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Battleground Virginia: Is Mitt Romney's debate showing a game-changer? (+video)

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan fired up a rally of the faithful Thursday in Virginia, where polls for Romney and GOP Senate nominee George Allen have been dragging. But Mr. Romney's unexpected star turn in Wednesday's debate could change that, if undecided voters get on board, too. 

By Staff writer / October 5, 2012

Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney (l.) and vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan wave to the crowd at a campaign rally in Fishersville, Va., on Thursday.

Brian Snyder/Reuters

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Fishersville and Mt. Jackson, Va.

Mitt Romney’s debate performance in Denver fired up the party faithful in central Virginia on Thursday, his first public campaign stop after dueling with President Obama in Colorado on Wednesday night.

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While political analysts say Mr. Romney’s debate showing could help him gain ground in the Old Dominion, several uncommitted voters the Monitor spoke with Thursday remained up in the air.

But Romney partisans, there can be no doubt, were fired up in this part of a key battleground state in the presidential race.

“Did you hear about the debate last night?” said Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R) of Virginia, an invocation that brought resounding applause at a Fishersville, Va., rally that was part county fair, part political rally, and part country music concert due to an appearance by singer Trace Adkins.

The Romney campaign said more than 5,700 people attended the event, according to published reports. The rally featured miles of snarled traffic beforehand and scores of attendees taking in the event from outside its chain-link perimeter.

With polls showing both Romney and GOP Senate candidate George Allen flagging in recent weeks, several conservatives in the Shenandoah Valley said they were increasingly nervous about the Republican Party’s chances on Election Day going into Wednesday night.

Come Thursday, things were different.

“I’m energized by last night,” said Harvey Almarode, a retired teacher from nearby Stuarts Draft, Va., who said he was previously “skeptical about how the campaign was going.”

Romney’s combination of aggressively battling Mr. Obama while maintaining a “gentlemanly manner” was “awesome. It really exceeded all my expectations,” he said.

On a night when Romney and running mate Paul Ryan, who was also in attendance, received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association, the former governor of Massachusetts used points from the debate to try to drive home long-standing criticisms of Obama.

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