The story

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. Read full article »