Northern Virginia Loves Obama, but What About the Rest of the State?

The Democrat thinks it’s a purple state he can win, but John McCain’s team says it bleeds red.

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Sen. John McCain's Navy roots, reputation as a maverick, and popularity among Middle Americans should be enough to hold off Sen. Barack Obama's support among liberals, blacks, and students in Virginia, according to GOP officials. "Virginia is going to be a tougher state for them than they realize," retiring Republican Rep. Tom Davis of Northern Virginia tells us.

Obama opened his campaign yesterday in Virginia, attracting a crowd of 10,000 at Nissan Pavilion near Bristow. That was far below some media predictions of up to 50,000. He appeared with popular state Democrats, including two thought to be on his short list for vice president, Gov. Tim Kaine and Sen. James Webb.

Virginia GOP officials said that while Obama will likely win Northern Virginia, Richmond, and maybe the Tidewater region, he will face overwhelming odds in the rest of the state. And, they said, McCain is attractive to independent voters in Northern Virginia and the Tidewater and should temper Obama's support. "McCain is a war hero and a Navy man, and those are two huge plusses in a Navy state," said a GOP official. "Plus his maverick image will help him."

Still, the GOP isn't cocky about their ex-jet pilot and plan to campaign hard for McCain, whose campaign HQ is in Northern Virginia.

Democrats see the state turning purple and say that a "super-charged" black vote in the Tidewater and Richmond could be enough to push Obama over the line. As for the potential a Virginian will be on the ticket, Davis suggested that the best pick would be Senate candidate Mark Warner, "the most popular Democrat in the state." He said that Kaine might help because Virginians would have "pride" in his appearance on the ticket. He was dismissive of Webb's impact for Obama, noting that Webb beat Sen. George Allen by less than 10,000 votes out of 2.3 million cast.