The focus on Virginia’s cities, suburbs, mountains and military bases captures dramatically how varied and unpredictable the state is despite the president’s historic victory here in 2008. Both candidates see great opportunity in the political geography of the Old Dominion, and neither is certain of winning it.
“Let me just say this,” Obama told a crowd of more than 3,000 packed into a four-block stretch of downtown Roanoke late Friday. “If I win Virginia, I’m going to get four more years. That I can say with some confidence.”
Obama continued his blitz on Romney’s record at Bain Capital even after the Republican demanded an apology for the president's sharp attacks. Instead of offering one, Obama debuted a tough new ad in nine states, including Virginia, accusing Bain of moving jobs overseas and even mocking Romney’s rendition of “America the Beautiful.” At one appearance, the president declared: “I believe in insourcing.”
Virginia’s evolution into electoral battleground is a story best told with a map. The commonwealth was once deeply conservative, and Republicans still dominate the southern and western rural swaths. But growing minority populations in the eastern cities and inner suburbs, younger and independent-minded military families in Hampton Roads, and moderate newcomers to the booming exurbs of Washington and Richmond have transformed Virginia into one of the most important presidential battlegrounds of the year.
Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) noted that in 2009 he won virtually all the Virginia battlegrounds that pushed Obama to victory the year before.
“It’s the kitchen-table voters,” McDonnell said. “Thirty percent of voters in Virginia, maybe even more in the suburbs and exurbs, are people who really don’t vote party. They vote the person, and they vote the issue. And from what I’m hearing from people, and from what the polls indicate are important to people, the president’s got a horrible record and Mitt Romney’s got better ideas.”
All over the map
Obama’s itinerary Friday and Saturday reflected Virginia’s changing political map. A few miles from Oceana Naval Air Station in Virginia Beach, he met with Navy families over lunch. He drew large minority crowds in Hampton, an urban enclave in Tidewater. He stopped in Roanoke — he is the first sitting president in decades to do so — trying to expand the valuable concentrations of Democrats in western Virginia’s string of small cities. And he hit the vote-rich outskirts of Richmond and Washington, ground zero for Virginia’s political evolution.