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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Larry Sabato writes the McCain campaign appears to have had a "death wish" in Virginia.

Of the two shifts, by far the most significant is VIRGINIA, which we are moving from pure toss-up to LEANS OBAMA. We have been very cautious about the Old Dominion, in part because it's been our home for the better part of six decades. More than most, we know how tough this state can be for a Democratic presidential candidate. But while we continue to disbelieve the national polls showing Obama winning Virginia by 10 percentage points, we now believe that Obama has built a small edge of two or three points in the state. The reasons are clear: Bush, the disastrous economy, the demographic growth of Northern Virginia and its strong Democratic tilt, the momentum built up by recent Democratic victories (Mark Warner in 2001 and soon 2008, Tim Kaine in 2005, and Jim Webb in 2006), and the remarkable voter registration and voter contact efforts of a literal army of Obama staffers and volunteers in the state for a full year.

But it is more than that. The McCain campaign and the state GOP appear to have had a death wish. McCain's staff refused to believe Virginia was truly competitive for too long, and the McCain-Palin visits were few. McCain's brother called Northern Virginians "Commies" and one of McCain's most prominent spokespersons said they were not the "real Virginia." Generally, it is difficult to win the votes of people you are insulting.

The Virginia Republican party is also completely outclassed by the state's Democrats in money and organization. The GOP is being run by a very young, fire-breathing chairman who publicly drew an absurd link between Barack Obama and Osama bin Laden--drawing angry rebukes from the top echelon of the McCain campaign as well as virtually all the senior Republican elected officials in the state. Republicans in Virginia have simply not adapted to the new moderate reality of this Mid-Atlantic state, the twelfth largest in the nation. They insist on running too far to the right, as though this were the Virginia of the Old South. It's not selling anymore.
Sabato's crystal ball also moves North Dakota to "toss-up" this week.