Could Virgil Goode Win Virginia for Barack Obama?

"Romney says, 'I love immigration,'" Goode said. "And you have Obama -- he's for more immigration, not less -- and I would seal the borders and end the anchor-baby situation. In Congress, I was always a co-sponsor of the bill that ended automatic birthright citizenship."

Goode's candidacy could have significant consequences, threatening to sink Mitt Romney in Virginia, if the election is close enough there. And in a tight national race, Virginia figures to have enough electoral votes to swing things nationally.

Romney will need every bit of momentum he can get in Virginia. The last major pollster to survey Virginia, CBS/New York Times/Quinnipiac, found Obama ahead by 4 percentage points in early August. That poll did not include Goode.

Given his 12-year career represening southern/central Virginia in the House, and his 24 years in the Virginia state Senate before that, Goode would appear to have a conservative base on his home turf.

Even with just a few thousand votes, under the right circumstances Goode's Constitution Party candidacy could become the first third-party bid to weigh on a national scale since 2000, when Green Party candidate Ralph Nader collected 97,488 votes in Florida -- the state that handed George W. Bush the presidency by only 37 votes.

Virginia's 13 Electoral College votes aren't nothing: if Obama wins Virginia and a larger swing state like Ohio or Florida, Romney will need to win virtually every other swing state in play.

Goode's natural base might be especially swayable. Like other Southern states, Virginia has its share of conservatives, and evangelicals make up 31 percent of its population, according to the Pew Research Center. At times, Romney failed to win over both groups during his race for the nomination.

Goode's territory spans a few areas where Romney struggled in his primary against Ron Paul, the only other GOP candidate on the ballot after Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum, and others failed to meet the state's unusually difficult barriers. Ron Paul won seven counties in central and southwestern Virginia on March 6.

Goode said he doesn't know how many votes he can get in Virginia; he speaks optimistically, citing other states where independents outnumber registered Republicans and Democrats.

Lanky and bent, Goode travels in khakis and a blazer, with a University of Virginia tie (his law school alma matter), and he issues loose-border exhortations with a wry flicker of recognition and purpose.

He has held no fundraisers: "Fundraisers take a tremendous amount of time, a lot of work -- now I'm not saying we won't do any at all, we may do one or two fundraisers," he said. His campaign runs with four paid staffers, plus volunteers.

As a little-known candidate from a non-major party, he has almost no chance of becoming president. So what's the point?

"I hope before Election Day, American citizens will wake up and say, 'Look, we are fed up with the Democrat Obama and the Republican Romney and the super PACS that are controlling this election," Goode said.

A three-time party switcher, Goode is among a small handful to serve in the House as an independent in the last decade. As former conservative, Southern Democrat, he is a vestige of an almost extinct breed.

Goode questions Obama's birth certificate, but the matter doesn't seem pressing to him: "I want to see the original birth certificate, and then I could give you my judgment," he said.

He says he has no opinion on whether Obama is a Christian or a Muslim.

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