Obama, McCain Woo NoVa
Sen. Barack Obama outlined his plans to help struggling middle-income families and working mothers in a town hall meeting in Fairfax County this afternoon, in his second visit to the area since becoming the presumptive Democratic nominee for president.
Later today, Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), the presumptive Republican nominee, also plans to reach out to Northern Virginia voters.
Standing amid the bleachers at Robinson Secondary School at about 1:30 p.m., Obama (Ill.) told a packed gymnasium that as president he would seek to expand paid family and medical leave and increase spending on childcare and preschool programs.
Obama also said he supports legislation to ensure equal pay for men and women. Such changes would strengthen families and the economy, he said.
"We take it for granted that women are the backbone of our families," Obama said. "But we also want to make sure that women are the backbone of our middle class. We won't truly have an economy that puts the needs of the middle class first until we ensure that, when it come to pay and benefits at work, women are treated as the equal partners that they are."
Obama's appearance, and McCain's plans for a telephone conference with independents and moderates this evening, underscore the importance of Virginia in the fall election.
Though the state has supported the Republican nominee for president for the past four decades, Democrats are optimistic that Obama can carry it this year in part because of a demographic shift in Northern Virginia.
Hundreds lined up this morning outside Robinson Secondary in Fairfax in anticipation of hearing Obama discuss the economy, women and family. Previously, he held an event in June at Nissan Pavilion in Prince William County after becoming the presumptive nominee.
Obama has been seeking to reach out to women voters after defeating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) in the primary, alienating some of her older white female supporters. But many who showed up to see Obama speak said he had little to worry about.
"See the color of my hair? See the color of my skin? See how old I am?" said Carole Richard, 76, a retired gerontologist from Fairfax. "Obama is a breath of fresh air."
Several female McCain supporters are scheduled to address journalists shortly after Obama's meeting and just hours before the candidate is scheduled to speak to Northern Virginia residents by phone in a "tele-town hall meeting."
Gail Gitcho, a McCain campaign spokeswoman, said the candidate will be fighting hard in Virginia.
"I think it's widely known that Virginia is going to be an important state for both campaigns," Gitcho said. "We're going to run like we're 10 points behind."
Washington Post editors
July 10, 2008; 3:26 PM ET
Categories: Sandhya Somashekhar
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