For decades, the commonwealth was one of the 40-something states whose politics were so predictable that they were virtually ignored during presidential contests. Virginia was a sure-fire Republican state — it hadn't voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964.
The state that calls itself the Mother of Presidents — eight have been born here — became a presidential afterthought.
Virginia is one of the most fiercely contested states of this election. President Barack Obama won the state in 2008, the first Democrat since Lyndon Johnson to gain victory here, reflecting its emergence as a state with delicately balanced politics.
These days, the political ad spending in the state by the Obama and Mitt Romney campaigns is the third highest, behind only perennial battlegrounds Ohio and Florida.
Romney's camp places Virginia among its most critical states to win, along with Indiana and North Carolina — three states known for voting Republican in presidential elections but ones that Obama won in 2008. His campaign claims a handful of paths to victory and at least two run through Virginia.