Did McDonnell/VA GOP Focus on Social, Not Economic, Issues Cost Romney VA?

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    by Paul Goldman

    Men at Work is not just a new TV show; it could be a reality-based series here in Virginia given the comedic efforts of the Governor and the VA GOP in the last GA session. Politically speaking, the huge Democratic advantage among female VA voters shown in the PPP and Washington Post polls is unprecedented for a presidential election in VA. Indeed, the 2012 polling numbers are quite a bit different than 2008 exit poll results even though Obama has roughly the same led now as he had four years ago. This not yet appreciated.

    Obama carried the male vote last time, but the last two polls suggest he may lose men this time. Indeed, George Allen has a huge male margin against Kaine in the PPP poll. Let’s see if that is confirmed in future polls; including the Post Poll when they release their Senate results.

    But at the Presidential level, for some reason, Romney — despite all his liabilities right now — is actually doing better than McCain among men.

    What does this mean?

    The easy answer is to say it is just a couple of polls and thus means nothing. That could be true, but it is also true that those who say that have never been responsible for running a statewide campaign strategy, much less a campaign. You don’t have time to wait until the Fall to try and figure out whether the May polls are static or a hint at what is happening.

    My hunch right now: The recent Democratic focus on women’s issues has men, already suffering from economic hardship (this is the worst recession for them in modern times) thinking that the Democrats are putting them at the back of the campaign bus, behind the women’s vote. Politics being perception, it is what it is.

    In that sense, it is static. But the Democrats made a shrewd political decision to go “all-in” on the female vote play in recent months, brilliantly done by the Obama team. Impressive really.

    Still, they needed help from McDonnell and the VA GOP to make it work as superbly as it has. McDonnell, by keeping the ultrasound issue alive with a watered-down bill (from “transvaginal”), may have cost Romney Virginia this year, assuming the Mittster ever had a chance to carry it in the first place.

    The ultrasound issue was not mainstream to voters; they are thinking jobs, jobs, fiscal conservatism, no time for fringe social issues. The Governor badly miscalculated on this one.  

    Never before have female Virginians shown such overwhelming support for a Democratic presidential candidate since Virginia became a two party state. Can it hold? I don’t know.

    Meaning: Even if the normal pro-GOP male lean shows up again in 2012 (Obama carried men in 2008), the now very pro-DEM female lean may totally negate Romney running better than McCain among men. No one could have predicted this when the GA Session started back in January.

    The ultrasound fiasco could result in giving Virginia to Obama the way the abortion fight enabled Wilder to make history in 1989 by carrying the Commonwealth. When you add the ultrasound fiasco – a totally unforced error – to the state’s changing demographics, along with the Democratic trend in Fairfax County, the VA GOP may have turned the state into 13 Obama electoral votes. This, in turn, makes Romney’s path to the White House tougher than Bush’s in 2000. As I wrote for Fox News a few months ago, the Mittster is up against statistical analysis big time.

    If things remain this way come the GOP Convention in August, this you can take to the bank: Romney’s national strategists will be sounding off privately about how the VA GOP screwed them big time with ultrasound and other issues, giving credence to the “War on Women” narrative.

    Again: It is not a question of whether it is right or wrong, but it’s a real perception out there. In this case, McDonnell lost the perception game. He has 20 months to recover in terms of image. Romney only a few months.

    However, DEMS need to avoid premature celebration. If Romney’s edge among men is real, then he has a statistically valid path to victory here in Virginia, although extremely narrow at best unless something significantly changes the dynamic.