Obama's Firewall in Virginia

Public Policy Polling (PPP) did an update on the state of the race in Virginia and North Carolina, and found that President Obama is in a fairly good position. In Virginia, he takes 50 percent support to Mitt Romney’s 42 percent, while in North Carolina, he takes 47 percent support to Romney’s 46 percent.

What's important about both polls is that they are part of a trend. In the last three Virginia polls conducted by PPP, Obama has led by an average of 7.33 points, while North Carolina has been a consistent toss-up for the last two years. PPP suggests that Virginia might be a firewall for Obama, and I think that’s right; like Colorado, Virginia is a state determined by demographics. One set of voters—nonwhites, women, college-educated whites—are strong supporters of the president, while another set of voters—middle-aged and older whites—are strong supporters of Romney. In both Virginia and Colorado, the former is larger than the latter, giving Obama the advantage. By contrast, in North Carolina, the two groups are basically even, resulting in a state that will be determined by turnout.

In addition to standard presidential polling, PPP also asked about potential running mates. In Virginia, Governor Bob McDonnell has a negligible effect on Romney’s support. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, on the other hand, would sink Romney if placed on the ballot with the former Massachusetts governor:

Cantor has a 22/41 favorability rating and on the off chance Romney selected him Obama’s advantage would become 12 points at 50/38. That’s a pretty strong sign of how weak the House Republican brand is right now.

In addition to the sluggish economy, Romney benefits from a weak association with congressional Republicans. Voters seem to distinguish the Republican nominee from his counterparts in the House and Senate. The Obama campaign has been off and on with attempts to tie Romney to the congressional GOP, but this result suggests that they might want to put more work into it. Congressional Republicans are one of the most unpopular groups in American government, and Romney has a lot to lose from open association with their agenda.

As it stands, he’s approaching the point where he’s unable to make the distinction; not only is there pressure from the right to take a stand on their favored issues, but with Obama’s push to end the upper-income Bush tax cuts, he’ll be forced to side with congressional Republicans in opposition. It’s a lose-lose scenario that will only harm his standing with the public.