The one they’ve been waiting for in Virginia

John McCain and Sarah Palin appeared in Fairfax, Virginia today. Fairfax is the most Republican of the close-in Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C., but as in all of these suburbs, the Democrats made considerable headway there recently.

The reports I’ve seen indicate that the rally was a huge success. It’s not clear how many people attended, but one estimate placed the crowd in the neighborhood of 20,000. Whatever the number, the McCain campaign says it may well have been the largest crowd McCain has had. The credit clearly belong to Palin.

Virginia is a state McCain must win. Obama has been running neck-and-neck with McCain in the polls and, as I’ve noted, has a huge organization working the state. By contrast, McCain is poorly organized. This is not entirely his fault; the Republicans have not had to work Virginia hard in presidential elections, and thus lack the kind of impressive infrastructure they rely on in traditional battleground states like Ohio.

But it’s also true that McCain hasn’t generated the kind of enthusiasm necessary to crank up the campaign in the state.

This is where Palin comes in. Recently, the Washington Post reported that, thanks to Palin, there are signs of life among Virginia Republicans. Folks are volunteering at last to go door-to-door on behalf of the ticket or to make phone calls. Today’s rally seems to confirm what the Post detected. As a smart man said on the morning Palin’s selection was announced:

A campaign needs foot soldiers, call makers, [and] envelope stuffers. Our people have been glum for months. The reason contributions were way down is that enthusiasm was way down. Palin will perk it up.

There’s not enough time left remotely to match Obama’s organization in Virginia, but McCain probably does not need to match it in order to win. It may be enough for him just to “perk it up.” That’s what seems to be happening.

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