The presidential campaign is heating up in the critical battleground state of Virginia this week with presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney rallying supporters there Wednesday and Thursday, just days before President Obama lands in Richmond on Saturday for the official kickoff of his re-election campaign.
Romney made a campaign stop in Chantilly on Wednesday, promising voters he would do exactly "the opposite" of what Obama has done on the economy. He then headed to a fundraiser Wednesday night in Arlington with Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is being mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate for Romney.
"People ask me, 'What would you to get the economy going?' " Romney told voters gathered in a Northern Virginia warehouse. "I say, 'Well, look at what the president's done, and do the opposite.' " Obama already announced plans to kick off his general election campaign Saturday with two rallies targeting young voters in must-win states: one in Columbus, Ohio, and the other in Richmond, at Virginia Commonwealth University.
"Virginia is purple, and in election years, purple is in," said Tucker Martin, spokesman for McDonnell. "This is a competitive, diverse state with well-informed voters who put person and policy over party. That makes every serious statewide election a tossup and it rewards organization and message."
McDonnell, the chairman of the Republican Governors Association, will also join Romney on the campaign trail in Portsmouth on Thursday.
McDonnell won the governorship of Virginia in 2009 just 12 months after the state had voted for Obama, making him the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the Old Dominion in nearly half a century. McDonnell has been a vocal critic of the Obama administration on issues like health care reform and was an early supporter of Romney during the Republican presidential primaries.
Obama underscored Virginia's importance to his re-election strategy last week when he chose the state as one of just two stops -- the other being Ohio -- at which he'll officially kick off his campaign this weekend.
Obama late on Wednesday added another Virginia appearance to his schedule. He'll be at Washington-Lee High School in Arlington on Friday to talk to high school juniors and seniors -- and their parents -- about the need to ensure that college remains affordable, the White House announced. The president has been pushing for a vote in Congress that would keep interest rates on student loans from doubling in July.
"As we head into the beginning of the general election, the president will hit the campaign trail ... to outline to supporters in Virginia how far we've come, and lay out the very real stakes in this election," an Obama campaign official said.
Obama plans to make the case Saturday that his policies will "keep moving [the] country forward in rebuilding an America built to last," his campaign said.