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For Obama Backers, Empty Yards and Signs of Discontent

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By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 25, 2008

RICHMOND

Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign is spending millions of dollars on television ads in Virginia, staffing 43 offices and sending the candidate and his running mate, Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr., to every corner of the state.

But Obama has apparently overlooked one important element of a successful campaign in Virginia: stocking up on those venerable lawn signs.

Across the state, Democratic officials are clamoring to get hold of free Obama yard signs but are being told that none are available or that they have to buy them from the candidate's Web site. It can take weeks to get them delivered.

The frustration of volunteers and Democratic officials over the campaign's inability to provide the signs is nearing a boiling point in some parts of Virginia. As signs for GOP nominee John McCain sprout in neighborhood after neighborhood, some Democrats are starting to fear that their failure to win the lawn sign war could in a small way cut into Obama's ability to carry Virginia.

"I think they might be missing the boat," Chris Graham, chairman of the Waynesboro Democratic Committee, said in an interview. "We have so many people coming in, and they just want a sign. . . . Signs are a big deal for our people."

Kevin Griffis, an Obama spokesman, said the campaign hasn't put a priority on lawn signs, noting that they don't vote on Election Day.

"Obviously, we want people to feel like they are part of the campaign and want them to be able to show their support for Senator Obama," Griffis said. "But the number one thing we prioritize in this race is building a human infrastructure in the state, and sometimes other parts of that campaign just don't receive the same priority."

The debate over the lack of signs will probably continue as Virginia Democrats ponder whether Obama made the right call by not producing more yard signs.

Signs can cost a campaign a little less than $1 apiece, so a $100,000 investment would be enough to give Obama a significant presence on Virginia's lawns.

Gail Gitcho, a spokeswoman for McCain, said the Arizona senator's campaign printed up and distributing nearly 100,000 lawn signs in Virginia.


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