Obama's two-day visit to Virginia underscores his stepped-up attention to the shortlist of key states that will determine the outcome of the presidential contest.
Virginia, with 13 electoral votes, figures prominently in both the Obama and Romney strategies. But Obama has more options for an Election Day victory without Virginia than does Romney. Illustrating its importance, the state has seen the third heaviest television ad spending by the candidates and their allied groups, behind only Ohio and Florida.
The state is represented by two moderate Democratic senators. But since Obama won four years ago, Republicans have done well in state offices and a majority of the state's congressional seats are held by Republicans.
Stephen Farnsworth, a political scientist at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Va., said the state could well decide not only the presidential election but control of the Senate: Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen, both former governors, are in a tight race to succeed Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat.
Despite its relatively low unemployment rate of 5.6 percent, the state relies heavily on military contracts that could suffer significantly under automatic spending cuts authorized by Congress and signed by the president last year. The Hampton Roads area that Obama is visiting Friday is home to a large military presence — the world's largest naval base is there — and its economy is heavily dependent on defense spending.
Associated Press writer Jack Gillum contributed to this report.
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