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Obama sets his sights on Virginia

Barack Obama reveled Thursday in his newfound status as the likely Democratic nominee and signaled that Republicans face a fierce fight over Virginia this fall, a state long-held by the GOP.

“I'm proud of America for giving me this opportunity, but we've still got work to do,” the Illinois senator told a crowd in this southeastern city of about 20,000 on the Tennessee line.

Obama was holding two events in the Southern state where Democrats sense opportunity this year.

The party has been making inroads in the northern part of the state, which is more liberal than the southern part.

The last time Democrats won Virginia in a presidential election was 1964. President Bush comfortably won the state twice, but he lost the northern part to Democrat John Kerry four years ago. Voters there were critical in helping Democrats retain the governor's mansion in 2005 and seize a GOP-held Senate seat in 2006.

Three Virginia Democrats who have been mentioned as possible vice presidential candidates – Gov. Tim Kaine, Sen. Jim Webb and former Gov. Mark Warner – campaigned with Obama Thursday.

Also Thursday, Obama kept Howard Dean at the helm of the Democratic National Committee, while bringing in one of his top strategists to oversee the party's operations.

The campaign also announced that the DNC will no longer accept donations from lobbyists and political action committees, to comply with Obama's campaign policy. Obama often says banning the donations is one way to help keep him free of the influence of Washington insiders.

Obama's ban on lobbyists' money is not ironclad. He does accept money from lobbyists who do not do business with the federal government and he also accepts money from spouses and family members of lobbyists. He has had unpaid advisers with federal lobbying clients, and some campaign officials also previously had lobbying jobs.

The new fundraising policy is not expected to hurt the party's fundraising ability because lobbyists and PACs do not constitute a major source of money.