CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Virginia delegates are getting a fresh look at Mitt Romney this week as the Republican prepares to reintroduce himself as the party's new standard-bearer.
Olympic athletes from the Salt Lake City Games that Romney helped save from disaster visited the Virginians Tuesday to talk about Romney as a leader and problem solver. A day earlier Romney's eldest son, Tagg, and actor Jon Voight were on hand to talk about Romney's family, faith and values as the Romney campaign seeks to spotlight a more personal side of the candidate.
"The man has a vision and I just think he posses the Olympic ideals and values that we Olympians strive for and share," said Derek Parra, a gold medalist speedskater at the 2002 winter games.
Celebrities aside, this week has been a call to arms for the Virginia delegates, who will play a critical role in determining the next president. There are few paths to the White House for Romney or President Obama that don't roll through the Old Dominion.
The spotlight in particular will shift to Northern Virginia, a battleground that is likely to swing the swing state. State party chairman Pat Mullins told the delegates in Clearwater Tuesday that if Republicans can win or make Northern Virginia competitive, the state will go red in November.
Obama carried Fairfax, Prince William and Loudoun counties in 2008 en route to becoming the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry the state since Lyndon Johnson.
Former Rep. Tom Davis, who represented Northern Virginia in Washington for more than a decade, said the region has trended toward Democrats in recent years but it should favor Republicans in 2012.
Davis pointed to Obama's plan to raise taxes on high earners as a policy that won't resonate with the Beltway's affluent moderates who voted for Obama last time. The job outlook for college graduates, who four years ago were a powerful force behind the Obama campaign, could hurt Democrats as well.
"I've run a lot of elections in Northern Virginia. I've run in good years and I've run in bad years," Davis said. "Never has the table been set so well for us as it has been this year.
"It's shame on us if we can't take this and turn this into a Republican victory."