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Obama leads Romney in Va. with or without McDonnell on ticket, poll says

President Obama has a healthy 51 percent to 43 percent lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the crucial battleground state of Virginia — with or without Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell on the ticket, according to a new poll.

The poll, from the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling shows that while the addition of Mr. McDonnell, often mentioned as a possible vice presidential candidate, does not change the president's numbers, adding House Majority Leader Eric Cantor into the mix actually boosts Mr. Obama to 52 percent, 12 points ahead of Mr. Romney. In all three scenarios, the remainder of those polled were undecided.

If former Virginia Congressman Virgil H. Goode Jr., who is running as the Constitution Party candidate, makes the ballot in the state, Mr. Obama would lead 50 percent to Mr. Romney's 38 percent. Mr. Goode would take 5 percent of the vote, with 7 percent undecided.

"We have polled Virginia six times this election cycle and have found Barack Obama with a decent-sized lead over Mitt Romney every single time," said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. "Barring a big shift in the political climate, Virginia is likely to go for Obama again, and that's going to make it very hard for Romney to score a victory in the Electoral College."

The ideological breakdown of those surveyed were 39 percent Democrat, 32 percent Republican, and 29 percent independent/other.

PPP surveyed 680 Virginia voters from April 26 to 29, and the poll has a margin of error of 3.8 percent.

In previous PPP polls, Mr. Obama has always led Mr. Romney. The president's lead was 6 percent in December, 4 percent in July, and 11 percent last May, after the killing of Osama bin Laden.

Nevertheless, Republican National Committee Political Director Rick Wiley said Tuesday he thinks Mr. Obama has a problem in Virginia, citing Republican gubernatorial, congressional and state legislative wins in 2009, 2010 and 2011, respectively, after the president's victory there in 2008.

"Virginia is obviously a very important battleground state in the path to [270 electoral votes] for Gov. Romney," he said on a conference call with reporters.

Dave Rexrode, executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, said that the party is conducting an aggressive voter-outreach program this year, building on its strategies from the last three years. He said that while the 2012 elections are paramount, the party is also trying to lay the groundwork for a lasting majority in the state.

"It's really been a three-year plan to get to where we are today," he said. "From our perspective, we kind of view this as not just the next election. We tried to build it as a continual organization."

"We've kind of tried to use each preceding election to build on the next," he added.

The new poll comes as the campaigns of Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney plan to hit the state hard this week. Mr. Romney is campaigning in Northern Virginia on Wednesday, and plans to campaign with Mr. McDonnell in Portsmouth on Thursday.

Mr. Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are scheduled to appear at Virginia Commonwealth University on Saturday in the president's first "official" day of campaigning, which also includes a stop in Ohio. Republicans have griped that his recent official visits around the country have been little more than thinly disguised campaign stops.

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