President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign opened field offices in , Suffolk and Arlington this weekend, ratcheting up its presence in the critical swing state of Virginia.
The campaign is gearing up its supporters for a bare-knuckle brawl to keep the commonwealth blue.
“Guys, it’s game time. They’ve picked their guy. We’ve got a better guy. We just have to make sure everybody knows that,” Yohannes Abraham, the campaign’s deputy national political director, told nearly 200 people Sunday at the opening of the Arlington office. The office is located at 2408 Columbia Pike, immediately next door to Rappahannock Coffee.
“We know (Republican Mitt) Romney’s playbook. We saw it during the primary. Him and his allies are going to spend millions of dollars going negative on our president,” Abraham said. “So it’s inspiring to come home to Arlington and see the troops who are going to carry us over the finish line.”
The Obama camp has 13 regional offices in Virginia, including five now in Northern Virginia. The campaign has between 20 and 30 paid staff members on the ground in the Old Dominion and claims hundreds of supporters.
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman and Terry McAuliffe praised the president’s work on bolstering the country’s manufacturing sector, building the middle class, initiating the U.S. troop withdrawal from Iraq and “getting” Osama bin Laden.
He reminded the crowd that four years ago, then-President George W. Bush has low approval ratings, two unpopular wars and an economy on the verge of collapse — and Obama carried Virginia with just under 53 percent of the vote.
“It’s going to be a tough race,” McAuliffe told the crowd. “Stop every person you see and ask them to vote for Barack Obama,” he said. “If they don’t stop, tackle them. Because, folks, it’s important: Barack Obama deserves to be re-elected.”
U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., criticized Romney for endorsing a spending plan put forth by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, saying that it would cut assistance to poor families — most of which are headed by single mothers — in half.
“This isn’t about rooting for the home team, or getting somebody we like elected,” Moran said. “This is about making sure Barack Obama is the buffer keeping this country from becoming a very cruel, very cold place. Barack Obama could be our only hope.”
Abraham reminded the crowd that the nonprofit Crossroads GPS recently received a $10 million contribution from an unnamed donor to run ads attacking Obama and Democratic policies. The Obama campaign needs to “out-ground-game our opponent,” he said.
“I haven’t seen a Romney presence in Virginia. He may raise more money, with his PACs, but we’re going to win it by taking it to the grassroots,” said Barbara Kanninen, a co-chairwoman of the statewide Women for Obama team.
Kanninen, of Arlington, told Patch that she predicted more people would stop by the Arlington field office looking for ways to volunteer as the election nears.
“Once you have a physical presence, people start stopping by — people you wouldn’t get on the phone,” she said. “We’re reaching people we otherwise wouldn’t have.”
Arlington resident Martha McConnell said she stopped by Sunday’s opening because she lives nearby and supports the president.
“He understands most people and the challenges they face because of his diverse background,” she said.
The Obama campaign is coordinating a national Day of Action on April 28.
A phone number for the new Arlington office was not immediately available Sunday.