The Commonwealth of Virginia has long been considered pivotal in the 2012 race for the White House. President Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney both visited Virginia in the past week. And GOP vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.) made one final campaign stop in the state on Election Day.
“We’ve known and always expected to be the number one battleground state in the country. We’re sitting right here in Loudoun County in one of the number one battlegrounds in the number one battleground state and that’s why we’re giving it an all out effort. And we’re thrilled to have Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney continue to come back to Virginia, even on Election Day,” said Romney Virginia Victory Chair, Pete Snyder in the Leesburg, Va.
In 2008 Obama beat then-Republican opponent Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) by 52.6 percent to 46.3 percent, becoming the first Democrat to win Virginia since 1964, when Lyndon Johnson carried the state. Obama won 53.6 percent of the vote in Loudoun, a county in northern Virginia that Republicans claim will swing for Romney in 2012.
Both campaigns poured resources into the state this time around, inundating the airwaves with ads and developing a significant ground presence throughout the state. The Obama team maintained 71 offices in Virginia, while Romney’s campaign has 32 locations.
Virginia Victory Chair Snyder dismissed the office numbers, saying the race “isn’t going to be won by leased contracts for real estate.”
“It’s going to be won by the phone calls made, the doors knocked. We’ve knocked over 3 million doors in Virginia this year. We’ve had over five and a half million and probably by the end of the day today 6 million voter contacts over the past six months. That is massive. We’ve out-hustled and out-worked everyone on the ground,” said Snyder.
The Romney team points to Republican wins in the state over the last four years, such as Gov. Bob McDonnell (R), a Romney supporter who was elected with 58.6 percent of the vote in 2009. Meanwhile, Democrats have said the down-to-the-wire visits to the state from Romney and Ryan indicate a lack of confidence.
“It’s incredibly different, because in 2008 the clock didn’t stop. Time moved on and people we’re able to react to Barack Obama’s failed policies,” said Snyder. [T]here’s been a rising tide all in favor of Republicans that’s why we’re certain we’re going to take Loudoun today.”
The Obama campaign in Virginia was equal in its confidence, predicting a win for the president in Virginia and Loudoun County. Obama-surrogate Virginia State Sen. Mark Herring (D) noted the region’s swing electorate and argued that the higher turnout in a presidential election will favor Obama.
“The higher turnout is going to be good for the president. Loudoun is going to be one of those close counties. I think we’re going to carry Loudoun County. I think we’re going to carry Virginia and I think we’re going to make history and reelect the president,” said Herring to cheers from the Obama campaign office.
When pressed whether Obama needed to win Virginia in order to win reelection, Herring, a candidate for attorney general, said his attention was on keeping the state blue.
“You can look at the electoral college math in a lot of different ways. We’re focused here in Virginia on making sure we stay in the president’s column and I think if Virginia goes again for the president, like I think we will, it’s going to be very, very difficult for Romney to pull out a win,” he said.
The president made his final campaign trip to the state, alongside former President Bill Clinton on Saturday in Bristow, Virginia. Vice President Biden made two stops to the commonwealth on Monday.
“I have never seen a ground operation like the one we’ve got going on. I was just in the Leesburg office, this is the Sterling office ... the offices are packed with people making phone calls,” said Herring.
Both campaigns acknowledged that Virginia will be a very close contest, as volunteers rushed to make last minute phone calls, knocked on doors and stood outside polling places on the sunny, but brisk November day. The Real Clear Politics average of polls showed the race a toss-up going into Election Day. Obama was barely ahead with 48 percent support compared to 47.7 percent for Romney.
Voters seemed to sense the weight their ballots carried in Virginia, as Romney and Obama supporters drove to the polls throughout the day.
“It’s an important one,” said Robert Dalkin at the East Leesburg polling place. “It’s certainly a big one. A little nervous, but you know, again, either candidate that wins, we hope does a good job, a better job,” added Ji Dalkin, standing next to Robert.
—Video edited by Adele Hampton.