“These guys,” of course, are President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, the candidates who have courted Virginia this year with an intensity never before seen in the Old Dominion.
No matter who wins here Tuesday, the heavy focus on Virginia has left a mark on the state and those who live in it. Voters say they feel a closer connection to the candidates and the campaign. The stature of Virginia politicians has gotten a boost. A state filled with history got a little more when Romney chose Norfolk as the site of his announcement that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would be his running mate. And then there’s the money — tens of millions poured into TV ads, radio spots, rallies, mailings, campaign offices and every other little thing that comes with a modern presidential campaign.
“It may be annoying at times, like when the traffic is stopped on I-81 because 15,000 people are leaving an event in Fishersville,” said Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), who plans to run for governor next year and has campaigned with Romney and Ryan. “But before this, we watched it all on the news, and we read about it on the Internet and in newspapers, and it was happening somewhere else. Well, now it’s happening right here, and that has a vibrancy to it. It’s energizing.”
Virginia had a touch of swing to it in 2008, when Obama spotted an opportunity and set up a campaign apparatus that helped turn the state blue for the first time in 40 years. But attention turned to the state late and the battle, such as it was, was one-sided.
Not so this year, when Virginia is one of the big three — right up there with Florida and Ohio as the most fought-over and valuable commodities on Election Day. The outcome is so uncertain that the two candidates, their spouses and their running mates have logged more than 90 appearances in Virginia in 2012 — nearly a dozen of those since Friday.
Virginians are not used to this sort of thing. Some of it they seem to like, some not so much. They are weary of the traffic jams, one thing the state does not need to import. And they are tired of the ads and the phone calls and the knocks on their doors.
Jordan and Morgan Mauck, 19-year-old twins and sophomores at Randolph-Macon College, are Republicans but have been getting phone calls and e-mails from the Obama campaign — a reflection, possibly, of their age and the fact that they are college students, a heavily targeted group for Obama.
They’re not happy that the Democrats have their e-mail addresses, and they don’t know how they got them, “but I’d sure like to know,” Morgan Mauck said. “Never have I ever led anyone to believe that I support Obama.”