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On the Road: Richmond, Virginia

They’ve done it. The McCain campaign has gone and pissed off Miss Virginia.

When McCain senior adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer divided Virginia into the DC suburbs and “real Virginia,” Kristi Lauren Glakas felt extremely disappointed. Glakas, a recent three-time Miss Virginia title holder and whip-smart University of Virginia scholarship honor student, said the comments were divisive.

“What offended me and made me sad about those comments,” said Glakas, a resident for many years in northern Virginia, “is that I’ve been to every county, every part of this state. What’s best about Virginia is its diversity. The people, the geography. We have every class, every race, an amazing immigrant population… Virginia is the birthplace of America. To say that part of Virginia is not part of the real America is just offensive.”

Miss Virginia, Kristi Lauren Glakas -

Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, who spoke to us Monday, echoed that sentiment. “It’ll backfire big time,” predicted Kaine, who compared it to George Allen infamously welcoming “Macaca” to “to America, and the real world of Virginia.”

“‘Real’ Virginia, what does that mean?” asked Kaine, noting that Northern Virginia was home to John McCain’s national headquarters, as well as where John McCain lives when he works in DC.

On the subject of Virginia’s ground game, Kaine gave us a review of recent dramatic improvements in Democratic operations in the state. While he didn’t have a strong sense of the Al Gore 2000 operation, “Mark (Warner) ran a good Coordinated in 2001,” where the strategy was to run up the score in Democratic areas and overperform in the traditional Republican rural counties. Though John Kerry invested early in 2004, his ability to keep resources in the state soon ended.

Governor Tim Kaine -

For his successful 2005 race against Jerry Kilgore, Kaine worked a similar strategy to that of Warner’s. Building off the momentum begun with Warner’s win and popular term, Kaine and his talented campaign staff targeted suburban voters, the Democratic base, and rural areas. And after 2005, Kaine said, the Virginia Democratic Party has been more or less in perpetual organizing mode.

“The data was held in place and we rolled into Webb (in 2006). Then we rolled into the state senate races in 2007.” Democrats won both Webb’s race and retook the Virginia Senate. Importantly, Kaine said, Virginia benefits from having a deep bench of experienced campaign staffers who’ve worked many cycles and know the state well. “There’s a lot of home state talent.”

As for how Obama’s Campaign for Change and the Coordinated Campaign offices (Mark Warner’s Senate race and the various House races) are working in parallel, Kaine told us that after working out some kinks in the summer to avoid duplicative efforts, both ground efforts are boosting each other’s prospects upticket and downballot. There aren’t many people voting for Barack Obama who aren’t voting for Mark Warner, Kaine said, “except maybe Gilmore’s kids.”

Asked for a prediction on Election Night, Kaine demurred. “We’re the underdog because we haven’t done it in 44 years.” Though he clearly liked Obama’s chances, right now “it’s too close for comfort.”

As for McCain’s aforementioned national and regional headquarters, we gamely attempted to visit, but got nowhere. After a boatload of voicemails and emails placed with McCain Mid-Atlantic campaign spokeswoman Gail Gitcho over a period of days went unanswered, we continued our pursuit of the McCain ground game story on our own.

Ironically, the campaign headquarters in Arlington was buzzing on Monday morning, with approximately 50 people in the office making phone calls — more than what we’ve seen in all McCain offices in our previous ten states combined. But we could not take pictures, and security was tight. At one point while we were there hoping to talk to anyone who would go on the record, a female staffer worriedly asked a volunteer whether the robocalls had stopped. They hadn’t.

The day before, in McCain’s Loudoun Regional Victory Center in Sterling, VA, we stopped by the office immediately after our Falls Church Obama visit. A full-time volunteer had just papered the office walls with GOTV shift lists, and all were empty except two names on one day. It was 5 pm, and the office was closing. Six of one, half dozen of the other, as it only held one lonely phonebanker who complained to us about ACORN and the media:

McCain Field Office; Loudoun County, Virginia -

Falls Church, Obama office, moments before:

Obama Field Office; Falls Church, Virginia -

McCain’s Richmond Victory Center, Monday evening:

McCain Field Office; Richmond, Virginia -

In Obama’s briskly busy Richmond office, which you can see in Brett’s slideshow, we found yet another focused, upbeat atmosphere. We spoke with Obama for America State Director Mitch Stewart, which we’ll bring you in the next installment from Charlottesville.

The witty Glakas had the line of the day. Saying she was doing her level best to push back against the stereotypes set by other former pageant contestants Miss Teen South Carolina and Miss Alaska entrant Sarah Palin (formerly Sarah Heath), she pointed out that Palin’s hiding from the press was a giant turnoff and gave beauty queens a bad name.

“Even I’ve been interviewed by Chris Matthews.”