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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.

Virginia crashed the battleground-state party in 2008, and both political parties believe it's there to stay. It's also likely to feature one of the most competitive Senate races next year between former Govs. Tim Kaine (D) and George Allen (R).

The Democratic National Committee just launched a TV ad in support of Obama's American Jobs Act, which is airing in seven states, including four separate media markets in Virginia. And DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz will headline an Arlington fundraiser this week for the Democratic Party of Virginia.

In 2008, the Obama campaign spotlighted Virginia early and made it a premier stomping ground for the candidate. Obama visited the state at crucial moments, including at least nine stops during the general election. He accepted Kaine's endorsement in Richmond just days after officially announcing his campaign in February 2007. He was also in the state for his first two stops of the general election campaign, and Kaine was among the three finalists to be his vice presidential running mate. Obama made Virginia home to his last stops before the Democratic National Convention and his final rally of the 2008 campaign.

In a remarkable 7-point win in the state which had voted Democratic just once since 1948 Obama exceeded Sen. John Kerry's (D-Mass.) vote total from 2004 by more than 500,000. That included about 65,000 more votes in Fairfax County, where the town of Vienna is located.

Independent voters have made Northern Virginia's booming exurbs of Loudoun and Prince William counties bellwethers in recent elections, and Obama outperformed Kerry there by a combined 60,000 votes. Obama even won the traditionally Republican Richmond suburb of Henrico County by 12 points.

Statewide, Obama won 91 percent of African-American voters, who made up one-fifth of the vote; 63 percent of new voters, who were 13 percent of the electorate; and 39 percent of white voters, a 7-point increase over Kerry.

But few believe with the current political atmosphere and GOP gains in 2009 and 2010 that Obama will see those numbers again. Republicans swept the statewide races in 2009 and took back an 8-3 majority in the House delegation in the midterm elections. Both parties expect a much closer election.

"Can Obama still win Virginia? Yes," veteran Virginia-based GOP strategist Chris LaCivita said. "Can he still win by a 7-point margin? Absolutely not. It's literally 50-50, and it makes Virginia ground zero on the re-elect."

The president took a hit in a Quinnipiac University poll conducted last month, which found Obama with a 40 percent approval rating in Virginia, including just 29 percent among independents a vital voting bloc that often decides statewide races.

Yet the president still ran statistically even with GOP frontrunners Mitt Romney and Rick Perry. Democrats cite that fact as an indication the eventual GOP nominee will have issues of his own to deal with in a state that's become a true battleground. But LaCivita said Obama's inability to win back the independent vote by next year will prove fatal.

Obama's current popularity in Virginia is reflective of where he stands nationally, LaCivita noted. That was also true in 2008, when Obama had identical margins of victory 53 percent to 46 percent in Virginia and nationwide.

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