Several months ago, Mike Littwin did a series on Red-Blue America, and used Virginia Beach as his example of prototypical Red America. The article had several flaws, but contained this interesting comment on Kerry's Virginia strategy:
And yet, according to Larry Sabato — the political guru from the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, who used to live in Virginia Beach — the John Kerry people believe that Virginia Beach is at the center of their strategy in Virginia. If there is a plausible Virginia strategy for Kerry.
It's the large military presence that makes it possible, Sabato says. The worse things go in Iraq, the more likely the military — usually reliably Republican — becomes less reliably so.
"Virginia Beach voted for Chuck Robb (for Senate in 1994) over Ollie North because military people had concerns about North's record," Sabato says. "(John) Edwards is from North Carolina, which is just down the road from Virginia Beach.
"They're going to have to do some work," Sabato says of the Democrats. "But they're looking hard there."
At the time, I wrote Littwin asking him to clarify this, because the strategy sounded deeply flawed. Northern Virginia has voted more Democratic in recent years, and the suburbs there seemed to be more fertile ground. I couldn't believe that someone as knowledgable about Virginia politicas as Larry Sabato would be endorsing a Tidewater strategy for Kerry. Turned out he wasn't, he was just "intrigued," replied Littwin.
Now, it appears that the Kerry campaign has come around, and it trying to shore up what it sees as its Northern Virginia base. The WaPo has the obligatory Bush-2000-voters-turned-Kerry-2004-voters, even as the polls suggest more people going the other way.
The article does note that the outer suburbs have seen jumps in voter registration, but that we have no way of knowing their party preference, aside from polling. It's also worth noting that while the national political coverage in the DC area is, expectedly, the best in the country, my experience from living there is that not everyone is a political junkie, and that a fair number of votes are still up for grabs.