President Obama’s standing with voters in Virginia has bounced back in the past month and a half, with a new poll putting him ahead of all potential GOP rivals for the first time in this election.
In hypothetical general election matchups, Obama bests Mitt Romney 47-43, Newt Gingrich 51-37, Rick Santorum 49-41 and Ron Paul 47-40, according to Quinnipiac University, which conducted the statewide poll Feb. 1-6.
The findings mark the first time in Virginia that Obama has moved ahead of Romney, who edged the president 44-42 in a December Quinnipiac poll. They also offer an encouraging sign for Obama’s re-election campaign.
Obama carried Virginia with 52.6 percent of the vote in 2008, turning the state blue for the first time since 1964, but enthusiasm for the president has significantly eroded. His job approval in the latest poll remains underwater at 46 percent.
Republicans have also been on the rise in Virginia, taking control of both chambers of the state legislature earlier this year and picking up U.S. House seats in the 2010 midterms.
As recently as November, an Obama campaign official declared Virginia “an absolute tossup.”
To be sure, Obama’s edge over Romney is “razor-thin,” notes Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Hamden, Conn. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.
But Brown explained in a statement that “the keys are the president’s improved standing among independent voters and women in the Old Dominion.”
Obama holds a 4-point edge over Romney among independents and an 18-point lead among women, according to Quinnipiac.
“The Obama bump could be driven by the perception that the economy is improving. And the nasty GOP primary fight is not helping Romney, exposing swing voters to lots of negative attacks on him from within his own party.”
The Obama surge is evident in other 2012 swing states and national polls.
Approval of Obama climbed 10 points between October and January in New Hampshire, according to a WMUR-University of New Hampshire poll released last week.
Fifty percent of Americans in the latest national ABC News-Washington Post poll approve of Obama’s job performance, the most since spring.
Obama now leads Romney among registered voters by a slight 51-45 percent, in the ABC-Post poll, the first time either has cracked 50 percent in a series of matchups since spring.