Barack Obama was the first Democratic Presidential candidate to win Virginia in a generation in 2008 and a new PPP survey finds that with the most mentioned possible 2012 GOP hopefuls viewed dimly in the state he'd probably do it again if he had to stand for election today.
Obama leads Mitt Romney (48-43) and Mike Huckabee (49-44) each by 5 points in hypothetical contests, a margin similar to his victory over John McCain in the state. If the Republican nominee was either Newt Gingrich or Sarah Palin Obama's lead widens to 11 points, by spreads of 52-41 and 51-40 respectively.
Obama has pretty good approval numbers in the state with 50% of voters giving him good marks to 45% who disapprove. His numbers certainly compare well to the favorability numbers of the top GOP contenders. Only Huckabee, at 40/40, can even break even on that front. The rest of the crowd has pretty negative numbers with Mitt Romney at -13 (33/46), Newt Gingrich at -21 (32/53), and Sarah Palin at -23 (35/58).
These strong numbers for Obama may seem surprising after 2 good Republican years in Virginia but they're a reminder that a huge part of that GOP success was Democratic voters staying home. The 2009 Virginia exit poll showed those who voted had supported John McCain by 8 points in 2008, a huge contrast to Obama's actual 6 point victory in the state. That 14 point enthusiasm gap is twice what was seen at the national level in this year's election where there was only a 7 point gap between who showed up this year and the popular vote in 2008. So Democratic performance in Virginia, more so than most places, has a lot of room to improve in 2012 just by people showing back up.
Going inside the numbers Obama pretty much breaks even with independents against Romney and Huckabee and then leads Gingrich by 8 points and Palin by 17 with them. He also benefits from getting more than 90% of the Democratic vote against all 4 of the Republicans, while they each get just 79-85% of the GOP vote.
It's obviously way early but these numbers make it clear Republicans in Virginia can't put up just anyone and expect to start winning the state again at the Presidential level.
Full results here