Oct. 22,2008 RICHMOND, VA., 2008 -- As Sen. Barack Obama continued to gain ground in key battleground states Wednesday, he sharpened his attacks against Sen. John McCain and issued a grave warning that a vote for his rival could put the country at risk.
The latest Mason Dixon poll shows Obama with a 2-point lead in Virginia, which Bush won by 10 points in 2004. Though he's mainly stayed focused on the economy in these last few weeks, Obama shifted his attention to talk about an issue of paramount importance in a state that includes a naval base, a Marine headquarters and the Pentagon -- national security.
Flanked by national security experts from previous Democratic administrations, Obama told Richmond voters that a President John McCain would pose a national security risk.
"As president, he would continue the policies that have put our economy into crisis and endangered our national security," Obama said.
The Illinois senator also sought to downplay the buzz made by his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, at a Seattle fundraiser earlier in the week when Biden predicted America's enemies would test a new young President Obama.
"Mark my words, it will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy," Biden said in Seattle. "The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year-old senator president of the United States of America. ... Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy."
Obama dismissed the comments as "rhetorical flourishes" but added that Biden's "core point was that the next administration is going to be tested, regardless of who it is."
Flourishes or not, Obama sought to prove that he is the best candidate to pass the national security test by tying the economy to national security.
"We need leadership that understands the connection between our economy and our strength in the world. We often hear about two debates -- one on national security and one on the economy -- but that is a false distinction."
Obama sought to emphasize this distinction by renewing his call for a withdrawal from Iraq.
"We're not going to defeat a terrorist network that operates in 80 countries through an occupation of Iraq," Obama said. "We shouldn't keep spending $10 billion a month in Iraq while the Iraqis sit on a huge surplus," Obama said.
Obama Makes Gains in Unexpected Areas
While a recent Mason Dixon poll show that Obama has cut McCain's sizable 43-point lead on who's best prepared to handle national security issues, McCain still retains a 19-point lead.
But other numbers in Virginia work in Obama's favor. Obama has consistently polled well on the issue of the economy, and Virginia's economy is struggling. The Democratic candidate told Richmond voters today that McCain's economic plans did more to help Wall Street than Main Street.
"Let's be clear who Sen. McCain's fighting for. He's not fighting for Joe the Plumber, he's fighting for Joe the hedge fund manager."
Obama also has an edge on sheer manpower in the state. As a result of breaking his promise to enter into the public financing system, Obama has enjoyed an overwhelming fundraising advantage, and in Virginia McCain is drowning in Obama's money.
Obama has 50 campaign offices and 200 paid staffers in Virginia to McCain's 24 campaign offices and 50 paid staffers. Obama is spending a quarter million dollars a day on TV ads in the state -- compared to McCain's $30,000 a day.
Obama Looks for Huge Turnout in Northern Va.
Obama hopes to get an overwhelming turnout in northern Virginia where a third of the state electorate lives. He's been aided in that effort by Republican fumbles, such as when McCain adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer implied that northern Virginia didn't count as "real Virginia."
"The Democrats have just come in from the District of Columbia and moved into northern Virginia, and that's what you really see there," Pfotenhauer told MSNBC's Chris Matthews. "But the rest of the state, 'real Virginia,' if you will, will be very responsive to Sen. McCain's message."
Obama has cited Pfotenhauer's remark on the stump ever since, declaring in a popular line that "there are no real parts of the country or fake parts of the country."
Obama's Richmond visit marked the 31st time the Obama-Biden ticket has been in the state since securing the nomination. The McCain-Palin ticket has visited the state 12 times, which has been a real source of contention among local Republicans who want McCain to spend more time there.
ABC News' Andy Fies, Sunlen Miller, and Julia Hoppock contributed to this report.