(CNN) -- Unlike in previous U.S. presidential elections of recent times, the battle for the White House in 2008 begins just a short drive west from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, across the Potomac River amid the commuter belt sprawl of northern Virginia.
With its Civil War battlefields and picturesque colonial towns, the self-styled Commonwealth of Virginia -- once home to both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson -- had seemed resigned to past glories; a quiet political backwater that has remained undemonstratively Republican in every presidential election bar one -- Lyndon Johnson won the state for the Democrats in 1964 -- since 1952.
As the gateway to the south and a bastion of small town America bolstered by a strong military presence clustered around the U.S. Navy's Norfolk base, Virginia is not supposed to be the sort of place where a liberal-leaning Democratic presidential candidate makes inroads.
In the final run-up to election day on November 4, CNN International's Simon Hooper will be on the road in Virginia, checking the pulse and testing the mood of this key battleground state, attending the rallies and following the foot soldiers on both sides from doorstep to doorstep, speaking to highly prized swing voters and the pollsters trying to make sense of it all.
Look out for daily updates and blogs from the campaign trail as Barack Obama and John McCain vie for the biggest prize in world politics.
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