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The Top Story: Obama, McCain visiting Va.

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The Top Story by Chris Graham
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Barack Obama is not welcome in Southwest Virginia. That was the rather curious, to me, anyway, message today from the presidential campaign that has said that it will tone down the partisan rhetoric and even reach out across the aisle to welcome Democrats into its reform-minded administration if it is elected.

“I simply don’t understand Barack Obama’s strategy of continuing to visit Southwest Virginia. They have proven time and time again the least likely area of the state to fall for the rhetoric coming from Democrat candidates, whether they’re running for governor or they’re running for president of the United States. We see that every time Barack Obama visits rural Virginia he loses ground, and he loses ground because on issue after issue, Barack Obama is simply wrong and out of touch with Southwest Virginia,” said Jerry Kilgore, the co-chair of the John McCain Virginia campaign and the runnerup in the 2005 Virginia gubernatorial race, in a conference call with reporters this morning.

Obama will be hosting a town hall in Lebanon tomorrow afternoon. The location is significant in that it was mentioned prominently in former Virginia governor Mark Warner’s Democratic National Convention keynote address last month as a small-town economic success story. Warner talked about a young man quoted in a Washington Post article during a Warner visit to Lebanon a few years ago to tout an economic-development announcement whose brother has been able to return home to Lebanon after college to take a job in a technology field that wouldn’t have been there for him to take just a few years ago.

It would seem to me to be out of political sorts to make light of the Lebanon visit like this given the context both of where Obama will be speaking on Tuesday and where McCain will be on Wednesday – in economically-advantaged, not to mention vote-rich, Northern Virginia. McCain and running mate Sarah Palin will be in Fairfax Wednesday morning. McCain has yet to appear in economically-disadvantaged Southwest to date in the ’08 campaign.

“We are very excited to have Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin coming to Northern Virginia,” McCain Virginia co-chair Chris Saxman of Staunton said on today’s conference call. “People in Virginia have been so excited. They have been clamoring to see this ticket. I was getting e-mails and phone calls and text messages virtually all night last night. The excitement level – I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life. I’ve never seen it before. I’ve never been a part of something so exciting in political history as the convention, as Sen. McCain and Gov. Palin’s speeches. Their message of reform is really taking hold with citizens all across the Commonwealth.”

The message of reform that the McCain-Palin ticket has been selling took another hit this morning with the response from the Obama campaign to the latest McCain TV ad, “Original Mavericks,” in which the McCain-Palin team repeated the claim that Palin as Alaska governor “stopped the Bridge to Nowhere.” In truth, Palin campaigned for governor in 2006 saying that she supported the bridge linking a small Alaska town to neighboring towns and accepted the federal earmark on the state’s behalf before diverting the pork-barrel money that would have gone to the bridge project to other state projects.

“Despite being discredited over and over again by numerous news organizations, the McCain campaign continues to repeat the lie that Sarah Palin stopped the Bridge to Nowhere. John McCain has voted with George Bush 90 percent of the time, and he and Sarah Palin will continue Bush’s economic policies, his health-care policy, his education policy, his energy policy, and his foreign policy. McCain and Palin will say or do anything to make people believe that they will change something besides the person sitting in the Oval Office. That’s the kind of politics people are tired of, and it’s anything but change,” Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton said today.

The McCain campaign, for its part, touted its new TV ad with a fact sheet that included quotes from news stories that noted the flip-flop on the Bridge to Nowhere by Gov. Palin. For a glimpse into how Virginia’s fiscal-conservative Republican Party base will react to Palin’s record on government-spending issues we turn to Northern Virginia state legislator and new Republican Party of Virginia chairman Jeffrey Frederick. “John McCain and Sarah Palin are exactly the kind of leaders Virginians embrace – conservative, yet independent-minded reformers who are results oriented. As Sen. Fred Thompson said, the alligators in Washington might not like our ticket much, but we in Virginia are ready to help them drain that business-as-usual swamp on the other side of the Potomac,” Frederick said.

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