Obama, McCain Bolster Their Presence in Va.

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 1, 2008

RICHMOND, Jan. 31 -- Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) stepped up their efforts in Virginia on Thursday as the presidential candidates began devoting more resources to the region in preparation for the Feb. 12 primary.

At separate events at the state Capitol, the Obama and McCain campaigns each unveiled a string of endorsements. Obama also announced Thursday that he was becoming the first candidate from either party to launch ads on network television in the region.

The campaign, which reported Thursday that it raised $32 million in January, said it was buying time in the District, Maryland and Virginia to air three different ads.

"I think the senator is going to have a great chance on Feb. 12," Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), one of Obama's national co-chairmen, said in an interview Thursday.

The flurry of activity is the latest signal that Virginia, Maryland and the District, all of which hold primaries Feb. 12, could play a big role in this year's elections.

One of Obama's ads, which will be shown in the Washington market, features Caroline Kennedy, who endorsed Obama earlier this week. The other two ads that will run in Virginia and Maryland show snippets of Obama's recent stump speeches.

Obama advisers believe Virginia, Maryland and the District could be critical to his hopes of defeating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) for the Democratic nomination. All three jurisdictions have sizeable African American populations as well as well-educated white voters, two groups that recent national polls show favor Obama over Clinton.

In Virginia, where residents don't register by party, Obama could also draw support from self-described independents, another group that has supported him over Clinton, according to exit polls in recent contests.

Obama picked up support Thursday from 17 members of the Virginia House of Delegates, including several from Fairfax County and Minority Leader Ward L. Armstrong (D-Henry).

Armstrong had been a supporter of former senator John Edwards, who suspended his campaign Wednesday. But Armstrong, who represents parts of economically depressed southern Virginia, said he decided to back Obama because he represents "change for America."

"In my district, people of Southside and southwest Virginia have had a great opportunity participating in the American dream," Armstrong said. "If ever there was a region of the state that needed Barack Obama's vision of change, it is in my district."

The endorsements come as Obama is starting to send paid staff into Virginia. On Tuesday, several Obama staffers who helped him win the South Carolina primary relocated to Richmond, where Obama is opening up a state headquarters.

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