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Obama’s Allies Prepare to Again Battle for Virginia

Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images
Attendees cheer as President Barack Obama speaks about his American Jobs Act on Sept. 9 at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va. In an effort to drum up support for Obama’s re-election effort, the Democratic National Committee recently launched a TV ad backing the president’s jobs act, which is airing in four separate media markets in Virginia.

If President Barack Obama is able to capture Virginia next fall, it will be thanks in part to the thousands of phone calls his ground troops have been making for the past six months to try to re-energize his 2008 supporters in this battleground state.

Consider this recent scene as the Republican presidential candidates met for a debate and six volunteers and an Obama regional field director were scattered around the main floor of a Vienna, Va., home dutifully making their way down call lists of prospective volunteers.

Jay Swanson, a 23-year-old recent Princeton graduate who voted for the first time in 2008, hosted his maiden phone bank Thursday at his parents' home just outside of the Beltway in a Washington, D.C., suburb in Virginia. The barking from his large, black Labrador provided the backdrop for the volunteers' repeated question: "Are you in?"

Obama loyalists have held more than 1,500 similar volunteer events across Virginia since April 4, when Obama made his re-election bid official. Virginia, one of nine states that voted for Obama in 2008 and for President George W. Bush four years earlier, is again up for grabs, and the Obama campaign is pushing hard to secure the swing state's 13 electoral votes.

The campaign just hired Ashley Baia as the state field director, plucking her from her role as an associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement. In 2008, Baia was an Obama field organizer in South Carolina and later was a regional field director in Virginia.

"Their state field director got on the ground last week, so they're definitely not messing around," a Democratic source in the state said. "I don't know what their chances will end up being, but I don't know how they could be more prepared going into this fight."

With about 13 months to go in the race, the Obama campaign is relying on reviving the field structure that has been in place since 2007 to augment the messaging and fundraising centered in its Chicago headquarters and in Washington, D.C.

Regional campaign offices will begin popping up in the state this fall. But for now — aside from the top-dollar fundraisers that provide the financial fuel — the campaign thrives off living-room-based volunteer operations.

"This year is about building up our infrastructure and creating the strongest organization possible, and that's exactly what we're doing in Virginia," Obama campaign spokesman Frank Benenati said. "We're not starting from scratch in the commonwealth in this campaign. We have established relationships and networks."

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