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Midnight Van to Georgia: Scripps News speaks with voters in Virginia ahead of Thursday's presidential debate

Scripps News' Andrew Rafferty, Joe St. George and Serena Marshall make their first stop on the road to Atlanta, Georgia, for the debate.
The Midnight Van to Georgia
Posted at 8:48 AM, Jun 25, 2024

The Scripps News political team hit the road on a rainy Monday afternoon, debuting the Midnight Van to Georgia. They are meeting with voters in an effort to grasp the nation's true feelings ahead of the upcoming presidential election.

Scripps News' political director Andrew Rafferty, deputy political director Joe St. George and White House correspondent Serena Marshall began their road trip from Washington D.C. and will be stopping in the top swing cities in America en route to Atlanta, Georgia.

A map shows Scripps News' route on "The Midnight Van to Georgia" for the presidential debate.
A map shows Scripps News' route on "The Midnight Van to Georgia" for the presidential debate.

Their first pit-stop was in Norfolk, Virginia, at a local diner: Doumar’s Cones & Barbeque. Though local voters dining during the lunch rush were enthused about their cheeseburgers, they weren’t so much about this year’s presidential candidates.

"I don't see no hope in either man," said Gwendolyn Alexander, who voted for President Biden in 2020.

Alexander, who is 85 years old, said age is a concern for her this election.

President Biden is 81 and former President Donald Trump is 78.

“We don’t think as fast," she said. "I don’t think as fast when I was 35, 45, 55.”

It’s not just age that is turning voters away. According to 23 year-old, Caila Light, it’s the two men themselves.

“Honestly there is a third party that I had heard of," she said. "I don’t know their names off the top of my head."

Another big issue voters brought up was money. One customer mentioned his retirement fund as his main concern — just one of many collective concerns locals have about the economy.

Dorothy, a tourist who is visiting family in nearby Virginia Beach, agrees.

“High costs of groceries, all kinds of inflation," she said.

Scripps News correspondents on the "Midnight Van to Georgia" prepare for North Carolina

While things like the economy and immigration are among the top issues for voters this year, at a grocery store in Chesapeake, voter Dan Avant Blachman said his main concern is keeping power with the people.

“My biggest issue as a voter is Democracy," he said.

Blachman is a Biden supporter. He told us he plans on watching the debate, but questions how much of an impact it will have on voters.

“I don’t think debates matter," Blachman said. "I think they are good to do. It’s useful to see them [candidates] together and engaging. But unless somebody absolutely train wrecks, I think there is very little effect on me personally."

Meanwhile, voter Brian Johnson summed up where many Virginians currently stand on the upcoming election.

"I struggle with the choice to be honest with you," he said.

Meanwhile, there is a divide on who will be tuning in to the upcoming presidential debate on Thursday. Some voters told us they'll watch, but a group of independent voters said they plan to tune out because of the negativity.

Scripps News will continue to talk to people in bellwether counties this week, in places that can give major clues about who could win in November.

The debate begins Thursday at 9 p.m. ET and is expected to last 90 minutes. Scripps News will air CNN's simulcast of the debate live on-air and online.

To find Scripps News on air, click here. You can also watch on Scripps News' website.