Va. Campaigners Persevere Despite 2-Person Ballot

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Virginians will choose between just two candidates on the state's primary election ballot Tuesday: Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

The rest of the Republican candidates failed to collect enough signatures last fall to get on the state's printed ballot. But that hasn't made Romney and Paul's campaigners complacent.

At the headquarters for each candidate in Northern Virginia, volunteers and staff are busy gearing up for Super Tuesday, when voters in 10 states will pick their party's nominee.

For the past two weeks, 55-year-old Rob Hartwell has spent every night and weekend using his own cellphone to call every Republican, moderate Democrat and undecided voter in Northern Virginia he can track down. The lifelong Virginian is one of several volunteers working to ensure local residents cast their ballots for Romney.

He says that even though there's enthusiasm for Romney, he still expects a low turnout at the polls Tuesday.

"When most of the candidates failed to get on the ballot, it absolutely diminished a lot of the view that there was a contest here," he says, "but if our people think that he's automatically going to win, they're not motivated to vote, they don't turn out, we don't remind them to vote, then Ron Paul can have a better showing than he expects."

Paul's people are busy trying to make that happen at their headquarters in Springfield, Va. His press secretary, Gary Howard, said he didn't have time to talk with NPR. In fact, the campaign would not allow the reporter inside the secure office suite for more than a few minutes.

Romney's Manassas, Va., operation is run out of a small construction company's office that rents space to the campaigners during off hours.

Valerie Green is another Romney volunteer who helps Hartwell coordinate the campaign's phone-banking efforts, even if that means spending several minutes trying to convince people to vote for Romney.

At one point, Hartwell spent more than seven minutes talking with one woman he described as an African-American Republican and an Evangelical. She prefers Santorum to Romney, Hartwell said, after trying to convince her otherwise.

Still, when he finally hung up, he sighed with relief.

"She said if Mitt Romney is her nominee, he's going to be a great president, I know he'll make a great president, and I'll be there to work for him," he said. "So mission accomplished on that one voter, but it took some time, as you could tell."

Hartwell has another hundred calls to make by Tuesday.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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