Votes are votes, even when they're gathered during dessert at a three-course dinner.
A group of 260 members and guests of the Richmond Academy of Medicine took part in a mock election last Tuesday at the Westin Hotel in Henrico County, followed by a speech by University of Virginia political science professor Larry J. Sabato.
"We try to make the meetings entertaining for the physicians," says Chip Jones, communications and marketing director for the academy. "This vote is not meant to be a statistically valid representation of our members' preferences."
Still, Tuesday's results offered a snapshot of a tiny cross-section of Richmond's influential doctor demographic.
For U.S. president, 62 percent of academy's members backed Romney and 38 percent supported Obama. As for Obama's overhaul of the health care system, the Affordable Care Act, it was a mirror: 62 percent against, 38 percent in favor. Tallies for the House of Representative seats followed suit — respectively, Republican Rep. Eric Cantor over Democrat Wayne Powell, 63 percent to 37 percent; and Republican challenger Dean Longo over Democrat Bobby Scott, 60 percent to 40 percent.
Easing a conservative lean were two outliers: an uncertain victory for George Allen (55 percent) over Democrat Tim Kaine (45 percent) for the U.S. Senate was followed by a 50-50 split over Gov. Bob McDonnell's bold rejection of Obamacare, which lost the state much-needed federal Medicaid money.
"You've become more liberal!" said Sabato, who spoke immediately following the mock election. "That's more votes for Democrats than I've ever seen!"
Sabato, an unashamedly geeky student of the U.S. electorate system, is founder of the Crystal Ball, a nationally renowned publication with an uncanny ability to predict the outcomes of state and federal elections.
In animated vernacular, the director of U.Va's Center for Politics delivered an around-the-world overview of the political landscape. Sabato pumped each statement with polls and statistics, applied them to past, current and future trends in public opinion.
All that for the professor to say that Obama is "probably going to win."
"There's a kind of nuclear deterioration as time goes on," Sabato said. "Only four years in the White House is a built-in excuse [for Obama]. That's the hidden factor: the people who say, 'I don't like this guy but I really don't want to go back to how it was before.' The economy isn't bad enough to beat a first-term president."
Editor’s note: For the record, the Chip Jones, communications and marketing director for the Richmond Academy of Medicine, quoted in this story should not be confused with Dr. Charles M. “Chip” Jones, who specializes in gynecologic oncology at St. Mary’s Hospital.