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ASHLAND, Va. — Former Gov. Tim Kaine refrained from busting out his harmonica last week on a stage usually crowded by bluegrass bands at Ashland Coffee and Tea.
The Democrat had been there before, celebrating the Saturday after the 2008 elections for what turned out to be the last show blues duo Cephas & Wiggins would ever play. But on this overcast day in a Democratic pocket of a heavily Republican county, the Senate candidate was here to rev up his base and encourage supporters to reach out to undecided voters, which he pegged at potentially 3 percent of the electorate with less than a week to go.
“This is a fairly red part of the state, but a vote here is the same as a vote in Arlington,” Kaine said in an interview. “And sometimes in a red part, it’s two votes, because it’s a vote out of the other column and into yours.”
The final week of a campaign usually transforms into purely a get-out-the-vote operation, but in a race this close, neither Kaine nor his opponent former Gov. George Allen (R) can afford to push persuasion aside just yet.
They have spent the past week crisscrossing the state for a mixture of grass-roots rallies, presidential campaign events, local business tours and meet-and-greets. Behind the scenes, their campaigns have worked in concert with the campaigns of President Barack Obama and GOP nominee Mitt Romney, respectively, to ensure their own supporters will be going to the polls tomorrow and to find those few remaining undecided voters.
The Republican coordinated operation was overhauled after 2008, when the Obama campaign exploited the holes in the GOP’s operation and Obama became the first Democrat to carry Virginia since 1964. This year, House, Senate and presidential voter contact projects all run through a central Victory office, which has translated into 5.5 million personal contacts and more than 1 million door-knocks statewide, party officials said.
“We learned a lesson four years ago, and for the last four years each time we’ve had an election we’ve built on that,” state GOP Chairman Pat Mullins said in an interview on Thursday at a Romney-Allen rally north of Richmond. “If they turn out the way we think they’re going to turn out, we’ll be fine.”
Every GOP canvass has been on behalf of all three levels of campaigns, an efficient strategy that allows for the sharing of resources and encourages straight-ticket voting. Allen made that case to the Republicans who showed up to his second of three events with Romney last week, with this one held on the farmland where 1973 Triple Crown winner Secretariat was born.