(CBS News) VIRGINIA BEACH, Virgina - It's hard if not impossible to overstate in this presidential election. Perhaps rivaled only by Ohio, it could be the state that decides the 2012 election.
It's a must-win state for both the Obama and Romney campaigns. It's an indispensable element of each candidate's gameplan for victory.
"When we win Virginia," the president told supporters at his first stop Friday, "we're going to have won the election."
It's that political assessment that launched President Obama on a two-day swing through this commonwealth beginning here in Virginia Beach.
He won Virginia in 2008 by a 53 percent to 46 percent margin. That was the first time Virginia went Democratic in a presidential election since Lyndon Johnson won his landslide in 1964.
Mr. Obama knows he has to re-energize the political base that turned out for him four years ago - and give them the motivation to do it again in November.
"I'm going to need you more than ever in 2012," he told an overflow crowd at his first campaign event today. "This is gonna be a close one," he said of the 2012 election. "We're going to have to work hard."
A CBS News tally shows that the president has visited Virginia 46 times since taking office - more often than any other state. As a neighbor of D.C., Virginia is also a convenient destination for any president, but especially for the president, for whom the state may hold the path to a second term.
He's accompanied on his Virginia visit by two of the state's top Democrats: Sen. Mark Warner and former governor, former Democratic National Committee chairman and current candidate for the Senate, Tim Kaine.
Appearing before supporters in the gymnasium of Green Run High School, Mr. Obama exhorted them to "stand up for me." He urged them to knock on doors, make phone calls, get out and organize.
"Then we'll finish what we started in 2008," he declared in the high-decibel campaign cadence that is a hallmark of his political oratory.
He used his speech to portray himself as the premier defender of middle-class Americans, reiterating his call on Congress to enact a one-year extension of the Bush-era tax cuts for those making no more than $250,000 a year. Republicans say taxpayers of all income levels ought to get the tax cut extensions. That would include Mr. Obama, but he doesn't want it.
"We don't need it, we're least likely to spend it. It's least likely to give a boost to the economy. We can't afford it because we're trying to bring down our deficit and trying to control our debt."
He emphasized that even millionaires would benefit from the lower tax rate on the first $250,000 of their annual income.
But in an open-collared shirt, with sleeves rolled up, Mr. Obama accused Romney and his supporters in Congress of holding the middle-class tax cut extension "hostage" to extension for the top 2 percent of income earners.
"Because of the values we share, I believe in you. And I hope you still believe in me," he told his supporters.