POLITICS

Virginians reminded of state's importance to Romney

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Politics,Local,Virginia,Steve Contorno

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- If a state's importance on the presidential electoral map is measured by how close its delegation sits to the convention stage and whether or not actor Jon Voight makes visiting the delegation his first priority, then Virginia is ranking high with Republicans.

Tropical Storm Isaac washed away the opening day of the Republican convention, but the Virginia delegation still met on schedule Monday at its Clearwater hotel to munch eggs and sausage and be reminded time and time again that Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney probably can't win the White House if he doesn't first win Virginia.

"Virginia is kind of a big deal," Virginia GOP victory chairman Pete Snyder told the crowd. "There is not a path back to the White House for Republicans that does not include Virginia."

Even actor Jon Voight, a conservative who has become a fixture on the campaign trail, made it a point to note that Virginia was the first stop on his tour of state delegate meetings with Romney's eldest son, Tagg.

Tagg Romney said that was for a reason.

"[Virginia] is going to come down to the wire," he said. "It's going to be a swing state. It's going to be very close. It's probably going to be 51 percent to 49, or maybe 50.4 to 49.6. And we need you to get your neighbors out."

Virginia delegates are seated in the first row of the convention hall. They're staying in a comfy hotel overlooking the ocean in the plush vacation area of Sand Key. They're aware of their role in this convention and over the next three months.

"They were right on target," Charles Cunningham, an at-large delegate from Fairfax, said of the speakers.

The energy from the breakfast, though, will have to hold until Tuesday when the convention really kicks off. Most of the delegates finished their coffee and headed back to their rooms, choosing to skip the 30-minute trip back into Tampa just to watch officials gavel the start of the convention and then immediately recess it.

In truth, the Virginians' excitement must hold until Nov. 6 given that President Obama has made the Old Dominion a central component of his reelection strategy and has visited the state several times already.

In particular, Obama hopes to exploit his lead over Romney among women and re-engage the young voters who helped propel him to office four years ago. But in a fiery speech, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, the keynote speaker at Monday's delegation meeting, refused to surrender those votes to Obama this time around.

"You know who his policies have hurt worse more than anybody else? It's young people and women, and those are the two groups he's counting on to get reelected," Bolling said. "If you're a young person or a woman in Barack Obama's economy, the last thing you ought to want is four more years of his failed economic policies."

scontorno@washingtonexaminer.com

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