The race in Virginia's 5th Congressional District looks like a tossup for now but an entry by Virgil Goode could shake up the race significantly.
Democratic incumbent Tom Perriello is tied with Republican front runner Robert Hurt at 44% each. Voters are pretty divided on Perriello's performance so far with 42% expressing approval of him to 46% who disapprove. Hurt is pretty much a blank slate to voters in the district with 70% having no opinion of him.
That makes Hurt the 'name' Republican compared to the others running though. 75% are ambivalent toward Ken Boyd, 82% are toward Jim McKelvey and Laurence Verga, and 83% have no opinion about Michael McPadden. Perriello leads the lesser known Republicans by margins ranging from 4 to 10 points.
The race's complexion could be changed in an instant if Virgil Goode decides to try to reclaim his old seat. Despite his defeat in 2008 58% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to only 29% who see him negatively, making him by far the most popular politician in the district. Goode has hinted he may run as an independent if the eventual Republican nominee is not sufficiently conservative. Goode and Perriello tie at 41% with Robert Hurt getting only 12% in such a scenario.
Last summer Goode said he wouldn't run as a Republican but if he changes his mind the nomination is probably his for the taking. 84% of GOP voters have a favorable opinion of him- among the candidates actually running none is higher than 20%.
If Goode stays out the prospect of a more conservative 'Tea Party' style candidate running as an alternative in the general election to the moderate Hurt could be a boon to Perriello's reelection prospects. Under that scenario Perriello gets 44% to 27% for Hurt and 19% for the generic 'Tea Party' candidate.
Perriello's in a decent position given the district's overall attitude toward national Democrats- 57% disapprove of the Democrats in Congress, 52% are against the Democratic health care bill, and 50% disapprove of Barack Obama. Notably, while 50% of voters in the district think Congressional Democrats are too liberal only 42% say the same of Perriello, indicating that he has been able to disassociate himself at least a little from the overall negative perceptions of his party.
Perriello will have a tough time getting reelected but he's in a better position than many of his colleagues. What Goode decides to do could end up being the decisive factor in this race.
Full results here