A new Washington Post poll of Virginia finds that President Obama leads Mitt Romney by seven points, 51-44, a significantly wider margin than the president enjoys in most national polls.
Obama, of course, won the traditionally Republican Old Dominion in 2008, beating John McCain by six points.
On Morning Joe Friday, Joe Scarborough asked: “What happened in Virginia over the past four years that has actually made it look more blue than red?”
msnbc contributor Ed Rendell offered an explanation. “Northern Virginia, which is really the federal government, it’s federal government workers, has continued to build up its numbers,” said the former Pennsylvania governor. “And I think the north now somewhat outvotes the south.”
Rendell didn’t mention it, but Northern Virginia also has undergone a tech boom over the last decade, drawing young, educated, socially liberal voters to the region.
It’s not just an issue of demographics, though, Rendell, a Democrat, suggested. Moderate Republicans in the Washington D.C. suburbs, as in other upscale suburbs of large east-coast cities, have been leaving the Republican Party in droves.
“The loss of moderate, middle-of-the-road Republicans in the northern part of the state is killing the GOP,” said Rendell.
Still, Rendell cautioned that it’s far too soon for the Romney camp to write the state off. “Virginia’s not lost for Romney,” he said. “Seven points in early May doesn’t mean it’s over.”
“If he can reestablish himself with moderate Republicans and independent voters, and sort of convince them that he really is a middle-of-the-roader, he’s got a shot.”
But as Rendell acknowledged, the far-right positions Romney took while trying to win the Republican nomination will complicate that task. “It’s going to be hard because of what he said in the primary campaigns,” he said.
Indeed, Romney appeared Thursday with Virginia’s Republican governor, Bob McDonnell, who might not help the candidate close an 18-point gap with women in the state. As Willie Geist noted, Democrats have been reminding voters about McDonnell’s support for a recent bill that at first would have required women seeking an abortion to undergo an invasive vaginal ultrasound (after an outcry, that provision was modified).
Scarborough observed that in an ominous sign, Romney has also been struggling lately in North Carolina, another southern state that until recently was considered solidly red.
“A Republican will not be elected president that does not win Virginia or North Carolina,” he declared.