Virginia seems like a state Republicans almost have to win next year if they want to take back the White House but if the voting was today Barack Obama would take it again by a margin comparable to or greater than what he won in 2008.
Obama leads Mitt Romney by 6 points in the state at 48-42. That's identical to the size of his victory over John McCain in 2008. After that his leads increase to 8 points over Mike Huckabee at 51-43, 12 over Newt Gingrich at 51-39, and a whooping 19 over Sarah Palin at 54-35.
Part of the reason Obama's doing well in Virginia is that he has respectable, if not great, approval numbers there. 48% like the job he's doing to 45% who disapprove. There are two keys to his solid standing. The first is that 87% of Democrats stand with him- that's an indication he's generally holding onto white voters within his party, even ones who might lean a little bit more to the conservative side of the ideological spectrum.
The other key to his standing is that he's coming close to breaking even with independents- 48% disapprove of him to 42% who approve. It may seem counter intuitive that negative numbers with those voters are a good sign for Obama, but after two straight election years where independents in Virginia leaned toward the GOP by a margin of about 30 points a Democratic politician getting just slightly negative reviews from them is progress.
Even more important to Obama's leads in the state than his own approval numbers though is how dimly voters there view all of the leading Republicans considering the Presidential race. Mike Huckabee has the most decent favorability numbers but is still in slightly negative territory at 40/41. It's downhill from there to 33/48 for Romney, 29/56 for Gingrich, and 30/63 for Palin. The problem for these Republicans is not that voters don't know them yet- they all have over 80% name recognition. The problem is that voters do know them- and don't like them. Barack Obama's popularity would have to crater significantly for any of those folks to win in Virginia. Barring that the party needs someone to step up from the back of the bench who has a lot more appeal to swing state voters to take the nomination.
When you see Obama with a +3 approval spread but leads ranging from 6 to 19 points over his Republicans opponents it's a clear sign that his advantage is more about them than it is about him.
A little historical perspective on Huckabee, Gingrich, and Palin's deficits of greater than 7 points- the last time a Democrat won Virginia by a margin greater than that was Franklin D. Roosevelt. If the Republicans don't step it up there's a potential for them to make history in a way they could surely do without.
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