Barack Obama's approval rating in Virginia is up over 50% and he leads all of his potential Republican opponents in the state...even Governor Bob McDonnell who we threw in as a wild card.
51% of voters in the state approve of the job Obama's doing to 44% who disapprove. The biggest key for him is that he has the Democratic base completely behind him- 94% approve to only 4% who disapprove. Virginia still has a lot of white conservative Democrats, particularly in certain parts of the state, so for Obama to have almost unanimous approval within his party is very impressive. He even has more Republicans (albeit a paltry 7%) who approve of him than there are Democrats (4%) who disapprove. That's not something we're seeing in our polling very often right now. Independents narrowly give him good marks, 48/46, as well.
McDonnell is popular too, with 50% of voters who approve of him to 35% who disapprove. PPP has polled on 38 of the sitting Governors in the country right now and that ranks him 14th in approval spread. He has very good numbers with independents at 53/34 and a lot more Democrats (20%) think he's doing a good job than Republicans (8%) think he's doing a bad job.
Despite his popularity there is not a lot of interest from Virginia voters in a McDonnell White House bid next year. Only 20% would like to see him run for President to 59% who think it's a bad idea and 21% who aren't sure. McDonnell trails Obama 51-43 in a hypothetical contest, winning only 2% of the Democratic vote and trailing 49-44 with independents.
McDonnell does better against Obama than the rest of the Republican field. Mike Huckabee trails by 9 points at 52-43, Mitt Romney is down 11 at 51-40, Sarah Palin has a 15 point deficit at 55-40, Newt Gingrich is 17 points behind at 54-37, and Donald Trump does the worst with a 22 point gap at 54-32.
Here's the most important thing people need to know about Obama's good numbers in Virginia: it is not just a bin Laden bounce. This is the third poll we've conducted in Virginia over the last six months. He's had positive numbers in all three of them. He's led all of the Republicans we've tested in all three of them. And the closest any of the Republicans have come to him across the three polls is 5 points. He's up by bigger margins this time and that's probably attributable to bin Laden but Obama doing well in Virginia is not new news. It's one of the few swing states where he's consistently polling similar to his 2008 numbers and it may well prove to be a firewall for him- if he stays strong here he really doesn't need to win the Floridas or Ohios of the world that we generally think of as the quintessential swing states.
Why is Obama holding up so much better in Virginia? It's partially because the state has a significant black population and those voters have remained loyal to him. But the biggest reason is that he hasn't shown the slippage with white voters there that he has throughout most of the rest of the country. Our final Virginia poll in 2008, which hit Obama's margin of victory right on the head, found him winning 42% of the white vote. His approval rating now with white voters? An identical 42%. That's a major contrast to other places where we're often finding his approval number with white voters down 10 points or more from his 2008 vote share.
Beyond the fact that he's holding up well with white voters there's another reason Obama's polling so well in Virginia- voters there are extremely unimpressed with the Republican candidate field. Mike Huckabee is the most 'popular' of the candidates with a 37/41 favorability rating. After him is Mitt Romney at 35/43, Newt Gingrich at 26/54, Sarah Palin at 31/62, and Donald Trump at 22/69.
Even if Obama was unpopular in Virginia he'd still be in a decent position to win the state again because the GOP contenders are so weak there. Take those unpopular Republicans and combine them with a decently popular Obama and you have a very difficult battle for the GOP to get Virginia back. And it's hard to imagine the party winning back the White House without Virginia- because of that fact and because of Obama's relative strength there, this is looking to me like the most important state in the Presidential race next year.
Full results here