Can Mitt Romney pull Virginia back into the GOP column in November? It’s a tall order. Barack Obama won the state in 2008 by six points, and his $800 billion stimulus bill largely benefited the northern end of the state, where federal government work accounts for a significant portion of jobs in the state. Democrats have had a track record of success in the state, although the 2009 elections turned into a disaster for them. If Romney can carry Virginia, it puts him in position to retake Ohio and challenge in Pennsylvania as well.
One pollster shows him with a five-point lead at the moment (via News Alert). We Ask America shows Romney up over Obama 48/43 in a survey of 1106 likely voters — which would be a remarkable lead against a sitting incumbent at this stage of the race. The same pollster shows Obama edging Romney in Colorado by about four, 47/43, in another state Obama won in 2008.
However, there are a couple of caveats. We Ask America’s final poll in the Wisconsin recall race accurately predicted that Scott Walker would win it, but overshot the gap, predicting a 12-point victory (their previous poll a week earlier hit it almost exactly at seven points, though). Furthermore, WAA also polled the Senate race and found newly-nominated Republican candidate George Allen nine points ahead of Democratic candidate Tim Kaine, who only got 35% of the respondents in the survey. That seems very low for a well-known Democrat like Kaine (both men served one term as governor), far below what Kaine has received in every other poll for the race over the last two months, according to Real Clear Politics. In fact, this is the only poll listed that shows Allen with any kind of lead, although most of them have the race within the margins of error. Similarly, the list of presidential-election polls of Virginia at RCP show Obama leading or tied, although the most recent is more than three weeks old.
Right now, this looks like an outlier. If subsequent polling shows Romney ahead and Allen going up over Kaine, then perhaps this will be considered the bellwether, but for the moment it’s not much more than speculative.
Update: Romney’s not going to take anything in Virginia for granted, CBS reports:
“We’re going to make sure that we not only match them, but exceed them, door knock for door knock, phone call for phone call,” says Pete Snyder, who is chairing the RNC’s Victory campaign in Virginia. One Romney staffer sounds identical to an Obama staffer in every other state: “It will be tight because they’re spending a lot of money here – but we feel confident because of the ground game.” …
The Romney campaign’s primary effort was “adult and systematic,” says Snyder. “The other campaigns were sort of flying by the seat of their pants and just couldn’t get it done.” (Romney himself joked about his opponents inability to reach the 10,000 mark – comparing Newt Gingrich’s bemoaning the issue to an episode of “I Love Lucy” at a chocolate factory. “I mean, you gotta get it organized,” Romney quipped.)
Now that they’re past the primary. Romney’s campaign is working hard to only keep that momentum building. They have melded with the Virginia GOP and are fully taking advantage of a ground game infrastructure that was somewhat ripe for the picking in Virginia. When running for governor in 2009, Bob McDonnell set up nine offices across the state in order to get out the vote, and since Virginia has elections every year on different statewide offices, Republican volunteers and staffers have inhabited them ever since. Like the Obama campaign, they take social media seriously, tailoring Facebook and Twitter outreach to different communities, and hawkishly monitor when items are shared or retweeted. Also similarly to their Democratic counterparts, they have “neighborhood captains” — people who lead volunteer troops in certain areas.
Romney and Ron Paul were the only two Republicans to organize effectively in Virginia in the GOP primary. That will make a difference in November, but it will still be a tough fight.
Update II: I received a friendly note from Gregg Durham, COO of We Ask America, asking me to present their case for accuracy in their polling, which I’m happy to do:
- The American Research Group (americanresearchgroup.com) tracked us as the most accurate pollster in the nation for the GOP presidential primaries. It’s easy to find on their website.
- We were the only pollster in the nation to get the Nebraska Senate race right…and we were less than a .5% off the final spread (again, the American Research Group verifies that accomplishment).
- We were one of the few pollsters who accurately predicted the win by Mark Critz (D) over Tim Burns (R) in Pennsylvania’s 12th District after John Murtha died.
- We predicted the final total for Rahm Emanuel in the Chicago Mayoral Primary within .4%.There are numerous other polls from our public site that we can use to make our case. Note that we’re very public about our miscues; check out our post on Tennessee. We blew that one by a mile…yet still earned the top spot in the American Research Group’s rankings. Unlike some pollsters whose mistakes magically disappear, we hang ours out for public consumption.
While we own up to having too big a spread in Wisconsin, our post on it warned loud and clear that we believed it would be closer due to unions’ ability to get out the vote (http://weaskamerica.com/2012/06/04/who-survives/).
Fair points all. We’ll continue to look at WAA survey results throughout the election, of course.