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Gary Younge
Virginia, the new dominion

An Obama staffer has confirmed that the Democratic presidential nominee will be heading this way on Friday, according to the Associated Press. Those are all the details so far. But the very possibility of it tells you two things about the nature of the race at this point.

With little more than two weeks to go before the election, Obama is rumoured to be coming to a region he cannot hope to win, in a state where he should not be competitive.

So first, the trip tells us that McCain, who also plans to be in Virginia, is in serious trouble. Obama has been ahead here in all of the last five polls. If McCain can't win Virginia, which has 13 electoral college votes, then it is difficult to see how he can win at all. And unless Obama campaigners are high on hubris, they must feel their efforts in northern Virginia and Hampton Roads have produced sufficient heft for them to venture behind enemy lines and shore up their margins here.

Second, it shows that Virginia has taken its place alongside Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, as a bona fide swing state - with all the attention and advertising dollars that come with that.

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