(CNN) – After weeks of touting a robust army of foot soldiers charging ahead with GOP get-out-the-vote efforts, Virginia governor and a top surrogate for the Republican ticket Bob McDonnell conceded that President Barack Obama's campaign trumped Republicans on the ground game.
CNN projected that Obama would win re-election late Tuesday night, besting Republican nominee Mitt Romney in the swing state of Virginia by three points. With 97% of precincts ballots in, Obama pulled ahead – 51% to Romney's 48%.
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McDonnell said last night was "tough" for Republicans on CNN's "Starting Point" Wednesday.
"They beat us on the ground," said McDonnell. "I thought we'd win close; we lost close. Half the margin of 2008, but they did a good job."
While Romney's campaign organized a ground game better than Sen. John McCain’s in 2008, Obama's ground game had years to formulate, beginning with his successful presidential bid over four years ago. Then, the Illinois Sen. Obama won Virginia by six points over McCain.
While Ohio tipped the president over the 270 electoral vote threshold needed for re-election, it was Virginia that propelled him to a decisive lead, 303 electoral votes to Romney's 203.
"Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan would have been good leaders, but the president, in a poor economy, did a very good job articulating his message and having a very good ground game," he said.
Republicans were also defeated in the race for a U.S. Senate seat. In a high-profile, expensive contest lasting over a year, GOP contender George Allen conceded to Democrat Tim Kaine on Tuesday night. At the time of Allen's concession speech, Kaine was ahead of Allen 51% to 49% – with 76% reporting.
Republicans need to do better on a national level, McDonnell said, also adding that he had spoken with Allen following his defeat.
Specific to the Old Dominion, McDonnell, who appeared on CNN earlier Election Day, said that Romney needed to do well in the Washington D.C. Beltway area – Loudoun, Fairfax and Prince William counties - in order to take the state. Obama bested Romney in all three of those counties by no less than five points this time around, just as he did in the 2008 election.
The light at the end of the tunnel for Virginia's GOP? The congressional races.
"We won eight out of the 11 congressional races in Virginia, so at the more local level Republicans did very well," said McDonnell, though again noting the party's necessity to polish their image among independents in the Beltway counties.
"We're losing the exchange as you see up there in Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun so we've got to do a better job in explaining to people why the conservative view of America is better for them and their pocket books."
House Speaker John Boehner will hold control of the lower chamber with a Republican majority while the Senate will stay in the hands of the Democrats and the White House under Obama.