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Analysis: Mobilization Race For Presidential Election Is On In Virginia

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Reid Wilson, National Journal Hotline

Democrats and Republicans are setting up shop in Virginia, which is expected to play a central role in this year's presidential election. Reid Wilson, editor-in-chief of the National Journal Hotline, has reported on how presidential campaigns will try to win the vote in the commonwealth. He argues that strategies may differ from what we saw four years ago.

Virginia's significance on the road to 270 electorate votes:
"Across the country we're seeing polling that show this is a very close, very polarized electorate. About half the country loves President Obama, about half the country hates President Obama. This election is going to be fought in a middle that's very small. There are only a couple of percentage points of true swing voters who really aren't going to tune into the election until the last month or so," Wilson says. "So what we're going to see instead, is both sides trying to 'gin up their base,' trying to get the most of their existing coalitions. This is the same strategy that George W. Bush pursued back in 2004, when he focused on turning out rural voters in places like Ohio and Florida, the two states that mattered the most. Virginia is that state these days. There are few paths for either side to 270 electoral votes that don't include the commonwealth."

On Republicans racing to catch up to Obama's field operations:
Right now [Obama's] got about 15 field offices in Virginia — it seems like they're opening a new one every week," Wilson says. "Republicans just started opening their field offices. They're up to six field offices around the state; they're going to be more to come. This mirrors the trend that we're seeing around the states — Obama setting up these field offices and Republicans racing to catch up."

How Republican's' spending stacks against Obama's campaign:
At the moment both President Obama campaign and the republican-backing super PACs are running ads all around the country, especially in Virginia. We're seeing more than a million dollars in total advertising just this week alone, President Obama's campaign is spending big there," Wilson says. "The Republicans have yet to really ramp their spending in Virginia, but here we are five months away from Election Day, there's plenty of time for them to get back in the game and start spending just as much as Obama's campaign will spend."

Whether former Governor Tim Kaine's relationship with Obama will affect his Senate campaign:
"I think we can expect them to be working hand and glove all the way through Election Day. Consider 2006 and 2008, the last time there were 2 major elections in Virginia. In 2006, when Jim Webb beat George Allen, the minority share of the electorate was about 21 percent of the vote. In 2008, aided by President Obama's turnout machine, the minority share of the electorate, that's the share that voted most heavily for Democrats, ramped up to 30 percent. That's a nine point gap in two years," Wilson says. "If that number is close to 30 percent again, Tim Kaine is going to do very well in this race. He benefits greatly from President Obama's coattails."

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