Just after lunchtime, not many of the folks who ambled into the Lewinsville senior center, designated polling place for Fairfax County's "McLean" precinct, were there cast ballots in Virginia's Republican presidential primary. Turnout totaled a paltry 105 just about 2:30 p.m.
Two of those neighborhood no-shows were Newt and Callista Gingrich. As Charlie Spiering blogged earlier today, Gingrich's campaign confirmed that, with no Newt name on the ballot, they were boycotting, and hadn't applied for absentee ballots, either.
Among the Republicans voting this afternoon, it seemed to be universally known this was Newt Gingrich's home precinct, but they proved that Newt's not McLean Republicans' Favorite Son.
A few voters lamented that only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul would be on the ballot, with no write-in option. Voter Jan Van Tol made sure to show up because he feared the lack of choice would depress turnout. But he had no sympathy for Gingrich, even though he's seen him inside this polling place in elections past: "Staff should have been aware" of the ballot access rules. He might have considered voting for Gingrich but thinks he would have ended up with another candidate anyway, just like he did today.
A well-dressed elderly couple wished that they had a full ballot, too, but the gentlemen averred this of the candidates who didn't make it: it was "their fault" and they "whine(d) about it later," when they challenged the ruling. His wife was adamant: although she smiled as she remembered he lived nearby, Gingrich was "never" an option for her. She found the Speaker's "moral values" sorely lacking. She went with Mitt Romney again this year.
It's "too bad" Newt wasn't on his home precinct's ballot, thought voter Brian Higgins. Higgins had seen Gingrich driving behind him one day after church and he seemed to feel sorry for a locally-based candidate unable to vote for himself. Still, he went with Romney, because Gingrich is "very sharp but too disjointed" as a leader.
As she took over manning the polls for the Fairfax County GOP, Lucy Chatelaine asked out loud to the person she was replacing, "How do we explain that?" "Since he's a local he should be on the ballot," she thought. She'd nhim at the Giant supermarket a few times, after all. It was "sort of shabby treatment" when his petitions were rejected.
But would Montreal-born Chatelaine - who was a precinct captain here when this once-heavily Republican and now swing area in the 1980s and finds this tiny-turnout GOP primary a bit dispiriting - have voted for him? No, she "can't warm to" Gingrich; never could.
The hearty core of voters who did show up for primary day at Lewinsville Center were impressively well-informed. The previous Fairfax GOP volunteer hadn't encountered any voters unaware they couldn't vote for Gingrich or Rick Santorum, so maybe if those "Neighbors for Newt" did exist, they just didn't bother trudging to the polls.
But this afternoon, no actual, "real-life" Newt-neighbor reported missing a chance to cast their ballot for their hometown candidate for president of the United States.