McCain Campaign Gets Aggressive in Virginia

Part of the Virginia delegation, left to right, Judi Lynch of Blacksburg, Christie Craig of Chesapeake and Maureen McDonnell of Richmond, celebrate in St. Paul.
Part of the Virginia delegation, left to right, Judi Lynch of Blacksburg, Christie Craig of Chesapeake and Maureen McDonnell of Richmond, celebrate in St. Paul. (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)
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By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 5, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn., Sept. 4 -- Republican Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign says it has launched an aggressive campaign in Virginia, recruiting volunteers, knocking on doors and calling voters to try to win one of the nation's newest battleground states.

The campaign recently named Virginia the state with the most voters reached by phone or door-to-door canvassing at night and on weekends.

Republican activists in the state say they are targeting independent voters, military families and veterans, among other groups, encouraging them to register and go to the polls Nov. 4.

"Virginia is very important. We will do everything we need to do to win," said Carly Fiorina, Republican National Committee victory chairman and a top McCain adviser. "Make no mistake, John McCain will fight very hard in Virginia."

Two months before the November election, Republicans and Democrats have set their sights on Virginia's 13 electoral votes. Both parties acknowledge that the state can no longer be considered a Republican stronghold.

No Democratic presidential candidate has carried Virginia since 1964, but an influx of voters and a stronger get-out-the-vote effort have helped Democrats win the past two gubernatorial elections, a high-profile Senate race in 2006 and the state Senate last year. The campaigns say McCain and his Democratic opponent, Sen. Barack Obama, are polling close in Virginia.

Delegates from Maryland and the District say they are leaving the Republican National Convention fired up but concede there is not much chance of the GOP ticket carrying either jurisdiction. Instead, some will provide help in Virginia and other key states.

"Three points in Maryland isn't as important as three points in Virginia or three points in Pennsylvania," said Don Murphy, a former state delegate and leader of the Maryland delegation.

Some prominent Maryland Republicans, including former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold, have already traveled to other states or have scheduled appearances.

Obama has been to Virginia three times since he secured the nomination in June. His wife, Michelle Obama, has traveled to the state once, and his vice presidential nominee, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., came for the first time Thursday to speak at George Mason University in Prince William County.

McCain has not held any public events in Virginia since the Feb. 12 primary. Staff members said they expect him and his vice presidential nominee, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, to visit this fall, but the campaign has not released details.

McCain's push in Virginia started well before he won the state GOP primary but, unlike Obama's campaign, his staff said it has purposely kept most details secret to avoid revealing strategy. They released a few details this week when asked by The Washington Post. Other information about the campaign's strategy came from state Republican leaders and the Republican Party of Virginia.

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