In today’s Times, Helene Cooper lays out the stakes in Virginia:

It is irrefutable that the Obama campaign desperately wants to reprise its Virginia victory of four years ago. The state has only 13 electoral votes, but pathways to Mr. Obama’s re-election get much steeper if the commonwealth is taken out of the blue column. With Virginia, Mr. Obama can lose Ohio and still win re-election. With Virginia, he can lose Florida and still win re-election. With Virginia, he can even lose both of those once must-have states — and he can still win re-election. Conversely, barring a major shift, it is very difficult to see how his rival Mitt Romney can win the White House if he does not win Virginia; he would have to pick up Democratic-leaning states like Michigan or Pennsylvania.

She also talks strategy:

Besides drumming up turnout in Northern Virginia, a big part of the Obama strategy relies on plugging into the growing number of newcomers in suburban areas in the rest of the state, in communities not known as Democratic strongholds in the past. That means such places as around Norfolk, where a growing number of transplants from the north have moved in, lured by the naval base, and Charlottesville, where new arrivals have sought out the genteel intellectual atmosphere around the University of Virginia and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. And it means the fast-growing suburbs around Richmond, where a big influx of Hispanics like Mrs. Santiago and Mrs. Pacheco have arrived over the past two decades. The Hispanic population in the Richmond area is now around 40,000, up from almost nothing 20 years ago.

This is something of a microcosm of the whole country, isn’t it? As the nation grows less white, as more and more suburbs and exurbs become diverse in the ways only cities used to be, it will greatly change the political calculus.

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Jesse Singal is a former opinion writer for The Boston Globe and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. He is currently a master's student at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Policy. Follow him on Twitter at @jessesingal.