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Va. campaigns for governor strive to turn out vote

Thousands of campaign staffers and volunteers fan out across the state, knocking on doors and making phone calls to urge that voters go to the polls Tuesday and cast a ballot for Republican Robert F. McDonnell or Democrat R. Creigh Deeds in the closely watched race for Virginia governor.

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By Anita Kumar and Rosalind S. Helderman
Saturday, October 31, 2009; 8:21 PM

Thousands of campaign staffers and volunteers fanned out across the state Saturday, knocking on doors and making phone calls to urge that voters go to the polls Tuesday and cast a ballot for Republican Robert F. McDonnell or Democrat R. Creigh Deeds in the closely watched race for Virginia governor.

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Republicans, excited by the prospect of winning after eight years of losses, said they have embarked on their largest-ever get-out-the-vote program in Virginia, reaching twice as many people as they did during last year's presidential race. They said they had phoned nearly 2.5 million residents since April and knocked on more than half a million doors as they tried to ensure that their enthusiasm translates at the ballot box.

Democrats, down in every poll since June, are staging a last-ditch effort to energize voters, the sort of highly organized operation that helped them elect two consecutive governors and two U.S. senators and deliver the state for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time in more than four decades. They said they expect to contact 620,000 Virginians -- most of them voters who registered last year to back Barack Obama's presidential campaign -- 14 times in the final two weeks of the campaign.

More than 200 Republican volunteers cheered McDonnell as he addressed them Saturday at a rally in Springfield. "Now the TV's been done. The radio's done. The slick glossy fliers are in the mail. The signs have been printed. . . . But now it's up to you," McDonnell said. "It's up to voter turnout."

McDonnell also rallied volunteers in Fredericksburg, Williamsburg and Richmond, where he appeared with Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a possible 2012 presidential hopeful and chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

Deeds stumped at several events in southwest Virginia with U.S. Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) and Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, who is chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

"We've got four days, and this race is ours to win," Deeds said Friday at a rally at the King Street Blues restaurant in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County. "We just have to drive every single vote out."

Both candidates spent Saturday evening at a Halloween parade in Leesburg.

Much of the nearly $15 million that the Republican and Democratic national committees poured into the off-year election has been for sophisticated get-out-the-vote programs that include recorded phone calls, glossy mailers, online ads and Twitter and Facebook messages. Each party has opened 30 offices across the state.

Other groups, too, are trying to reach supporters to encourage them to vote.

Virginia New Voices is targeting 60,000 immigrants in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads. The Virginia Muslim Political Action Committee transported people who had completed their Friday prayers to locations where they could vote early by absentee ballot. The National Rifle Association has sent out a last-minute batch of mailers for McDonnell, and the AFL-CIO is making recorded calls for Deeds.


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