize hard-science disciplines.

Wittman is being challenged by Democrat Adam Cook.

Cook supports increasing aid to states to stop the layoffs of police, firefighters, and teachers, and supports increasing taxes on the wealthy to address the deficit.

Pick you candidates. Go to the polls.

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