Candidates Boost Their Va. Mileage

By Michael Laris and Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, November 2, 2008

As the two major presidential candidates made a final, urgent push for Virginia's 13 electoral votes, Sen. John McCain appeared before an energized crowd in Springfield, and Sen. Barack Obama's campaign announced that he will hold his final event Monday at 9 p.m. at the Prince William County Fairgrounds.

With chants of "Keep Virginia Red," thousands of supporters crowded into a truck parking lot yesterday to boost McCain, who asked for help in the run-up to Tuesday's vote.

"We're a few points down, but we're coming back," McCain said to raucous applause. Many in the crowd said they rejected reports that he is trailing in a state that has been a traditional stronghold for Republican presidential candidates.

"I don't believe it's true, because most of the people I talk to are for McCain," substitute teacher Micke Stapor of Herndon said. "How could we possibly be voting for someone who is so far left? . . . It's close, but it will still go red."

But in the political physics of the campaign's frenzied last hours, the outpouring for McCain helped spur area Democrats, including Chris Kameron, who lives near the site of the rally, to accompany two neighbors to knock on 55 doors for Obama yesterday afternoon.

"That's why we got out there," said Kameron, a parent liaison for Fairfax schools.

"We're really happy Obama's ahead in the polls, but we're scared, too, that something might happen," said Kameron's neighbor, John Betz of Burke, who was joined by daughter Caitlin, 18.

At a storefront Democratic outpost in a Springfield strip mall, down from a dollar store and Nail Villa, dozens of volunteers churned through calls and organized voter lists. Out behind two green trash bins, a half-dozen high school students assembled plastic Obama-Biden signs.

Caroline Kennedy, daughter of former president John F. Kennedy, was campaigning for Obama in Fairfax yesterday, and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to make an Obama campaign stop in the county today.

The thrusts into voter-rich Northern Virginia show how crucial the commonwealth remains as the nearly two-year campaign comes to a close. And the state's largest county is a big draw.

"Fairfax County is key to this election. You know that," McCain said. "You know how important it is for us to win here. You know how important it is that we put this country in the right direction. I need your help for the next three days."

A GOP win in the county of more than 1 million will be tough, if the area's recent voting history is an indication. It backed Sen. John F. Kerry four years ago, and Democrats have made further gains since. But the McCain campaign chose as the location for its rally a swath of Fairfax notable for the many voters who came out to reelect President Bush in 2004.

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