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Obama to officially “ramp up” reelection campaign with rallies in Virginia, Ohio

The presidential campaign is heating up, starting in Virginia.

President Barack Obama’s campaign Wednesday night announced two campaign rallies next weekend in Virginia and Ohio. They’re the start of a “ramping up” of campaign activities from the president.

Campaign advisors announced the rallies and the new shift in the campaign in a conference call with reporters Wednesday night.

Both events are Saturday, May 5; the Virginia one will be in the afternoon, at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Siegel Center in Richmond. First Lady Michelle Obama is to accompany the president.

There, Obama will “outline the choice the American people will make in November,” said campaign manager Jim Messina.

That choice will be between Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, who won several more nominating primaries on Tuesday night and is the all-but-official nominee.

Messina and campaign senior strategist David Axelrod said the Obama campaign’s message is one of rebuilding the economy and helping the middle class, providing “fairness and opportunity,” a “fair shot” and the same rules for all.

Romney, they said, would take it backward. The strategists said Romney has had months in which to criticize the president, and they said Obama will fire back.

“The monologue is over,” Messina said. “Now Romney has to put his record and agenda up against the president’s.”

The strategists said that the two rallies are not the start of a flurry of campaign activity. They noted that Obama still has “a day job” and they’ll be layering campaign events into his work as president.

“This will be a ramp up, not a zero-to-60,” Messina said.

Virginia and Ohio were chosen because they are key in all of the Obama campaign’s plotted paths to a winning number of electoral votes.

“Clearly Virginia and Ohio are critical states in this campaign,” Messina said.

In the 2008 race, Obama visited Virginia frequently, holding a number of campaign events and rallies in the state. Then-governor Tim Kaine had been an early supporter, and Obama became the first Democrat to win the state in a presidential race in 40 years.

Now, four years later, Virginia is a state where the governor is not only an opponent — he’s considered a possible candidate for Republican vice-president this year.

In fact, the Romney campaign issued a statement from Gov. Bob McDonnell about Obama’s visit. In it, McDonnell praised Romney and said Obama’s policies “have taken our country in the wrong direction, and Virginia and the rest of the nation can’t afford four more years of the same.”

Republicans quickly scoffed at the idea that this is Obama’s election kickoff; a Republican National Committee release said he’s “been campaigning on the taxpayer dime for months.” The RNC also filed a complaint with the General Accounting Office to that effect.