Why Virginia For Romney's VP Announcement?

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Mitt Romney officially welcomed Congressman Paul Ryan to the Republican presidential ticket Saturday in Norfolk, Va. Guest host Linda Wertheimer speaks with Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, about the significance of the swing state of Virginia in this year's election.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

Mitt Romney made his big VP announcement this morning in Norfolk, Virginia, and that, of course, is no coincidence. Virginia is one of the swing states. And in this year's presidential race, and both the Romney and Obama campaigns, have been heavily targeting voters in that state for months. Joining us now, is Larry Sabato. He is the director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, and he's on the line from Charlottesville. Larry Sabato, welcome.

LARRY SABATO: Good morning, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Thank you very much for doing this. I want to ask you, how important do you think Virginia is in this equation?

SABATO: Well amazingly, for those of us who grew up here, it's become one of the two or three key swing states, and it may very well tell the tale in 2012; hard for us to imagine, given that Virginia was once the Bulgaria of American politics...

(LAUGHTER)

SABATO: ...and now it's the Paris.

WERTHEIMER: Well, you are obviously enjoying - I mean, we have come to you over the years asking for your vision of the South and in the last election, your vision of Virginia. So, do you think that the Romney campaign - obviously, they're reaching out to Virginia by picking Norfolk to make this announcement. The Romney campaign - does this improve his chances in Virginia?

SABATO: I'm not sure what Paul Ryan does in Virginia, to tell you the truth. Obviously, the Virginia Republicans were hoping that Governor McDonnell would be picked. He might have been able to add a point or two in Virginia. I don't know that Ryan necessarily does that. Remember, they went to Norfolk because - and that's where I grew up - they went there because the swing region in this new swing state of Virginia is Hampton Roads, is the Norfolk, Virginia Beach area.

WERTHEIMER: That's the place where Mr. - when Barack Obama carried Virginia, he was pretty much a dead tie, right, in the area of the coast?

SABATO: That's right, particularly Virginia Beach was carried by a sliver by McCain, but it was very, very close. And probably, the winner of this year in Virginia will end up carrying Hampton Roads narrowly or at least tying. And I think that's why they chose that particular place to make this important announcement.

WERTHEIMER: Why do you think they're going next to Ashland? And after that to Manassas? What's the thinking behind those kinds of locations?

SABATO: One of the great surprises in 2008 was that Barack Obama did very well in the Richmond area. Ashland is a town in Hanover County, which is part of the Richmond Metro area, although it's heavily Republican. It's three-quarters Republican. I think they want to touch the Republican base in the Richmond area and energize it in a way that it was never energized for John McCain.

The third spot is of course Manassas and that is in uber-important Prince William County. It's an exurban locality, one of the two great exurbs in Northern Virginia, the other one being Loudon. President Obama got 58 percent there. This used to be conservative county.

WERTHEIMER: OK. Thank you very much for that.

SABATO: Thank you, Linda.

WERTHEIMER: Larry Sabato is the director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. Larry, thanks.

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