By Steve Contorno
Republican Mitt Romney faces a new obstacle to victory in must-win Virginia in November: A third-party presidential candidate who is favored by 1 in 10 Old Dominion voters and is drastically undercutting Romney's showing against President Obama.Virgil Goode, who represented southwest Virginia in Congress from 1997 to 2008 as a Democrat and then as a Republican, is running for president on the Constitution Party ticket. A Public Policy Polling surveyreleased Tuesday showed Goode winning 9 percent of the vote in a three-way race against Obama and Romney, though his support comes disproportionately at Romney's expense.
"If we can get some name recognition here, we hope it will spread to other states," said Goode, who still must qualify for the Virginia ballot.
Obama leads Romney 50 percent to 42 percent in Virginia, the poll shows. Adding Goode to the mix, however, cuts Romney's support to 35 percent, while Obama barely moves down to 49 percent.
Romney faces similar trouble in New Mexico, where former Gov. Gary Johnson is running as a Libertarian candidate.
"Those localized third-party candidates could throw a wrench in the plans for Romney. It only takes a percent or two to upset the apple cart," said Kyle Kondik, political analyst at the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "Could a couple of points going to Goode make Obama a two-term president? Yes, it could. A couple of percentage points could have big consequences for Romney."
Obama will make a two-day swing through Virginia on Friday and Saturday, stopping in Roanoke, Virginia Beach and Glen Allen. Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will stump for Romney in Virginia Beach on Thursday and in the Richmond area Friday.
In 2008, candidates from four minor parties appeared on Virginia's ballot. Goode has until Aug. 24 to hand in 10,000 valid signatures to qualify for the November election.
Goode said voters upset with both parties have coalesced around his campaign, though those Virginians tend to be more conservative. Even as a longtime democratic state senator, Goode's strong pro-life, pro-gun stances resonated with traditional southern voters, and he's to the right of Romney on issues like immigration and deficit reduction.
Goode shrugged off any suggestion that his presence in the race could thwart Romney's chances in Virginia, and ultimately, the Republican's shot at the presidency.
"We offer another choice and a fresh approach," Goode said. "If you like how things are now, you ought to vote for Obama and Romney. But if you don't, take a look at us."