With the voter registration deadline in Virginia looming on Monday, the Obama campaign made a series of stops in the Commonwealth throughout the weekend, including hosting a rally at J.R. Tucker High in Henrico County, a suburb of Richmond.
"Isn't it great to be a swing state?" asked First Lady Anne Holton as she began her remarks to the crowd of 150 gathered in an outdoor courtyard. The campaign's continued focus on Virginia is evidence of how seriously the campaign is approaching traditionally Republican Virginia, which polls are suggesting will swing Democrat this year.
Vice Presidential nominee, Sen. Joe Biden was scheduled to appear. His appearance at the rally and at several other events planned for the state this week have been canceled due to the illness and subsequent passing of his mother-in-law Bonny Jean Jacobs. The Obama campaign demonstrated its bench-strength by bringing in Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Ind. A supporter of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton during the primary season, Bayh has since come on board as an enthusiastic Obama supporter.
In his initial remarks, Bayh made a point of responding to a comment from the McCain camp about parts of Virginia being "communist country." "There are strange notions on the other side. They're trying to distract people from the real issues," he remarked.
Bayh also underlined ties McCain has had with the Bush administration. "In 3-1/2 months, the Bush administration is going to be over, finished, done. We know we're going to have a new president. But the question is who and what policies will they enact. The price John McCain paid for his party's nomination was that he had to embrace Bush policies."
He also spoke about health care, asking the crowd "How many of you have health insurance through their employer?" (approximately 90% raised their hands). And he continued, referencing that the McCain plan would cause millions to "be without health insurance. That's the wrong direction we want to head in. This is one of the major issues at stake in this election."
After commenting on the money spent in Iraq and Sen. McCain's positions on the war, he took a few questions from the crowd. He was asked about education and fulfilling the promise of "No Child Left Behind," as well as social security and medicare, corporate accountability, and earmarks in the rescue plan. A wide range of questions from a demographically diverse crowd.
Bayh concluded by urging the crowd to avoid the distractions of "personal attacks and ads about Paris Hilton that trivialize the issues." He compared Indiana and Virginia as swing states and said that Sen. Obama "wants your support and is aggressive in coming to your state and mine."