As the polls open on Tuesday morning, Virginia is arguably the least predictable state. The Real Clear Politics battleground state polling averages give President Obama a mere 0.3 point margin over Mitt Romney in Virginia. That’s the closest race in any state in the entire country.
Even if President Obama can repeat his 2008 win there, he’s unlikely to enjoy the six-point margin he had over Sen. John McCain in 2008. Virginia is one of a handful of swing states that Romney’s team says he will win, but one factor that could ruin his chances is former Rep. Virgil Goode.
Goode is running on the Constitution Party ticket. He’s on the ballot in only 26 states including Virginia, and he’s likely to have the greatest impact there: he still has positive name recognition in the state after serving as a Democratic (and later Republican) congressman from the Fifth Congressional District.
Goode holds strong appeal for Republicans, especially in southwest Virginia where his Southern drawl makes him sound at home. Southern conservative voters may also be less likely to have held against him the incident that many analysts believe cost him his congressional seat, when he wrote a 2006 letter attacking Rep. Keith Ellison for being sworn into office on the Quran.
Apparently nervous about Goode’s impact on the race, Virginia Republicans lodged complaints alleging that he used fake signatures to get on the ballot, and tried to get him kicked off.
Polls taken over the summer showed Goode’s support as high as four percent in Virginia, with most of those votes coming from Romney’s base. That impressive showing has waned, however. In fact, after Goode made it onto the ballot, his favorability dropped by 15 points with Republican voters who presumably worried about him threatening Romney’s chances in Virginia.
A recent Fox News poll shows Goode picking up only 1% of likely voters in Virginia; but in a state where the top two contenders are separated by less than a half a point, that one percent could still have a big impact.