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Virginia already is shaping up to be a key battleground in November’s election.

President Barack Obama will officially kick off his re-election bid with a rally on Saturday in Richmond, while presumptive Republican nominee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney campaigned in northern and southeastern Virginia on Wednesday and Thursday.

“If it’s a close election, Virginia could put either a Democrat or a Republican over the top,” said Geoff Skelley, a political analyst with the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Whoever wins Virginia likely will win the presidency, he said.

Obama currently is polling slightly ahead of Romney, on average, in Virginia. However, two of the most recent polls put Romney ahead by 1 or 5 percentage points, and two others give Obama an 8-point lead.

“Virginia is, in a way, the swingiest of swing states,” Skelley said.

Romney visited a Chantilly business, Exhibit Edge, on Wednesday morning.

With a group of women, whom he identified as small business owners sitting behind him, Romney focused many of his remarks on economic issues.

Romney said Obama’s policies, such as changing heath care policy, have created uncertainty for small businesses.

“It was the most anti-small business administration I’ve seen probably since [Jimmy] Carter,” he said.

Romney said he would reduce taxes and regulation on small businesses and that would, in turn, help grow the economy.

“I will make America a great place for entrepreneurs again,” he said.

Michele Reynolds of Purcellville, one of the couple hundred local Romney supporters able to attend the event at Exhibit Edge, said his business experience is primarily what appeals to her.

“He has the qualifications and really understands and can act to make it happen,” Reynolds said.

Other Northern Virginia residents are preparing to head down to Obama’s rally in Richmond.

Carol Lewis of Vienna is among them. She is one of the volunteers supporting the Obama campaign’s 13 offices around the state.

“I don’t feel Mitt Romney has a realistic grasp of everything that has gone on in this country,” Lewis said.

Although she originally was leaning toward supporting Hilary Clinton four years ago, Lewis said she now is an enthusiastic backer of the president, because of his support for women’s issues and his efforts to reform the health care system.

She hopes to swing some of Virginia’s swing voters during the coming months.

“Once you talk one-on-one with the naysayers, get past all the soundbites … and talk rationally, I think we will change their minds,” she said.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com