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Tim Kaine, George Allen Banking on Sophisticated Ground Game in Virginia

Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call
Virginia Senate candidate Tim Kaine works the crowd at a grass-roots rally with President Barack Obama on Saturday at Jiffy Lube Live in Bristow, Va.

Allen has banked his campaign on shepherding the independents voting against Obama to check his box in the Senate race as well. That has meant a constant drumbeat of tying Kaine, the former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to Obama.

“The key to the winner’s circle is Mitt Romney,” Allen told the crowd in Doswell, analogizing victories for himself, Romney and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to the Triple Crown.

Cantor is in a safe race and doesn’t need Romney to win, but Allen, who is seeking the seat he lost in 2006, almost certainly does. The only question is by how much. The Kaine campaign has been working for the past 18 months to ensure the former governor, lieutenant governor and Richmond mayor has a chance even if Romney carries the state.

The Obama campaign’s turnout efforts have allowed the Kaine campaign to hone in on a slightly different “universe” of voters it believes could support both Romney and Kaine.

“We’re hoping as many Virginians as possible cast ballots for both President Obama and Gov. Kaine,” Kaine senior adviser Mo Elleithee said. “But for those Romney supporters out there that are still undecided, we’re going to make the case to them as well that if you really want to break through the partisan gridlock, Tim Kaine’s your guy.”

Obama delivered the same message Saturday night at a late night rally in northern Virginia. 

“Virginia, if you want to break the gridlock in Congress, you’ll vote for leaders like Tim Kaine who feel the same way, whether they’re Democrats, Republicans or independents — leaders who will put people first and put the election aside for a moment,” Obama told the crowd of 24,000.

Electorate Growing More Diverse

The Kaine campaign believes it has pulled out to a slight lead after 18 months of running even with Allen. In the final weeks of the campaign, it has focused its persuasion efforts on women, senior citizens and some of the new communities of voters who have entered the electorate since 2008 and are tuning into the race late. 

They are “doubling down” on their field efforts in suburban counties like Henrico, which is outside Richmond, and the Northern Virginia counties of Loudoun and Prince William. The latter is where Kaine joined Obama Saturday night for the president’s final campaign stop in Virginia.

Kaine campaign manager Mike Henry said that about 200,000 new registrants are on the voter file. Voters don’t register by party in Virginia, so it’s impossible to be certain how beneficial they will be. But, Henry said, the electorate is “growing more diverse, which definitely is helpful to us.”

Henry said the campaign will continue its persuasion efforts up until Election Day. He described it as a “sandwich” program, where potential swing voters are first contacted by phone to get them interested in Kaine. Then they receive direct mail with a targeted message, and after that the voter receives a follow-up phone call to “really drive home that message.”

The Republican-coordinated campaign has also made efforts to reach out to swing voters and “soft Democrats.”

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