PPP has polled Virginia four times in 2011 and has come to the same conclusion every time: Barack Obama just hasn't slipped there to the extent he has nationally. That's a finding with major, major implications for his reelection prospects because if he wins Virginia he's probably going to win the Electoral College...and our polling in the state over the course of the year has certainly suggested he's in a good position to do it.
Right now we find Obama on positive ground in the state with 48% of voters approving of him to 47% who disapprove. He won Virginia by 6 points against John McCain so his net approval of +1 basically suggests a 5 point decline for him from his 2008 standing. To put that in context he won the national popular vote by 7 points and our national poll this week put his approval at a -10 spread (42/52), for a 17 point decline nationally. His numbers are holding up much better in Virginia than most anywhere else.
What sets Obama's numbers apart in Virginia is that it's a rare place where Democrats (89%) are more unified in their approval of him than Republicans (87%) are in their disapproval. A lot of Obama's trouble nationally is being caused by Democrats abandoning ship but in Virginia he has a very strong base behind him.
Obama leads both Mitt Romney (48-42) and Newt Gingrich (50-43) by margins comparable to his 6 point victory over John McCain in 2008. He leads both of them with independents- Romney by 4 and Gingrich by 8. And between the two match ups he's picking up as many Republicans as he's losing Democrats, again something we just aren't seeing in very many places.
What should be particularly heartening for Obama is that this is hardly an isolated finding in our Virginia polling this year. Over the course of 4 polls where we tested a match up with Romney Obama has led by an average of 7 points. And over the course of 3 polls where Gingrich was included Obama has led by an average of 12 points, although it is worth noting that he's doing better now as he's surged ahead in the Republican race.
Part of Obama's unusual strength in Virginia is that his popularity hasn't fallen that far, but even more important probably is that voters are reacting to the Republican candidate field in an extremely negative fashion. Romney (33/52) and Gingrich (31/55) are both seen negatively by a majority of voters in the state. Knocking off Obama in Virginia is going to be a challenge for the GOP without a more compelling candidate.
One other important point in Virginia is that the demographic groups that helped fuel his victory there in 2008 are still with him in a major way. He's up 87-10 against Romney and 89-10 against Gingrich with African Americans. Black voters are likely to be about 20% of the electorate again and that's something he can fall back on in Virginia that he doesn't have in states like Pennsylvania or Nevada or New Hampshire where he's seen a much bigger decline from his standing last time. And he's up 55-33 on Romney and 57-35 on Gingrich with young voters, indicating that he can expect to rack up a huge margin with them again in Virginia as well.
On the off chance the Republican nominee is someone other than Romney or Gingrich, Obama leads Ron Paul 48-40, Rick Perry 51-41, and Michele Bachmann 52-39. Paul is actually the strongest of all the Republican candidates with independents, fighting Obama to a tie with them as the rest of the contenders trail.
We've said it before but Virginia really looks to be Obama's firewall state as he prepares to run for reelection. Things are looking pretty good for him and if that holds up for another 11 months a victory for him there will make the GOP's path to 270 very, very difficult.
Full results here