The Democratic president has a key advantage in his bid for reelection: The coalition of Virginians that helped propel him to victory in 2008 — young voters, suburban Washingtonians, women and African Americans — is largely intact. Yet the survey shows that voters in the state are split on Obama’s signature health-care reform law and that they remain deeply pessimistic about the way things are going in the country, creating a potential opening for Romney.
Virginia’s changing electorate and Obama’s 2008 win suggested that the Old Dominion is becoming a reliably swing state. But Republicans have spent the intervening years mounting a rebuttal, winning the governor’s mansion in 2009, three more congressional seats in 2010 and control of the state Senate in 2011. The commonwealth is expected to be a battleground state in November’s presidential election.
Christianne Rutan, a Prince William County Democrat who is African American and voted for Obama four years ago, said the president will receive her support again.
“No question, I would stick with Obama,” said Rutan, 22, a mother of two who is a therapeutic recreational assistant at a nursing home. “I think he’s doing an amazing job. He doesn’t get the credit that he deserves.”
By a whopping 97 percent to 1 percent, Obama thumps Romney among black voters, and he has a wide lead among women: 56 percent to 38 percent. Obama’s up by better than a 2-to-1 ratio among those ages 18 to 29, but he faces a challenge among that group in the coming months. Many of them — 34 percent in this poll — are not registered to vote at their current addresses.
Obama was the first Democrat to capture Virginia in four decades, and this week’s schedule indicates his desire to repeat that performance. He will be in Arlington on Friday to hold a roundtable and deliver remarks on student-loan debt. He will return a day later in the guise of a candidate, holding a rally in Richmond meant to mark the official start of his reelection campaign.
Meanwhile, Romney held an event on small business in Chantilly on Wednesday, took in more than $2 million at a Pentagon City fundraiser Wednesday night and made another jobs-focused stop in Portsmouth on Thursday, part of his broader argument that Obama’s policies have stifled the economy. The candidate also plans to deliver the commencement address at Liberty University in Lynchburg on May 12.
The state has been a magnet for outside ad spending, both in the presidential contest and in the marquee U.S. Senate race that is likely to feature former governors Timothy M. Kaine (D) and George Allen (R). Many of the attacks on Obama and Kaine have focused on the president’s health-care law. Yet that issue is a wash in the new poll, with supporters and opponents tied at 47 percent among registered voters — making the legislation slightly more popular than it was a year ago.