The rule for selecting a vice-presidential running mate is akin to the principal precept of medical ethics: First, do no harm. Should Republican front-runner Mitt Romney pick Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell as his running mate, "no harm" might be about all he can expect.
Add Mr. McDonnell to a GOP ticket featuring Mr. Romney in a matchup against Mr. Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden, and Mr. Obama would win Virginia, 50 percent to 43 percent, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday. The result is virtually identical to the 50-percent-to-42-percent edge Mr. Obama holds over the Republican front-runner without the popular Virginia governor as a hypothetical running mate.
"What this Quinnipiac University survey finds is that, despite the governor's approval ratings with Virginia voters, he does not appear to help give the GOP the state's electoral votes," said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
To be sure, voters approve of how Mr. McDonnell is handling his job as the commonwealth's chief executive. His approval ratings in Quinnipiac polls have hovered between 55 percent and 62 percent since June, settling at 58 percent in a poll released last month.
But the cool attitude toward a potential slot on the ticket mirrors a poll from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling firm in December. Forty-five percent of voters approved of Mr. McDonnell's job performance in that poll, compared to 33 percent who disapproved.
Nevertheless, more voters said having Mr. McDonnell on the ticket would make them less likely to vote for the Republican nominee than voters who said it would make them more likely to do so. Thirty percent said less likely, 23 percent said more likely, and 49 percent said it would not make a difference.
Regardless of the vice-presidential speculation, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, Mr. Romney's state campaign chairman, said Republicans need to unite around a candidate — and fast.
"If we allow this thing to go on much longer, then I think it could create divisions and make it more difficult for us to win in November," he said. "If the Republican Party is viewed as a party that is wrapped around the axle with rigid ideologies and hyperpartisan politics, then we will lose the ability to lead just as fast as we won it."
In the other marquee matchup in the state — the contest to replace retiring Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat — Republicans have been working feverishly to tie former Gov. Tim Kaine, a Democrat, to President Obama and his policies. Mr. Kaine was the first major official to endorse him in the 2008 campaign outside Mr. Obama's home state of Illinois and served as his handpicked chairman of the Democratic National Committee before stepping down to run for the Senate.
But interestingly, Mr. Obama actually outperformed Mr. Kaine in his matchup against Mr. Romney; Mr. Kaine held a statistically insignificant 47-percent-to-44-percent lead over George Allen in the same poll.
"Virginia's U.S. Senate race has been too-close-to-call from the get-go," said Mr. Brown. "It remains a squeaker and is likely to remain that way until the November election. An Obama victory in the presidential race would help Kaine, while if the Republican carries the state in November, that would help Allen."
The Quinnipiac poll, conducted from March 13-18, surveyed 1,034 registered voters and has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.
A demographic breakdown of party identification shows 286 Republicans, 282 Democrats, and 407 independents polled, but weighted party identification percentages, meant to factor in temporary fluctuations in party affiliation, put the sample at 26 percent Republican, 31 percent Democrat, and 37 percent independent.
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