[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/11/01/art.mccain02.gi.jpg caption="McCain trails Obama in Virginia."](CNN) - A month ago, John McCain’s brother Joe called the Northern Virginia “communist country.” Two weeks ago, a key surrogate said the area wasn’t even a “real” part of the state.
On Saturday, John McCain told voters there the area was “key” to a Republican victory.
"I want to remind you again, Fairfax County is key to this election," McCain told a Springfield, Virginia crowd. "You know that. You know how important it is for us to win here, you know how important it is that we put this country in the right direction. I need your help for the next three days."
Supporters dismissed the prospect of a McCain loss in the state, which hasn’t supported a Democrat since Lyndon Johnson’s 1964 campaign. "What's this garbage about Obama’s gonna win Virginia? What is that about?" South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a major McCain backer, asked the crowd Saturday. "Chicago's 705 miles. It might as well be on the moon compared to Virginia. I know Virginia. Virginia believes in lower taxes. Virginians fight the wars. Virginians want opportunity and not a handout." Phoenix is 2,352 miles from Springfield.
Driven by a surge in Democratic registrations in the Washington, D.C. suburbs where McCain spoke Saturday, the state has elected two Democratic governors and U.S. senator in recent years, and is considered likely to another next week.
Two weeks ago — hours before McCain’s last visit to the area — adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer said Northern Virginia was unlikely to support the Arizona senator’s presidential bid/ “I certainly agree that northern Virginia has gone more Democratic. And as a proud resident of Oakton, Virginia I can tell you that the Democrats have just come in from the District of Columbia and moved into northern Virginia. And that’s really what you see there. But the rest of the state, ‘real’ Virginia if you will, I think will be very responsive to Senator McCain’s message.”
Asked if she wanted to clarify her comments, Pfotenhauer stood by her remarks. “I did say outside of Northern…I did say ‘real’ Virginia, because northern Virginia is where I’ve always been, but real Virginia I take to be this part of the state that is more Southern in nature, if you will. Northern Virginia is really metro DC, as you’re aware, Kevin.”
Barack Obama held a 9 point lead in the CNN/Time Opinion Research Corporation poll released last week.