Virginia Race 2013: Obama urges Virginians to vote for McAuliffe

ARLINGTON, Va. (WJLA) – They clapped and cheered vigorously and loudly from the bleachers inside the Washington-Lee High School gym early Sunday afternoon, at times stomping the stands to create the effect of hundreds of jackhammers being utilized at the same time.

And when the team captain finally jogged out from the locker room, the place became such that it was difficult if not impossible to hear the person sitting beside you.

He didn’t let them down, swishing 3-pointer after 3-pointer and generally sending the place into an undulating frenzy.

With two days remaining until Virginia’s gubernatorial election, President Barack Obama made his first official campaign appearance with Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe. He bounded up the small set of steps beside the makeshift state, simultaneously shook hands and exchanged hugs with McAuliffe before taking a couple of seconds to gaze admiringly at the crowd. And then. . .

“How you doin?” he shouted, smiling broadly.

Roars. More jackhammers.

“Are you fired up?

Jackhammers. More roars.

Standing a few feet to the right of the President, McAuliffe beamed and nodded approvingly, if not giddily.

This was vintage Barack Obama, campaign-trail version, effortlessly mixing slices of crowd-pleasing humor with forceful rhetoric expertly executed to create maximum applause.

Never mind that a little more than five years ago, McAuliffe was doing his best to help longtime friend Hillary Clinton get the Democratic nomination for President instead of Obama. On this day, all was forgiven.

And while he dutifully kidded about McAuliffe, saying, among other things, that “Like me, he married up,” and “I think it’s clear that he’s not shy,” Obama didn’t hold back criticizing Republican opponent Ken Cuccinelli despite not mentioning him by name.

On the government shutdown, the President said, “As Terry mentioned, his opponent says he’s perfectly happy with it (and) says it’s in his rear-view mirror.” He went on to touch on social issues, especially pertaining to women.

"This is a huge race. It's one of the biggest. I've been here 25 years," said McAuliffe supporter Evangelina Ifantides.

While the speeches were going on inside, McAuliffe supporters lined one side of the street outside, while Cuccinelli supporters and Obama critics lined the other.

"I think Cuccinelli has tried to run a good race," said another McAuliffe supporter,{ }Roosevelt Edwards. "He has his divisive needs. In the end, he's not going to do well."

On the other end of the spectrum, Cuccinelli supporter Scott Sweatman argued, "We just think McAuliffe is really wrong for Virginia."

"We don't want higher taxes, we don't want Obamacare premiums to skyrocket -- we want to keep our jobs and we want limited government," agreed Gabriella Hoffman.

“This is all about moving forward – it’s not about going backward,” Obama continued inside. “. . .Terry’s opponent, I guess he’s got other ideas than mine.”

In fact, Cuccinelli has stressed in recent weeks he wants to make the election “a referendum on Obamacare,” and the well-chronicled problems with the law’s rollout appear to be one of the primary reasons the President’s approval ratings are trending downward.

Cuccinelli press secretary Anna Nix released a statement that said, in part, “The President’s visit is an important reminder of Terry McAuliffe’s blind support of his big-government agenda starting with ObamaCare, which was deceptively sold and is hurting Virginians.”

"We have the momentum. They're scared. We're not scared of them, they're scared of us," Cucinelli has said.

Despite all the debate on Sunday, Hollywood almost trumped politics when “Scandal” star Kerry Washington suddenly appeared – and smartphones immediately began flashing everywhere.

To those in the crowd at the W-L gym, Sunday's event was a reminder of why they’re Democrats. And when Obama wrapped up his comments with about a 20-second shouted exhortation that, at times, was nearly unintelligible because of the rising wall of noise, it was mission accomplished.

For these folks, it was perceived as a winning dunk at the buzzer.