POLITICS
10/28/2012 04:54 pm ET | Updated Oct 28, 2012

Barack Obama Virginia Campaign Faces Challenges As Storms Surge, Mitt Romney Ups Ground Game

Roanoke, Va. -- In downtown Roanoke, up against the historic Norfolk and Western Railroad line, organizers and volunteers gathered Saturday in one of the many Barack Obama campaign offices across the crucial swing state of Virginia.

Roanoke is a blue island in the midst of the deepest red part of the commonwealth. Voters in the city came out in record numbers in 2008 -- 66 percent of the city's voters cast a ballot -- and gave Obama more than 60 percent of their vote. The volunteers trickling in and out of the Obama campaign office are now aiming to get the same number of the city's voters to help the president in his tooth-and-nail fight for the state's 13 electoral votes.

With each passing day, and with each new poll, it becomes increasingly clear that Virginia is one of the closest fought battleground states across the country. According to The Huffington Post poll tracker, Mitt Romney and Obama face the closes race in Virginia, with Romney at 47.3 percent and Obama at 47.8 percent.

That makes the ground game throughout the state, even outside of the heavily targeted areas of Northern Virginia, Richmond and Hampton Roads, all the more important.

In a speech to rally the troops in Roanoke on Saturday, former Rep. Tom Perriello (D-Va.), who represented the 5th congressional district, told organizers and volunteers to "fight the next few days like our country depends on it."

"The best force we have against outside money is you on the phone [and] knocking on doors," Perriello said. That effort, however, is about to face a major last-minute challenge as two massive storm systems, including Hurricane Sandy, could hit the state, seriously hurting the campaign's efforts and people's attempts to vote early.

"It'll certainly dampen early voting and that's been something that's been important to both Democratic, in the party sense, and democratic, in the democracy sense, to this election cycle," Perriello told The Huffington Post. "Is there Wi-Fi knocked out? Or TV knocked out? We'll see."

Both the Obama and Romney campaigns canceled events in the state that were planned for the coming week. If the storm does cause power outages and knocks out cable, the campaigns may find the millions they spent on television ads going to waste.

Romney and his allies have ramped up their advertising spending over the past week, shelling out $54 million on television ads throughout the country, compared to $30 million spent by the president and his allies, according to NBC News. Virginia ranks fourth in the U.S. when it comes to the amount of money spent on television advertising in each state.

The Romney campaign has also ramped up its ground game. The Republican National Committee and other committees tied to the Romney campaign put $4.8 million into the Republican Party of Virginia to pay for get out the vote efforts during the first half of October, according to an expense report filed Thursday with the Federal Election Commission. That amount nearly doubled the total raised by the state party for the entire year.

The Republican Party of Virginia entered the home stretch with more money to spend than Democrats, a huge shift from the Democrats' dominance over the past year. Republicans had $3.75 million on hand for the race's final three weeks in Virginia, compared to $1.5 million for the Democrats, according to the expense report.

This has not, however, led to an uptick in on-the-ground staff for the Republicans. According to the expense report, the party had 78 paid staff, the same number as the previous month.

The lion's share of the new money is instead going to mailers. The party spent $2.37 million on mailers in Virginia through the consulting firms Redwave Communications, Creative Direct and Majority Strategies from Oct. 1-17, the expense report says. Mailer expenses accounted for more than 85 percent of the party's spending for the first half of October.

The Democratic Party of Virginia, on the other hand, expanded its staff in the state from 386 in September to 413 through the beginning of October. It has also invested far more money over a longer period of time.

"The advantage we have over Republicans is that our teams have been on the ground for a long time," Lise Clavell, the Virginia state director for the Obama campaign, said on a conference call Thursday.

Now the question remains how much Hurricane Sandy will affect the Republican and Democratic efforts throughout the state.

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