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Battle for Virginia shifts to getting voters to the polls

  • Story Highlights
  • Obama leading McCain 51-44, according to CNN Poll of Polls
  • Obama, McCain campaigns working hard to get Virginia voters to polls
  • Over 310,000 new voters registered in Virginia
  • Democrats outspending GOP in Virginia by nearly $5 million
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By Emily Sherman
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(CNN) -- In the final days before the election, the strategy in battleground Virginia has shifted from getting people registered to making sure they show up to vote.

"The war's being waged in Virginia," said Michael McDonald, associate professor of government and politics at George Mason University and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. "You're seeing both campaigns out in force with their lieutenants and grunts on the ground trying to get people to vote."

With 310,530 new voters registered in Virginia, a whole new group of voters could decide the election in the commonwealth.

However, the Virginia branch of the NAACP sued Gov. Tim Kaine and state election officials on Monday, claiming the state is "inadequately prepared" for the record number of voters expected to turn out in next week's presidential election.

Virginia has voted Republican in every presidential race since 1968, but the latest CNN poll of polls calculated Monday shows Barack Obama with a 7-point advantage over John McCain, 51-44 percent, with 5 percent saying they're undecided. Video Watch the ground fight in Virginia »

The McCain and Obama campaigns, along with the help of third-party organizations like the AFL-CIO, and women's groups for McCain-Palin have been going door-to-door, making phone calls, handing out literature, and sending text messages to ensure voters know where to go and vote next Tuesday.

McDonald said there is a clear difference in strategy between the two campaigns.

"The Obama campaign is trying to expand the electorate," McDonald said. "While McCain's strategy is to harbor his resources, go after the hard-core voters that are going to vote, that they know they're going to vote, but they really do need to flush them out in that weekend prior to the election."

Democrats in Virginia have outspent the GOP all year in get out the vote efforts.

According to the latest FEC filings, the Virginia Democratic Party has spent $6.2 million this year, while the Republican Party of Virginia has spent $1.5 million.

Last month alone, Democrats spent $2.4 million, while Republicans spent $376,000.

Republicans say there is more to victory than money. Video Watch McCain's final push »

"We think we've got a great ground game," said Susan Allen, chairwoman of Virginia Women for McCain. "We know we have people-power and a lot of times that amounts to a lot more than what's in somebody's pocketbook."

Allen, who is the wife of former Virginia Sen. George Allen, said the coalitions have been working on behalf of the campaign for months to ensure voters get to the polls. She said their efforts will extend beyond the traditional "72-hour campaign" they have conducted since 2002.

"When we look at the playing field right now, you may think well, looks like a big advantage to Obama," McDonald said. "But, we have yet to really see the Republicans coming at the end of this game with their mobilization drive." Video Watch how the race is playing out in battleground states »

At an AFL-CIO rally on Saturday, Kaine, who was on the shortlist of Obama's vice presidential candidates, worked to get union members energized for the final days of canvassing and member-to-member phone calls.

"You've climbed a mountain," Kaine told a large group of union members who were getting ready to go door-to-door. "We can see the top but we're not at the top. We are still the underdog in this race. We know they're going to pull stunts and tricks in the [final days] to try and get this thing to go their way.

"So, we cannot rest, we cannot stop, we cannot slow down, we gotta push harder, we gotta push longer, we gotta be smarter," Kaine said.

The candidates know Virginia and its 13 electoral votes are crucial. Each ticket has campaigned in the state at least three times in October alone.

Sen. Joe Biden rallied supporters in Suffolk, Virginia, on Saturday.

"We're competing for every single vote here in the Old Dominion," Biden told a crowd. "We win here and we win the presidency."

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin was in Leesburg, Virginia, on Monday.

"Virginia are you ready to help carry your state to victory?" Palin told a group of supporters. "Send us to Washington, D.C., to shake things up."

Analysts say high voter turnout can be expected this year because the excitement around Virginia as a battleground state is translating into excitement from Virginia voters.

"We may literally see a level of participation in this election that we have not seen in a century of American politics."

The NAACP complaint against Kaine and state election officials was filed Monday afternoon in U.S. District Court in Richmond, Virginia.

"The allocation of polling place resources is plainly irrational, non-uniform and likely discriminatory," the suit states.

"To adhere stubbornly to inadequate levels of resources in the face of the increased registration and increased turnout will result in a meltdown on Election Day," the suit says.

"Voters will face even longer lines than existed in 2004, and many more voters will lose their right to vote in this Presidential election than in the last."


Kaine's office confirmed receiving the lawsuit Monday, saying Virginia's Board of Elections will respond to it in court.

Kaine is "confident that the Board of Elections is taking the appropriate steps to mitigate lines on Election Day," said Delacey Skinner, a spokeswoman for the governor.

CNN's Kate Bolduan contributed to this report.

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