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Associated Press/Photo by Alex Brandon

Wooing Virginia

Campaign 2008 | With the presidential race tight in many states, the campaigns focus the final day on the traditionally red Virginia

On the election's eve, both presidential candidates feverishly crossed the country making last-minute speeches. One state both Barack Obama and John McCain visited Monday was Virginia.

This traditionally red state may go blue. Members of the Obama campaign have been saying that if he wins Virginia, he will win the presidency. If McCain can't hold such a Republican stronghold, the thinking goes, he will fail in other must-have states.

Virginia has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1964. But demographic shifts in the northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., which are overwhelmingly Democratic, are moving polls in Obama's favor. On Monday, according to Real Clear Politics, Obama led McCain in Virginia by 4.3 percentage points.

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Volunteers in solidly Democrat Maryland and the District of Columbia poured out on election eve to carpool into Virginia, targeting politically wobbly areas in order to convince voters to pull the lever for Obama. No such mass grassroots effort was as evident from the McCain campaign.

On Tuesday Obama "voter protection teams" leave Washington to head to Virginia. Their task is to ensure that voters make it to the polls without harassment.

The Democratic candidate's visit to Virginia Monday was his 11th since he clinched the nomination. McCain's visit the same day was technically in Tennessee, but targeted Bristol, Va., a couple miles over the border.

Over the last several weeks, McCain and running mate Sarah Palin have campaigned across Virginia, a state where Republicans traditionally have not needed to campaign. And it's not the only Republican states McCain has spent much time defending.

Ohio, another much-coveted state for both candidates, has Obama ahead by 3.2 percentage points, according to Real Clear Politics.

Legal teams are gearing up on both sides for battles in tightly contested states. Already on Monday a judge threw out a lawsuit the NAACP filed in Virginia arguing for more electronic machines in minority neighborhoods. In 2004 voting machines malfunctioned in the critical state of Ohio, which went to President Bush by a tight margin.

Unwilling to concede anything, McCain's campaign filed a lawsuit in Richmond, Va., seeking to force election officials to count late-arriving ballots from members of the armed forces overseas. No hearing was immediately scheduled.

Some early voters in Virginia were told to submit slips of paper-which were later disqualified-when ballot deliveries didn't arrive.

"Right now, election officials probably identify with Sheriff Brody in 'Jaws,' who having seen the great white shark for the first time turns to his fellow passengers and remarks, 'We're gonna need a bigger boat,'" wrote electionline.org Director Doug Chapin in a recent study of voting problems.

The campaigns have their eyes on a half dozen other battleground states: Florida, North Carolina, Missouri, Colorado, Nevada, and Indiana.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Emily Belz
Emily Belz

Emily, who has covered everything from political infighting to pet salons for The Indianapolis Star, The Hill, and the New York Daily News, reports for WORLD from New York City. Follow Emily on Twitter @emzleb.

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