Anyone familiar with Terry McAuliffe knows he can tell a good story.
The one he told Thursday in Arlington at George Mason's campus as he was wrapping up a five-day tour of the state, was about this past November.
It was Election Day. McAuliffe, at the request of the campaigns of Barack Obama and Tim Kaine, was asked to head to a polling station in Henrico County, where voters were still waiting in a long line as darkness fell.
He said he went there and handed out coffee, hot chocolate and hand warmers. And everyone got to vote.
And then he asked everyone in the room to mobilize for this year's election.
[McAuliffe: Reform Virginia's Standards of Learning Tests]
Turnout, often, is key. But now more than ever that isn't lost on Northern Virginia Democrats.
"Part of the strategy is to maximize the turnout in Northern Virginia," state Del. David Bulova, D-Fairfax City, told Patch. "Just a small bump can make a true difference."
He added: "(McAuliffe) is not giving up on any part of Virginia."
McAuliffe can't afford to.
Democrats were high on Obama's victory in 2008 to the point that Republicans came along the very next year and took the Governor's Office with Bob McDonnell.
Obama won Virginia again in 2012, and the same off-year turnaround could very well play out. One analysis by ABC News illustrates the point well: About half as many people vote in Virginia's gubernatorial elections as they do in presidential contests, and the off-year electorate is older, whiter, more rural and more evangelical — all likely to favor conservative Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
Democrats are fighting hard to play up conservative efforts in the Legislature in recent years on social issues as archaic. U.S. Sen. Mark Warner, a former governor himself, said Thursday that while social issues are important, they shouldn't dominate the this year's discussion.
Winning the election "is not going to be easy," Warner said. "It should be, but it's not going to be. 2013 is not necessarily going to be 2012."
Warner talked about his legacy and that of Tim Kaine, now a colleague in the U.S. Senate, and dovetailed into talk of bipartisanship — .
"We realized, at the end of the day, after the election it was time to be Virginians first," Warner said.
And McAuliffe's success, in part, will be shaped by how fast and how strong the business community jumps behind him, state Del. Rob Krupicka, D-Alexandria, told Patch.
The business community wanted a transportation overhaul, for instance, and that required extra revenue, Krupicka said. The business community wants education reform, and that will require investing more, too, he said.
"Virginia is already a low-tax state," Krupicka told Patch. "So the idea that we need to be a lower-tax state is kind of missing the point."
But at the end of the day, turnout is still key.
"The biggest challenge is to let people know how important this election is," Del. Bob Brink, D-Arlington, told Patch. "All those people who came out last year, we have to make sure they come out this year. Because there's a lot at stake."