Obama Sailed Behind Galvanized Voters and Broadened Support

By Tim Craig and Bill Turque
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, February 14, 2008

Sen. Barack Obama's surprising 28-point win in Tuesday's Virginia primary, in which he piled up a larger share of the votes than in Maryland, showed his campaign's success in turning out voters and broadening his formidable coalition of supporters in the week since Super Tuesday.

Obama received 64 percent of the vote in Virginia, about the same percentage he got in his home state, Illinois, on Super Tuesday. He picked up a slim majority, 52 percent, of whites, doubling the percentage he got in neighboring Tennessee a week before and exceeding his support among white voters in any previous Southern state.

"I was thinking [Tuesday] morning, if we can win by more than 10 [points], we can say it was a solid victory," said Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D), one of Obama's national co-chairmen. "The fact the margin ended up being what it was is spectacular."

Some advisers to Obama's challenger, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, appeared stunned by the loss. Larry Byrne, a veteran Democratic strategist from Fairfax County who was an adviser to the Clinton campaign, said they expected that about 600,000 people would vote in the Democratic primary. Instead, nearly 1 million showed up, a 130 percent increase over the turnout four years ago.

"I don't know how you look at it other than to say, he did an amazing job getting people organized," Byrne said.

Obama was the first candidate from either party to get on Virginia's ballot in November after volunteers submitted 20,000 signatures, nearly double the amount required. Many campaigns have to pay people to collect signatures.

Democratic leaders said that, despite the presence of Clinton's national campaign headquarters in Arlington County, the Obama organization was much quicker off the dime after it became apparent in early February that the primaries in the District, Virginia and Maryland would have an impact on the race.

Storefront headquarters for Obama started popping up across the state even before Super Tuesday. His campaign ran television ads in the state for a week before Clinton responded. On the eve of the election, tens of thousands of residents in majority-black neighborhoods received a recorded call from Obama urging them to vote.

Scott A. Surovell, chairman of the Fairfax County Democratic Committee, said the energy of the Obama effort was undeniable. "Incredible intensity among activists and young people," Surovell said.

A weekend canvass in Alexandria brought out an estimated 400 Obama volunteers, he said.

"You didn't see a lot of door-knocking for Hillary," said George Burke, chairman of the 11th District Democratic Congressional Committee.

Momentum helped Obama, too, after he won over the weekend in Maine, Washington, Nebraska and Louisiana. Late-deciding Virginia voters broke his way, exit polls showed, and those who already supported him turned out to vote because they thought he could win the nomination, strategists said.

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