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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 November 2006, 14:17 GMT
Scots-Irish roots help senate fight
By Niall Glynn
BBC News Website

The balance of power of the US Senate depended on the state of Virginia, and it seems the Ulster-Scots roots of the Democrat candidate helped him secure victory.

Pundits have said former Marine Jim Webb was able to use his heritage as a rallying point.

Jim Webb, Democrat, celebrates in Virginia
Jim Webb is proud of his Scots-Irish roots

Throughout the campaign he referred several times to his book "Born Fighting - how the Scots-Irish Shaped America".

Mr Webb's campaign website says he "is descended principally from the Scotch-Irish settlers who came to this country from Northern Ireland in the 18th century and became pioneers in the mountains of Southwest Virginia."

In his book, Born Fighting, Mr Webb says that Scots-Irish attitudes form the bedrock of American society, especially among the working class.

The book charts the story of the 200,000 to 400,000 Scots-Irish - who moved from Scotland, to what is now Northern Ireland then on to the Appalachians and other parts of America.

Northern Ireland writer Billy Kennedy, himself the author of several books on the Ulster migration to America, has corresponded with Mr Webb in the past.

"A lot of the stuff that he has in the book (Born Fighting) is complementary to the line that I have been taking," Mr Kennedy said.

He said Mr Webb's roots could have helped him in the election.

"Down in Virginia - you go through the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia rowing into the southwest of Virginia - it's teeming with Scots-Irish/Ulster-Scots.

"They're there in big numbers and that vote certainly is there, and I would have thought he tapped in well."


As a Marine rifle platoon and company commander in the Vietnam War, Jim Webb was awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star medal, two Bronze Star medals, and two Purple Hearts.

A former Republican, he served as secretary of the Navy for a time during the Reagan administration.

He has written six novels about the Vietnam War.

Mr Kennedy described him as an interesting character, different from the traditonal image many people would hold of Democrats.

"He is a conservative and there are other conservatives - a lot of the Democrats who have been returned, they're not the east coast liberals that we tend to associate with the Democratic Party over recent years," Mr Kennedy said.

"He's the sort of guy the Democrats need to claw back the votes."

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