- The Washington Times - Friday, July 11, 2008

Virginia has emerged as a battleground for the presidential race, prompting many to ask, “Can Barack Obama win the state?”

Democrats are excited about his chances because he could win Virginia - following the model set by the party’s recent statewide victories - by capturing a big margin in Northern Virginia. Earning enough votes there can deliver the entire state.

That’s one reason Thursday marked Mr. Obama’s second trip to the region in less than 40 days, and his third visit to the state since becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee.

Mr. Obama has moved a historic level of cash and staffers into the Old Dominion to wage a full battle for its 13 electoral votes. The last Democrat to win the state was Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964.

His Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, has based his headquarters in Arlington and Thursday night held a “Tele-Town Hall” event for Virginia voters.

But the state is changing, and its populous - and expanding - Washington suburbs are vote-rich and have delivered wins for Democrats in recent years.

“If we do our jobs here in Fairfax County, we’re going to make sure Virginia is carried by Barack Obama on November 4th,” declared Democrat Gerald E. Connolly when introducing the senator at a local school. Mr. Connolly, chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, is running for Congress this fall.

“We have the opportunity to turn Virginia blue for the first time in 40 years,” he said.

He noted the changes in the county, thanking Democrats for their “shoe leather.”

“Six years ago our General Assembly delegation was split 13 to 13. Six years later, it’s 22 to 4, ladies and gentlemen,” he said. “You did that.”

The campaign was thrilled to see 2,800 voters packed into Robinson Secondary School in Fairfax for Mr. Obama’s event focused on how to help working women.

Virginia first lady Anne Holton introduced Mr. Obama and spoke of the close friendship he has established with her husband, Gov. Tim Kaine. It fueled speculation Mr. Kaine could be on the Obama shortlist of vice presidential possibilities.

“What an amazing working woman, wife and mother,” Ms. Holton gushed of first lady hopeful Michelle Obama. “It’s an honor to stand here with her best friend today.”

But Republicans labeled Mr. Obama as a liberal, and a handful of protesters stood outside his event with signs reading “Virginia is for McCain lovers.”

Republican Susan Allen, married to former U.S. senator and former Gov. George Allen, said Mr. Obama can’t keep his promises unless he raises taxes.

“I think I can speak for every woman in this room that we do not want new taxes or new mandates,” she said while joined by other Republican women.

“We have the chance in November to elect John McCain, an experienced leader who understands the economic challenges that face women and families across America today.”

But Democrat Dan Drummond, a Fairfax City Council member, said he was confident “we will deliver Northern Virginia,” along with the rest of the state, for Mr. Obama in the fall.

He said the Washington suburbs coupled with the blue-trending parts of Richmond and Hampton Roads will help, along with expected high turnout by black voters.

He said Virginians have learned that Democrats get results, adding that Mr. Kaine’s presence on the ticket would be another boost.

Team Obama also is counting on Republicans like Mike Murphy, retired from Northrup Grumman and with a military background who opposes the Iraq war as a “travesty.” He voted for President Bush in 2004 but now favors Mr. Obama as someone who can “get the job done.”

“Republicans squandered the trust from Americans,” Mr. Murphy, of Burke, said after leaving the event. “I don’t think Senator Obama has a chance of losing. I used to like John McCain but he just doesn’t do it for me anymore.”

The loudest applause Mr. Obama received was for blasting the billions spent in Iraq and saying that money could be better spent in the United States. Mr. Obama made the pitch for more volunteers, asking people to fill out information cards the campaign would collect to build its database and grass-roots organization.

“It is wonderful to be back in Virginia,” Mr. Obama said. “We did well in the primary in Virginia and we want to do well in the general election.”

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