Obama Takes Virginia, Completes DC-Area Sweep

Virginia backs Democrat for president for first time in 44 years

Barack Obama has won Virginia, according to NBC News, completing a sweep of D.C. and its neighboring states.

It is the first time the commonwealth has backed a Democrat for president in 44 years. Maryland and D.C. were called early for Obama, according to NBC News. Heading into Election Day, Obama held wide leads over Republican John McCain in those races.

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Virginia's 13 electoral votes had been considered crucial to McCain's chances of winning the White House, though Obama's wins in other pivotal states made the outcome in Virginia moot.

Returns were delayed by a record turnout and long lines, and large localities that traditionally vote Democratic had yet to report. Across the state, voters in record-shattering numbers stood in a steady, cold rain at polls.

"I would've waited as long as I had to," said Lila Leikvold, who voted in Arlington after arriving a half-hour before polls opened at 6 a.m. and waiting 45 minutes in a line that went around the block.

Polls showed Obama about even or with a slight edge over McCain after two years of aggressive campaigning for Virginia's 13 electoral votes. Those votes were conceded as Republican for generations until Democrats won the last two gubernatorial elections and retook the state Senate and the other U.S. Senate seat.

That Democratic success, deep dissatisfaction with President George W. Bush and rapid population growth in the liberal-leaning suburbs of northern Virginia gave Obama an opening to make a contest out of a state that hadn't voted for a Democrat for White House since 1964.

Even before he entered the race, Obama had a rock star's following among black Virginians, about 20 percent of the state's population of 7 million. In campaigning for Tim Kaine for governor in 2005 and Jim Webb for Senate a year later, he attracted large and enthusiastic crowds.

Both campaigns took the fight to the countryside, hoping to gain an edge in rural Virginia, which can blend gun-rights enthusiasm and Christian conservatism with strident labor activism in the same areas.

Obama outspent McCain in Virginia roughly 3-to-1, dominating TV advertising and opening 50 campaign offices statewide to McCain's 24. Obama's aggressive registration campaign accounted for the bulk of 436,000 new voters added to Virginia's rolls this year.

Obama's win over McCain was no surprise in Maryland, a state where registered Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by a 2-1 margin.

Maryland has 10 of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House. The District has three.

Obama's call for change appeared to resonate with Maryland voters. Exit polling of voters across Maryland on Tuesday found about half of voters said the ability to bring about needed change was the quality they valued most, and they overwhelmingly supported the Democratic senator from Illinois.

Most voters also disapproved of George Bush's handling of the presidency and a large bloc believed Republican Sen. John McCain would continue his policies. Voters expressing those opinions strongly supported Obama.

About a quarter of voters felt McCain would take the country in a new direction, and they gave strong backing to the Arizona Republican.

Obama received his strongest support in the Washington suburbs.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, who was among Obama's earliest supporters, recalled how in January 2007 "they were laughing at us" and saying the Illinois senator couldn't win.

"Maryland showed the audacity of hope," Cummings, a black Democrat from Baltimore, said Monday night. "I've got to tell you as an African American ... I never thought that I would live to see this day."

Lillian Fuller, 62, described casting her ballot for Obama with a longing for the more prosperous times the country experienced during the last Democratic president, Bill Clinton.

"Since the Republicans got in, everything went haywire," Fuller said after voting in Annapolis. "Look how we are today. We're in a mess, so that's why I voted for Obama."

Roughly 100 extra voting machines were sent to precincts in the counties of Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Prince George's, as well as the city of Baltimore, said Linda Lamone, administrator of the Maryland State Board of Elections.

Lamone reported few and "minor" technological problems that are not uncommon on Election Day. A precinct in Baltimore County just outside Baltimore city had a waiting time of more than four hours for a spell, but the long lines were greatly reduced after five additional voting machines were brought to the precinct at the Augsburg Lutheran Home, Lamone said.

Elections officials also moved swiftly to dispel a rumor that voters could wait until Wednesday to cast ballots because turnout was so heavy. The false rumor, sent by text message, was being investigated by the attorney general's office. Elections officials alerted the public through the rumor control section on the Board of Elections Web site.

Elections officials had projected high turnout of 85 percent overall and up to 90 percent in some areas of Maryland. Voting activity slowed in the evening, compared to earlier in the day, possibly because so many voted in the morning and afternoon or because of rainy weather, Lamone said.

Liquor store manager Craig Burnett, a 55-year-old registered Republican in Hagerstown, said he voted for McCain, repeating two of the Arizona Republican's criticisms of Obama.

"I really don't want to share the wealth, and I don't think Obama knows what he's doing," Burnett said. "He's too young and inexperienced."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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