A new poll by The Washington Post/ABC News shows Barack Obama taking a slight lead in the battleground state of Virginia over John McCain 49%-46%. The Democrat’s lead has been powered both voters’ economic concerns, and their belief that Obama is better suited to handle the economy.
The economy is by far the dominant issue on the minds of Virginia voters. Fifty two percent of those surveyed listed the economy as their top issue. The next most important issues were Iraq (9%), healthcare (6%), and terrorism (6%). Obama has a ten point lead over McCain on the economy, 52%-42%. Obama has a 10 point advantage on trust to deal with the financial institutions, 49%-39%. The two candidates are tied on international affairs at 48%. They are also virtually tied on Iraq, 47%-46%. McCain leads on terrorism, and the ability to handle a major crisis (52%-42%).
We have heard much talk about the Palin Effect with white women, but this isn’t happening in Virginia. Primarily due to economic concerns, McCain only enjoys a 5 point lead over Obama with white women. Overall, Obama leads 57%-39% with women. Obama leads with moderates, 54%-41%, and the two candidates split the Independent vote 47%-46% for McCain.
McCain’s strengths are with men (55%-40%), white voters (57%-37), and veterans (57%-38%). McCain is underperforming with white voters compared to George W. Bush in 2004. Bush drew 68% white support in 2004 compared with McCain’s current 57%, while is outperforming John Kerry with African America voters. Kerry drew 87% of African American support in 2004, compared to an astounding 96% for Obama this year. These factors along with a voter identification shift that has Democrats out numbering Republicans 33%-28%, spell trouble for McCain.
This presidential election is looking a lot like the Senate election between George Allen and Jim Webb in the state in 2006. I think that if the young and African American voters show up big for Obama, this may not be a state that is in much doubt on Election Night. Demographically this is a state that is still split, but the deeper trends in this poll are not good for McCain. I think that it will be close, but Virginia is certainly a state that is trending towards Obama.