President Obama is holding on to his lead in the critical battleground of Virginia, where an improved jobs outlook is clouding Republican Mitt Romney's central message that an Obama presidency has made life worse, a new poll shows.
With less than seven weeks until Election Day, Obama now has support from 50 percent of voters in Virginia, according to a Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll released Wednesday. Romney had 46 percent. That result is virtually unchanged from August, when Obama led Romney 49 percent to 45 percent.
The poll did not include Constitution Party candidate Virgil Goode, a former Virginia U.S. representative and state lawmaker who is shown in other polls pulling 2 percent to 9 percent of the vote, undercutting mainly Romney.
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|The Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll released Wednesday is the first to show significant separation between Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican opponent George Allen, with Kaine garnering support from 51 percent of the vote compared with Allen's 44 percent.|
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Virginia has weathered the economic storm better than most, cutting into Romney's message. When asked if they're better off than they were four years ago -- a question that gets to a central tenet of Romney's campaign -- 44 percent of Virginians told pollsters they're about the same, with 27 percent saying they're better off. Just 29 percent said they were doing worse.
That's much better than results from other swing states, like Colorado and Wisconsin, where respondents overwhelmingly said they are worse off now.
One Obama campaign official said Romney is trying to downplay economic growth in states like Virginia to hide "30 consecutive months of positive job growth, and more than 4.6 million new jobs under President Obama."
The new poll also shows Virginians question whether Romney, a former businessman and Massachusetts governor, would handle the economy better than Obama. On that question, 49 percent of respondents chose Obama compared with 47 percent for Romney.
"The unemployment rate in Virginia has been so incredibly low throughout the recession that this really disadvantages Romney here," said Craig Brians, a political science professor at Virginia Tech. "The voters most motivated are in areas that are doing the best and are where there are a lot of government workers."
Unemployment in Virginia, where the economy is driven by federal spending, particularly defense spending, was 5.9 percent in August. That's well below the national average of 8.3 percent. In the voter-rich swing counties of Prince William, Fairfax and Loudoun, unemployment is below 5 percent.
Republicans say Virginia's relatively strong economy is a credit to Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, who promoted a jobs-first agenda after taking office in 2010. The state is doing well despite Obama's policies, not because of them, they said.
"Voters here are very capable of, and very used to, determining what policies have worked and what policies haven't," said McDonnell spokesman Tucker Martin. "And in Virginia, I believe, to the extent they see that Republican policies are spurring job creation, that's a very good thing for the Republican presidential candidate."