Obama Builds Lead Over GOP Rivals in Virginia

Obama Builds Lead Over GOP Rivals in Virginia

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - March 20, 2012

President Obama has increased his lead over his Republican rivals in Virginia, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday.

Obama leads Mitt Romney, 50 percent to 42 percent. The margin is closer, though, among independents: 46 percent back the president while 43 percent support Romney. Obama edges Romney among men, 48 percent to 45 percent, but takes a commanding lead among women, a key voting bloc, 52 percent to 39 percent. The president attracts 6 percent of Republicans while Romney takes only 2 percent of Democrats.

In a Quinnipiac poll released last month, Obama led Romney in a hypothetical matchup by just four points, receiving 47 percent of the support. Romney won the state's GOP primary earlier this month with almost 60 percent of the vote. (Only he and Ron Paul appeared on the ballot there.)

Romney is backed by Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a rising GOP star who is considered a possible vice presidential pick. But even having the governor on the ballot doesn't appear to help Republicans in Virginia. A Romney/McDonnell ticket trails the Democratic ticket, 50 percent to 43 percent. The Obama/Joe Biden ballot edges the Republicans among independents, 45 percent to 43 percent.

Obama leads former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum by nine points and Texas Rep. Ron Paul by 10 points. Notably, Obama doesn't break the 50 percent threshold when paired against these two candidates. Obama leads Santorum among independents by six points and edges Paul among this bloc by five points. Obama leads former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, 54 percent to 35 percent. The president takes independents by 19 points.

Obama's approval rating has improved slightly: 49 percent approve of the job he is doing as president while 47 percent disapprove of his performance. By the same margin, voters say he deserves a second term in the White House. Last month, the president's job approval numbers were underwater, with 49 percent of voters disapproving of his performance.

Romney and Santorum receive negative favorability ratings in Virginia: Only 36 percent find Romney favorable while 43 percent view him unfavorably, and 33 percent like Santorum while 39 percent have a negative opinion of him. (The poll didn't test Paul and Gingrich.)

In this battleground state, the top of the ticket will have a significant impact on down-ballot races. Virginia's U.S. Senate race is among the most competitive in the country, featuring two former governors. Democrat Tim Kaine edges Republican George Allen, 47 percent to 44 percent, within the poll's margin of error. Allen edges Kaine among independents, who analysts say will make the difference in this race, 45 percent to 43 percent. The two have been neck-and-neck in the polls, and the contest is expected to remain close through the rest of the campaign. Both candidates attract positive favorability ratings.

Kaine leads Allen among women -- a vital constituency in this state -- 49 percent to 40 percent, while Allen takes the edge among men, 48 percent to 46 percent. Democrats hope to capitalize on recent controversial state legislation surrounding women's health care and the national contraception mandate to appeal to women voters.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,034 registered voters in Virginia from March 13-18. The margin of error is plus or minus 3.1 percentage points. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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