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Obama first Dem to take Va. in 44 years

 Democratic Senate candidate, Mark Warner,left, jokes with photographers as he watches returns in his hotel room  along with Virginia Gov. Timothy M. ...

Warner 2008

Democratic Senate candidate, Mark Warner,left, jokes with photographers as he watches returns in his hotel room along with Virginia Gov. Timothy M. ...

Virginia, the seat of the old Confederacy, yes, but also the state that elected the nation's first black governor two decades ago, voted for Barack Obama on Tuesday as Democrats tightened their grip on this former GOP stronghold.

Obama became the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 to carry the state, which also overwhelmingly picked a Democratic former governor over a Republican one for U.S. Senate. Mark Warner's win over Jim Gilmore gave Democrats control over both of the state's Senate seats for the first time since 1970.

Democrats gained at least one spot in Virginia's 11-member U.S. House delegation when Gerald Connolly won the seat of retiring Republican incumbent Tom Davis in the Washington suburbs. GOP incumbents Thelma Drake and Virgil Goode were locked in races that were too close to call.

The state's 13 electoral votes had been considered crucial to John McCain's chances of winning the White House, and Obama shut the door on that with wins here and in other pivotal states. With 97 percent of the vote counted in Virginia, he led McCain by nearly 118,000 votes out of more than 3.3 million cast.

Obama decided to make a run at Virginia after Democrats won three straight major elections here, two for governor and a U.S. Senate victory two years ago. He visited the state 11 times since June, outspent McCain by a 3-to-1 ratio and opened 50 campaign offices statewide to McCain's 24.

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.

Those areas went predominantly for McCain, but Obama held down the margins McCain would have needed to overcome the Democrat's huge advantages in cities and in the suburbs of Washington and Richmond.

Obama benefited from widespread dissatisfaction with President Bush, deep concern over the nation's faltering economy and an enthusiastic turnout by black and young, first-time voters.

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.

Obama also had history on his side in Virginia, where in 1989, L. Douglas Wilder was narrowly elected the nation's first black governor. Polls before that election, however, showed Wilder with a double-digit lead, a sure sign that whatever edge Obama might have gained before Tuesday was hardly safe.

Against the backdrop of Wilder's win and all that preceded it, the mere fact of Obama's contesting Virginia carried enormous emotion for some.

In Farmville, Rita Moseley voted at a polling place near a former all-black school. Moseley, 62, said she was among the black students who had to leave town to attend school elsewhere after Prince Edward County closed its public schools in the late 1950s rather than integrate them.

Moseley pondered the change since Robert Russa Moton High School's black student body walked out in protest of substandard conditions 57 years ago and Obama winning Prince Edward County on Tuesday.

Updated : 2021-10-21 01:14 GMT+08:00