Unlike in the Washington Post-ABC News national tracking poll, Obama still has an edge when Virginia voters are asked who better understands people’s financial problems, and he has not fallen behind a surging Romney on the question of who would better handle the national economy. Nor has Obama lost significant ground among self-identified independents in Virginia, as he has nationally.
The results underscore the importance of swing states like Virginia, with its 13 electoral votes, as both campaigns seek to secure a path to the 270 electoral votes needed for victory.
Perhaps the poll’s most striking insight concerns the many voters the two campaigns have contacted in Virginia this fall. A staggering 44 percent of likely voters polled said they had been contacted by the Obama campaign; 41 percent said the same of Romney’s. More than one in four had heard from both campaigns.
Both campaigns have increased efforts to reach voters since last month, although fewer voters said they had been contacted by Obama’s team this time than four years ago. Romney’s organization, meanwhile, is outperforming Sen. John McCain’s in 2008.
In addition, as if to confirm both sides’ emphasis on early voting, 4 percent of likely voters polled said they had already voted by absentee ballot. An additional 41 percent said they were likely to do so, which would be a sharp jump from four years ago.
The numbers reflect the intensity of the two campaigns in Virginia. Obama has attended 19 political events in the state this year, including a rally in Richmond last week and another scheduled for Monday in Prince William County. Romney has attended 20 political events in the state since winning the Republican nomination, and he would have attended a 21st on Sunday had it not been canceled in advance of Hurricane Sandy.
Virginia, like Ohio and Florida, is particularly critical for Romney, whose path to the White House would be difficult without the state’s electoral votes.
Both candidates see a route to victory in Virginia. Obama is counting heavily on his advantages among African American, Latino and female voters as well as on his support in Washington’s inner suburbs and the urban centers of Richmond and Hampton Roads.
Romney, meanwhile, hopes to gin up big turnouts in such Republican-leaning places as Chesterfield, near Richmond, and Virginia Beach, as well as in conservative, coal-friendly strongholds in southwest Virginia. The new polling numbers suggest that Romney might be succeeding. In the new poll, he leads overwhelmingly (60 percent to 39 percent) in the central and western regions of the state, much improved from a seven-point advantage in mid-September.