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Big names, big rallies, frantic finish to '12 race

Associated Press Published: November 4, 2012

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (AP) — Two campaigns that could determine not only who rules the White House but which party runs the U.S. Senate raced toward a climactic finish with candidates and their surrogates blanketing the state Sunday and volunteers braving a wintry wind to knock on doors.

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was in Virginia's Hampton Roads region, heavy with military interests — a battleground region within a battleground state where the presidential and Senate races are a toss-up.

His Sunday night rally in Newport News, home to a major Navy shipbuilding plant, was an effort to keep the region from supporting President Barack Obama for the second election in a row.

Romney had two more rallies set Monday in Lynchburg and northern Virginia, scene of a loud Saturday night rally where Obama, former President Bill Clinton and musician Dave Matthews drew more than 25,000 people. Vice President Joe Biden also has two stops planned Monday in Sterling and Richmond, where another rocker, John Mellencamp, will join him and Democratic Senate candidate Tim Kaine.

The profusion of famous names left even the politically experienced amazed.

Republican Senate candidate George Allen had just addressed a few dozen volunteers at the party's Virginia Beach headquarters and departed when former Sen. Rick Santorum, a hero of social conservatives who lost the presidential nomination to Romney, ambled up unannounced.

"I've been out knocking doors all day with my son and I'm about to go out and do some more," Santorum said. The former Pennsylvania senator came to Virginia Beach because his son, a first-year student at The Citadel in South Carolina, had come north for a final weekend of campaign work.

Chuck Smith, a Republican who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2010 and is seeking a Virginia Beach City Council seat on Tuesday, was eager to leave the headquarters for some last-minute campaigning for the GOP ticket, but he paused when he saw Santorum.

"I don't know how to read this" election, said Smith, a longtime Hampton Roads GOP activist. "I will tell you that as we go through the neighborhoods, we don't see as many yard signs, so that could be an indication there is not as much interest, but from our point of view, it's a concerted effort to make sure we get the word out. That's how you win these elections."

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