After months of employing state-of-the-art techniques -- from television commercials to jet planes to opinion polls -- the most expensive political campaigns in Virginia history journeyed into this tiny mountain town today for rival rallies where the candidates campaigned the old-fashioned way: shaking hands, kissing babies and predicting victory on Tuesday.
In their swing through the southwest part of the state, the Democrats, their confidence boosted by polls that show them comfortably ahead, barely mentioned their opponents. Instead, they praised each other and talked about what Gov. Charles S. Robb calls "the historic significance" of a ticket that includes a black man, L. Douglas Wilder, for lieutenant governor, and a woman, Mary Sue Terry, for attorney general.
"We're all pleased to be a part of it," Robb said during his appearances. The hold white males have had on the state's highest offices "should have been abandoned a long time ago," he added.
At a stop in Russell County, Terry told a gathering at the Richlands armory: "Victory is within our grasp. We can sense it, we can smell it, we can feel it."
The Republicans, rejecting the polls and hoping for last-minute conversions among undecided voters, were on the attack, criticizing their opponents and the news media.
Commenting on recent polls, gubernatorial candidate Wyatt B. Durrette said: "The problem is with the attention paid to them in the media. They are written and perceived as though they are predicative, rather than a capsule of a moment."
The rallies in Clintwood traditionally have capped the campaigns, but this year they are going down to the final hours, largely because Durrette is going to the White House Monday to meet with President Reagan for what he hopes will be an 11th-hour boost in his race against Democrat Gerald L. Baliles for governor of Virginia.
Although polls show him behind and not closing the gap, Durrette said, "This is not going to be a walk-away on either side. The election is literally up for grabs. It's a question of who goes to the polls."
He said his polls show up to 15 percent of the electorate still undecided -- even more in the other two statewide contests -- "and our phone banks are giving us margins of two, three, four and five to one" among previously undecided voters.
Durrette did not mention polls released Sunday by The Washington Post and the Richmond Times-Dispatch that show him trailing Baliles by 19 and 5 percentage points, respectively. Instead, he noted that he has won 12 of 13 mock elections on college campuses, and that the College Republican Federation of Virginia had collected 12,000 absentee ballots from college students around the state.
Virginia Beach Del. W.R. (Buster) O'Brien, the Republican candidate for attorney general, told gatherings over the weekend that "we've kissed all the babies, kissed all the pretty ladies, we've done about all we can. Now it's up to you" to get out the vote.
Republican state Sen. John H. Chichester, asked if in retrospect he would do anything different in his campaign for lieutenant governor, said: "It wouldn't make any difference: The results would be the same. I've been talking about his Wilder's record for months, but I can't get it in print.
"It's been tough to talk issues . . . his softness on crime, on capital punishment . . . . It's like running against a brick wall," he said.
Chichester said that his charges against Wilder "only result in charges of racism and mudslinging. . . . The press bias has protected him."
Wilder also was the subject of remarks by several GOP supporters at a breakfast rally in Weber City, on the Virginia-Tennessee line in the southwest corner of Virginia.
Mickey Shull, a former commonwealth's attorney in Scott County, said "it's partly our fault" that the public has not focused on Wilder's record, saying that the Republicans were "chicken" to attack Wilder because of his race. Wilder's candidacy is "an insult to the statewide aspirations of other blacks," he said.
Evangelist Jerry Falwell, who earlier endorsed Durrette, sought to rally his supporters to the election, with a letter in which he says Virginians "have a clear choice."
The Falwell message, sent under the auspices of his I Love America Committee, lists seven questions and the candidates' positions on them. Reportedly sent to about 8,000 Virginia homes, the letter neither lists right and wrong answers, nor makes endorsements, but it appears that the Republican nominees have expressed views more in keeping with those of the conservative evangelist than the Democratic candidates have. The only exception was Terry, who is listed as favoring parental consent for abortions on minors and showed no view on school prayer.
Other questions concerned a constitutional amendment prohibiting abortions on demand, extending crimes that call for the death penalty, home education, the Equal Rights Amendment and support of President Reagan.