Politics 2012: Abbreviated ballot in Virginia primary

By NICOLE DEBEVEC, United Press International  |  March 4, 2012 at 4:00 AM
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The Republican primary in Virginia is an anomaly on Super Tuesday because only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul are on the ballot.

The race between Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, and Paul, who represents Texas in the U.S. House, tilts toward Romney, with several polls indicating Romney swamping Paul by at least 30 percentage points.

Romney and Paul were the only two Republican hopefuls to successfully meet the requirements to be on Virginia's ballot. One-time candidate Rick Perry lost his challenge to the requirements' constitutionality.

However, a Richmond Times-Dispatch survey indicated 57 percent Virginians said they aren't happy with either man.

The survey said a proposed match-up between President Obama and Romney indicated Obama drew 46 percent versus 43 percent for Romney.

It also indicated Virginia's independent voters favor either Romney or former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania (who's not on the ballot) over Obama. Independents backed Romney over Obama 48 percent to 35 percent and favored Santorum 54 percent to 31 percent.

All the negativity and candidate bashing within the Republican field is taking a toll, a recent poll by Roanoke College indicated.

"The continuous bashing of Republican candidates by other Republican candidates appears to have resulted in low approval ratings of all [of] them," Harry Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College, said in a statement. "They continue to emphasize social issues on the campaign trail, while Virginians remain focused on the economy."

The Roanoke College poll respondents indicated they generally didn't care for the entire GOP field, not just Romney and Paul. In hypothetical Election Day match-ups, Obama lead Santorum, Paul and Newt Gingrich, and was statistically tied with Romney.

When asked to rank issues by importance, Virginians listed their top three as the economy, unemployment and the federal deficit, VirginiaBusiness.com said.

Forty-nine delegates are at stake in the hybrid primary, meaning some delegates are awarded by district and statewide, some allotted proportionately and some are winner-take-all

Four years ago, U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona claimed the Virginia primary with 50 percent of the votes. Paul finished third with 4.5 percent and Romney was in fourth with 3.7 percent.

Romney's smack-down in South Carolina at the hand of Gingrich earlier has raised questions about his ability to win over conservatives in the South -- the GOP's stalwart voting bloc in general elections -- if he eventually wins the nomination, one Republican pollster told CNN.

"Romney has to show some kind of lift in the South, and not just in Virginia," said Republican pollster Ed Goeas. "Ohio is going to be the big battle that day, but I would also look to see what happens in Tennessee and Georgia."

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