Nearly five hundred Democrats gathered at Staunton, Virginia's Frontier Culture Museum, Saturday evening for barbeque and speeches by candidates for office and leaders in the Democratic Party, one of the largest such rallies in Virginia ever and a first for the Shenandoah Valley.
The enthusiastic crowd gathered partially to support local candidates Sam Rasoul (Sixth District), who is challenging Bob Goodlatte, a Republican congressman who has remained unchallenged for the past ten years (according to the Rockbridge Weekly, Rasoul is the first Democratic challenger to receive district side support since 1992); and to see rising star and former governor Mark Warner, who this past week was named keynote speaker for the upcoming Democratic Convention. Warner is running for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by long-time Senator John Warner (no relation), whom he lost to in 1996. With a bi-partisan agenda and a business background, Mark Warner turned the state around, gaining one of only two A- ratings by the Pew Charitable trust, which helped Warner declare Virginia "the best managed state in the nation."
Warner, however, had to speak to the crowd by cell phone from the University of Virginia Hospital. Warner had been slated to open the Waynesboro, Virginia, Democratic headquarters and then head to the rally, until he fell victim to teenage speed and muscle. Speaking to Saturday night's crowd, Warner said that, at 53, he should know better than "to play basketball with nineteen year olds."
According to Mitch Stewart, Virginia campaign director for Barack Obama for President, the Dems signed up 200,000 new voters from January 1 to July 31 of this year, 65 percent of them 35 years old or younger.
Virginia has shaped up to be a key battleground state this year and for that reason 44 offices have been opened around the state manned by thousands of volunteers. The consensus among party heads is that if Virginia goes for Obama, there is "no way Obama won't be the next president of the United States." If Virginia does go Democratic, it will be the first time in 44 years.
Obama plans a visit to several cities and town around the state this coming week.