Virginia Even More Of A Toss-Up

A week or so ago, President Obama seemed to be pulling ahead in Virginia as he was in other parts of the country. In the wake of last weeks debate, though, the Old Dominion seems to be slipping, at least for now, back into the same territory it was in over the summer when the race between the President and Governor Romney was nearly consistently within a few percentage points of each other. I already noted several polls from Friday that seemed to show this phenomenon, and now a new poll from Public Policy Polling seems to confirm the fact:

PPP’s newest Virginia poll finds Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney 50-47 in the state, down from a 51-46 advantage three weeks ago. This is the closest we’ve found the race in Virginia the entire cycle, but Obama continues to find himself at the critical 50% mark in a state where Romney probably can’t afford to lose.

Romney’s performance in the debate on Wednesday seems to have helped his image with Virginia voters. They think he won the debate by a 61/28 margin, including 71/17 with independents. Compared to our last poll he’s seen a 10 point gain in his net favorability rating from -2 at 47/49 in mid-September to now +8 at 52/44. The problem for Romney is that most of that gain has come with Democrats, from 6/90 to 21/76. But still only 8% of those Democrats are actually voting for Romney. Much of the improvement in Romney’s image is people going from hating Romney and voting for Obama to respecting Romney but still voting for Obama.

The reason the race hasn’t moved much despite the improvement in Romney’s image is that Obama’s held steady over the last three weeks in spite of his poor debate performance. 3 weeks ago 50% of Virginians approved of him and 48% disapproved. Now 50% of Virginians approve of him and 48% disapprove. There’s been no movement whatsoever in perceptions of his job performance. Obama has a 50/47 advantage over Romney in terms of who voters trust more on the economy, and a 51/46 edge on foreign policy.

Obama leads Romney 52-44 with women while keeping things about equal with men, trailing Romney just 49-48. Romney’s up 57-40 with white voters, but would need to win them by a lot more than that to overcome Obama’s 90-8 lead with African Americans and 59-34 advantage with other nonwhite voters. The future is looking bright for Democrats in Virginia with voters under 45 supporting Obama 59-38. The race is only close overall because of a 55-43 advantage for Romney with seniors.

There was a thought at one point that Virgil Goode might have a real impact on the race in Virginia this fall but that’s faded. He polls at just 1% when third party candidates are included in the poll. Gary Johnson gets 4% and Green Party candidate Jill Stein gets less than 1%. When those folks are all named Obama’s lead remains pretty steady at 48-44. Goode’s candidacy seems to be aggravating Republicans. His favorability with them (13/29) is basically identical to where he is with Democrats at this point (12/29).

All of this leaves the race in Virginia back at a virtual dead heat, with a RealClearPolitics average of +0.3 points in favor of the President, and a race that is basically tied.

So again we have evidence that the debate is helping Romney in the swing state polls. How long this lasts remains to be seen.

FILED UNDER: 2012 Election, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics, , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Geek, Esq. says:

    This to me puts Virginia firmly in Obama’s column. Romney scored the biggest win in Presidential debate history and couldn’t get Obama below 50% in the aftermath.

    These past 4-5 days have been as good as it gets for Romney. If he can’t take command of the race now, it’s not going to happen.

    Of course, Obama could combine Al Gore’s body language and Dan Quayle’s intellect at the next debate, but he couldn’t be that bad twice in a row, could he?

  2. PJ says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    All of this leaves the race in Virginia back at a virtual dead heat, with a RealClearPolitics average of +0.3 points in favor of the President, and a race that is basically tied.

    I think the reason for it being tight in the RCP average has more to do with which polls are included in the current average and that the RCP average only is an average of the polls included.

    If RCP had weighted polls due to, for example, house effect, their average wouldn’t shift as much as it does just because polls are either added or removed.

  3. Smooth Jazz says:

    “This to me puts Virginia firmly in Obama’s column. Romney scored the biggest win in Presidential debate history and couldn’t get Obama below 50% in the aftermath.”

    I wouldn’t rely on PPP for confirmation of that. Just like this blog continuosly suggests Rasmussen is right wing pollster with all kinds of “caveats” that cannot be trusted, PPP is a left wing pollster that conducts surveys for and is sponsored by the likes of DailyKOS & SEUI. PPP has a built in 3% Liberal house effect the past couple election cycles – See the latest WIS Gov recall and Supreme Court elections. Strange I never see any “caveats” attributed to PPP, a pollster with a dubious record the past couple cycles insofar as overstating Dem Support.

    I’d wait for confirmation from other polls before relying on PPP. A final key point to note: How far is Obama below 50% in the VA poll of polls. Recent anecdotal evidence suggests Dem enthusiasm, especially among younger voters, is way down from 2008 in the swing states. Obama most likely is not going to get many late deciders, so he most certainly wants to be at 50% or near it when the voting starts.

  4. Geek, Esq. says:

    @Smooth Jazz:

    PPP does have a small house effect and they are liberal, but they’re a legit polling operation. If it was just them and Rasmussen, I’d be inclined to split the difference between the two. Rasmussen’s potential sources of bias are well known, he’s fairly transparent about his methodology, etc so his results can be treated with an appropriate grain of salt.

    RCP’s big weakness is that just they take polls from any number of crap organizations, like WeAskAmerica (run by Republican operatives) or Gravis (ditto). Notice that those two orgs were the ones pushing the Romney ‘bounce’ in the aftermath of the debate. Pollsters who are not above board in their methodology and agenda and who have no track record to speak of should not inform one’s view of the race. Same goes for campaign internal polls–those get disclosed on a cherry-picked basis.

  5. Geek, Esq. says:

    Also, Rasmussen shows Obama pulling ahead of Romney in Colorado and Iowa–he had Romney winning those states three weeks ago. That would indicate the bounce may not be that impactful in battleground states where voters may have already made up their minds and tuned out due to election fatigue.

    Until we see Romney legitimately pulling ahead in all the states he needs to win (and yes that includes Ohio) not sure that he has a path to victory that doesn’t depend on help from President Empty Chair.

  6. grumpy realist says:

    What’s the error bars? I get a sneaky feeling they’re the standard “run-the-length-of-the-page”.