Virginia Finally Comes Into Play

generic virginia map battleground swing state

For the series, "Final Battleground," the CBS Evening News is traveling to three key areas of the country - the South, the Midwest and the West - to hone in on the states that will decide this presidential election. Virginia is one state that could swing toward either Barack Obama or John McCain, Richmond Times-Dispatch chief political reporter Jeff Shapiro shares his views of the race with CBS News.

Virginia, at the presidential level, has always been pretty predictable.

This is a state that tends to default Republican at the presidential level. National candidates didn't even spend money in the state - they left it to local Republicans to raise a few pennies, to generate excitement and enthusiasm.

The last time a Democrat won the state was in 1964 - Lyndon Johnson. And barely. Before that, it was Harry Truman.

This year, Virginia is a free-fire zone.

Public opinion polls suggest that the Republicans are struggling in a state that is logically theirs.

The "red" parts of the state - largely Western and Southern Virginia. Their populations haven't been growing. Their industries have been drying up.

Martinsville, once the sweatshirt capital of the country, has seen its economy - textiles and furniture - disappear.

Because of that, the Democrats feel that they have an opportunity in an area that traditionally votes Republican.

Virginia has more veterans than any other state in the country - north of 800,000. That's particularly appealing for McCain and his campaign.

Due to the continuing war in Iraq, Democrats are wondering if they'll have an opportunity to peel off usually reliable Republican votes - military families, active-duty families and retirees.

The Washington, D.C., suburbs are becoming the tail that is wagging the dog. It's the anchor for Democratic victories - jammed with people who are not natives, who come there often bringing more moderate and more centrist views, much more interested in solutions than in partisanship.

You know, a big name is supporting Obama in the far southwest Virginia coalfields - a bluegrass artist by the name of Ralph Shatley. He's the man of constant sorrow. He's cut a radio piece for Barack Obama that's directed at largely white, heavily rural audience - an audience where Obama has to be competitive to carry the state.