McCain 2008
Carolyn Kaster  /  AP
Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., waves to supporters as he leaves his headquarters in Arlington, Va., on Saturday.
updated 10/18/2008 8:44:42 PM ET 2008-10-19T00:44:42

A top aide to John McCain said Saturday the Republican presidential nominee still has a strong chance of winning the state because of his support in "real Virginia," the downstate areas far removed in distance and political philosophy from the more liberal northern part of the state.

"As a proud resident of Oakton, Va., I can tell you that the Democrats have just come in from the District of Columbia and moved into northern Virginia," McCain senior adviser Nancy Pfotenhauer said on MSNBC. "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 Sen. McCain's message."

Program host Kevin Corke asked Pfotenhauer if she wanted to retract the comment, prompting her to reply, "I mean 'real Virginia' because northern Virginia is where I've always been, but 'real Virginia' I take to be the — this part of the state that is more Southern in nature, if you will. Northern Virginia is really metro D.C."

Earlier this month, McCain's brother, Joe, told those at an event for the Republican nominee that two Democratic-leaning areas in Northern Virginia, Arlington and Alexandria, were "communist country." He quickly apologized and called the remark a joke.

The senator's campaign headquarters is in Arlington, as is the home he uses while in Washington. McCain also attended high school in Alexandria.

Northern Virginia is the most populous area in the state, so if McCain considers it enemy territory, he would have to run up large margins in the Hampton Roads and less populated areas of Virginia to win on Election Day. During a rally in the Washington suburb of Woodbridge, Va., on Saturday, McCain noted that his first posting in the Navy was in coastal Norfolk.

Democrats not only control the Virginia governor's office, but Democrat Jim Webb succeeded in 2006 in ousting Republican Sen. George Allen. Veteran Sen. John Warner, R-Va., is retiring this year and former Democratic Gov. Mark Warner is vying with former Republican Gov. Jim Gilmore to succeed him.

The popularity of Mark Warner has led some to suggest he may boost Democrat Barack Obama's chances, rather than the opposite.

One recent poll showed McCain trailing Obama by up to 8 percentage points in the Old Dominion, but political analysts believe the race may be closer. McCain was making a push to hold onto Virginia, which President Bush won in 2004.

Besides his rally in Woodbridge, McCain's campaign was launching a downstate bus tour on Sunday with Todd Palin, the husband of his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

One of those attending McCain's rally said she wasn't sure about the geographical split of the state.

"I just hope that the state of Virginia will continue to support and continue to be a red state," said 45-year-old Diane Fuller of Manassas.

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