RICHMOND — Paul Ryan jumped aboard the Republican ticket on a battleship in Norfolk. With three days to go in the campaign, he made an airport hangar in Richmond part of his final push.
“Virginia is important,” Ryan told hundreds Saturday at Richmond International Airport. “Virginia and just a handful of states hold the key to this.”
Ryan, in choosing to make the commonwealth one of his last stops in the campaign, hardly needed to say that out loud. Both sides are making a flurry of last-minute stops in the state, where the race for president is running neck-and-neck.
That’s on top of scores of visits made since the summer, which have made Virginia the third-most-visited state.
The presidential candidates, their running mates and spouses have logged 88 visits to Virginia since June. That puts the commonwealth behind only Ohio, with 126 visits, and Florida, with 112.
Four years ago, Barack Obama became the first Democrat since President Lyndon B. Johnson to win Virginia. Both sides consider the state very much in play this time around.
After Ryan’s rally Saturday, Obama was due to attend a rally in Prince William County with former president Bill Clinton and musician Dave Matthews.
On Sunday night, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney will appear in Newport News. Come Monday, on the eve of the election, he will headline two rallies, one at a Lynchburg airport and another at George Mason University.
Vice President Biden, accompanied by his wife, Jill, will stump Monday in Sterling and Richmond.
Both campaigns have lavished unprecedented attention on the state, one that for decades had been so reliably red that both sides safely ignored it.
Less welcome than the visits, but no less noticeable, has been the barrage of TV ads that have inundated Virginia media markets for months.
Virginians soon tired of all the commercials. And now, the face time might even be losing its luster.
Jill Vander Pol of Glen Allen came to see Ryan on Saturday but said she has had about enough.
“We’re politically pooped,” she said.
Virginia House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) and his wife passed up a chance to see Ryan last month to keep a date with their grandchildren, whose busy schedules make them harder to pin down than vice-presidential contenders.
“I was telling my wife: ‘They’ll probably be back. We’ve got three weeks to go,’ ” Howell said.