SOURCE: The Associated Press

His campaign staff will announce Thursday that they are opening a pair of offices in vote-rich Fairfax County and Newport News on Saturday. Richmond is already home to the campaign’s headquarters.

Obama supporters and volunteers will be joined by local Democratic officials for the grand openings. In Fairfax, U.S. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) will be on hand.

The campaign already has more than a dozen staffers in every region of the state, including Northern Virginia, some of whom have been here for more than two years through Organizing for America. It has held more than 2,000 events since April.

No Republican presidential candidate has much of a presence in Virginia yet — but Obama, lagging in approval ratings in an increasingly Republican state — has a tough road ahead.

Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who is planning a return trip to Virginia this month, has three paid staffers here to help collect the thousands of signatures he needs to appear on the ballot in March. Other GOP presidential candidates, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, are working on signatures, but do not have any infrastructure in Virginia yet.

Candidates have until Dec. 22 to collect 10,000 signatures from across the state and another 400 from each congressional district.

“These office openings are just the latest step in our efforts to build our infrastructure across Virginia,’’ said an Obama campaign official. “With staff, volunteers and offices already deployed across the commonwealth just under a year out from election day, the Obama campaign is continuing to steadily build the largest, most innovative and ambitious grassroots organization the commonwealth has seen.”

In 2008, Obama became the first Democratic candidate to carry Virginia in 44 years, but in the years since, Democrats have lost ground in what some still consider a conservative Southern state. In January, the GOP will control all of Richmond and holds a commanding majority of Virginia’s congressional delegation.

Obama and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) fiercely courted Virginia’s 13 electoral votes three years ago, giving the state a front-row seat to a presidential election for the first time in decades. Both candidates, as well as numerous surrogates, made repeated visits to the state and flooded airwaves and mailboxes with advertisements.

Obama’s win was attributed to a highly developed ground game and an energized base of supporters who gave him an advantage in the important get-out-the vote effort.

In what was then considered the most comprehensive political organization in modern times, Obama opened almost 50 offices, even in sparsely populated regions, dispatched more than 250 paid staffers and recruited thousands of volunteers to knock on doors across the state.

The Obama campaign expects to open more offices in Virginia in the future.

Next year, Virginia is again expected to be a swing state. Last month, a Gallup poll tracking Obama’s approval ratings show the 2012 presidential election will come down to 10 swing states, including Virginia.

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