The test of whether the nation's Democrats can turn enthusiasm into tangible victories rested on a pingpong table in the basement of a home in Leesburg, Va., where breakfast sweets vied for space with scores of election packets that dozens of volunteers gathered to deliver to homes of potential voters.
The candidate the volunteers were there to support in a race for the commonwealth's lower legislative chamber was Wendy Gooditis, one of scores of first-timers drawn to the 2017 state races out of frustration over the presidential election and the conservative bent of Virginia's Republican-controlled legislature.
While her campaign is decidedly local, it and others like it around the state carry weight: Virginia represents a nationally watched early test of whether Democrats can halt a series of ignoble defeats and craft a template for the 2018 congressional and gubernatorial elections.
The gathering on Saturday morning testified to the attention Tuesday's election has attracted: The volunteers came not only from Virginia but from New Hampshire, Ohio, Maryland, Texas and Tennessee. The state's attorney general, Mark Herring, and Dorothy McAuliffe, wife of the governor, rallied volunteers. As they scurried out a few minutes later with packets in hand, Gooditis, a former teacher and real estate agent, expressed confidence that victory would be found among the 70,000 doors on which her troops already had knocked...