(CNN) – The importance of the presidential vote in Virginia was not lost on Mitt Romney when he appeared in the state on Thursday beside popular Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell, ahead of President Barack Obama's official re-election launch in the state on Saturday.
"Now politics is underway, it's underway again. You're going to hear it all right here in Virginia," Romney said at an event in Portsmouth, Virginia. "This may well be the state who decides who the next president is."
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Republican Gov. McDonnell said "it's a very tough path for a Republican to win the presidency without winning Virginia."
"Everybody knows Virginia's in play," McDonnell added after the campaign event.
Virginia, a state Obama won with almost 53% of the vote in 2008, is considered one of the most competitive general election states and Romney used his event in the commonwealth to take it to the president on issues intended to resonate with voters in the state.
The presumptive Republican presidential nominee stressed the importance of an energy plan that would utilize Virginia's resources including those found above and below the ground and reiterated his commitment to the military and its veterans. Virginia has the largest veteran population of any U.S. state.
While Obama is "intent on reducing our commitment to our military," Romney said he would increase the production of military equipment, add active duty personnel and "make sure our veterans get the care they so richly deserve."
McDonnell, a Romney supporter who is often mentioned as a potential vice presidential pick, said Romney will reverse actions taken by the president that have hurt veterans.
"We understand that this president has not always taken care of veterans, has not always made the best decision for the United States of America's military, has cut our investment in defense. You're going to see a sea change in our support for the military and veterans with President Mitt Romney," McDonnell said.
Obama is scheduled to hold rallies in Virginia and Ohio on Saturday to officially kick off his second bid for the White House, but Virginia's governor offered no praise for the incumbent president.
"Well you remember three and a half years ago we heard that tune about hope and change? And now what do we have? We have recession and division and malaise. It's time for a change," McDonnell said.
- CNN Political Producer Shawna Shepherd contributed to this report.