In 2008 Barack Obama put North Carolina and Virginia in the Democratic column for the first time in decades. PPP's newest poll in those two states finds him running very close to his performance four years ago. In Virginia he leads Mitt Romney by 8 points, 50-42, and in North Carolina he has a single point advantage at 47-46.
Our polling in both of these states has been pretty steady over the last year and a half. Obama has consistently fared very well in Virginia, leading by 6 points, 8 points, and now 8 points again on our last three polls. This is looking like it could be something of a firewall state for him. We have now polled North Carolina 22 times since late November of 2010. 21 out of those 22 times Obama and Romney have been within 3 points of each other. The state's about as much of a toss up as it could possibly be.
Voters in both North Carolina and Virginia are pretty evenly divided on the Supreme Court's recent health care ruling. In Virginia 45% of voters say they agree with the ruling while 44% are opposed. In North Carolina the numbers are nearly identical with an equal 44% both supportive of and opposed to the ruling. For Obama the health care issue as a wash in these swing states is good news given how unpopularly it polled throughout 2009 and 2010.
Feelings about Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts are mixed in both states as well. His favorability rating in Virginia is 34/34 and in North Carolina it's 35/32. Roberts is liked by Democrats in both states (43/18 in Virginia and 46/18 in North Carolina) and disliked by Republicans (23/52 in Virginia and 21/44 in North Carolina).
Although it hasn't received as much attention Obama's recent policy announcement on immigration might cause more trouble for him in these states. Voters oppose it 43/39 in Virginia and 46/40 in North Carolina.
There are several prominent Republican politicians in these states who seem like plausible Romney running mates, but none of them would have much of an impact on the home front. If Bob McDonnell was Romney's choice the race would simply shift from a 50-42 Obama advantage to a 50-43 one in Virginia. If Richard Burr was on the ticket Obama's 47-46 edge in North Carolina would remain completely unchanged.
The one person we looked at who would make a big difference is Eric Cantor in Virginia. 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.
-If Virgil Goode gets on the ballot in Virginia it could spell trouble for Romney. He pulls 9% of the vote, getting most of his support from Republicans and conservative leaning independents. With him in the picture Obama's lead pushes out to 14 points at 49-35. It's highly unlikely Goode would get 9% in the end but he certainly could make a difference if Virginia ended up being more like a 1-2 pt race. Goode staying off the ballot may be vital to Romney's prospects there.
-The Bain attacks appear to be working for Obama in North Carolina. 29% of voters say that Romney's work at Bain makes them feel more positive toward him, while 40% say it makes them feel more negative.
-Our North Carolina poll last month found Obama leading Romney only 76-20 with African Americans, a level of support that we said at the time was unrealistically low for Obama. This month his advantage is back up to 85-12. Chances are he'll even still do better than that but Romney's 20% black support last month definitely looks like it was more statistical anomaly than concerning trend for the President.
Full results here