John Walshe: 'Democrats galvanised to put bite into their bark as they bid to halt Trump bandwagon'
Every Democratic voter seems to have dogs which are a damn nuisance for canvassers. They bark menacingly or their owners won't open the door for fear they'll run away.
So the canvassers often end up talking through a screen door asking for the homeowner's vote, as I discovered when accompanying Peter Volosin, an up and coming young Democrat in the Virginian city of Roanoke.
In this state, famous for its Blue Ridge mountains, the northern part is largely Democratic and the southern part largely Republican, at least in the rural areas. Roanoke, a city of 100,000 people, is more evenly divided.
Our "packet" of 40 houses went off uneventfully, unlike an African-American canvasser who was greeted by a white resident in a largely black area of the city opening the door with his two 45s in shoulder holders.
This is an "open carry" state where you can legally display your guns and even bring them into restaurants. Turned out the gun-toting voter was a registered Democrat and will be voting for the party today. Relief all round.
Volosin, who is married to Castlebar-born Malcolm Quigley, was canvassing for a number of candidates in the state including Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton's vice-presidential running mate in the 2016 presidential elections.
Kaine is a racing certainty to be re-elected to the Senate today. The only question is the margin of victory over the hard-right Republican Corey Stewart, an ardent Trump supporter and just as combative as the president.
At one press conference Stewart attacked his fellow Republicans who supported a Democratic plan to expand Medicaid. He punctuated his comments by waving a toilet paper roll in the air saying "these are toilet paper Republicans. They are just as soft, just as weak, just as pathetic, just as flimsy."
Stewart has been accused of associating with one of the organisers of the infamous "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville last year which resulted in pitched battles between white supremacists and counter protesters, one of whom, Heather Heyer, was killed when a car drove into them.
Charlottesville, a delightful college city with a pedestrian-only main street - unusual in America - is still trying to recover from the shocking events of August last year. Trump's initial comment that there were "very many fine people on both sides" (of the protest) still cut deep.
The other senator for Virginia, Mark Warner, is cautious about a massive Democratic blue wave at the polls.
"A lot of people are exhausted with Trump's rhetoric and it was assumed this would translate into major victories. I think we will be successful.
"But the Republicans got motivated by their Supreme Court battle (Trump's nominee Brett Kavanaugh was successful). The economy is also doing well." Warner is a Democrat heavy-hitter, vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Bill Clinton coined the phrase "it's the economy, stupid". But Trump has largely ignored the wisdom behind that cliché. He has made the elections all about himself and about illegal immigration.
He has concentrated all his fire power - literally - on a rag-tag army of desperate economic refugees slowly making their way through Mexico to reach the US border and hopefully a better life like millions of others had done before them.
The sad caravan of the destitute is portrayed as a threat to the women of America. Apart from allegedly harbouring potential rapists it is also accused of carrying drug smugglers and other criminals from Central America as well as terrorists from the Middle East and all by a president who has sent as many as 15,000 troops south to seal the border.
Former military leaders have called the deployment wasteful, expressing alarm over armed forces being used as a political tool when the voters go to the polls today. Lt Gen David Barno, who commanded the US forces in Afghanistan, said the military had been placed in a highly politicised environment regarding immigration.
The fact the migrants won't arrive at the border for nearly a month is overlooked in the tough battle for control of Congress. Not for the first time have the Democrats been left flat footed by the agenda-setting, narcissistic Trump.
Their attempts to make health the number one issue, which it should be, have met with mixed success, a bit like their response to what Fox News calls the immigration crisis.
The nightly TV battles between Fox and CNN over the fake crisis of migrants and the real crisis over bombs sent to leading Democrats was a sight to behold.
Unbelievably, it was even suggested somehow the Democrats were behind the bombs. And Warner worries about the corrosive effects of Trump's careless comments, not just at home but abroad.
He cites the shooting dead of Muslim protesters in Nigeria last week by the army who justified the killings by posting one of Trump's tweets on its own site.
In it the president of the United States said that if the Central American migrants threw stones at the border guards he would consider that akin to using a rifle. "We will not put up with that. They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back."
The message of hate lives on, and not just in America.