Quinnipiac University released it’s latest poll of Virginia’s registered voters with President Obama holding a 47 to 42 percent lead over Republican challenger Mitt Romney in a match-up.  Obama has maintained a consistent lead over Romney in all Quinnipiac polls since the beginning of the year, but there is one question that I am looking at just as closely in trying to predict which way Virginia will turn this election…

Quinnipiac Poll of Virginia Registered Voters:
Regardless of how you intend to vote, who do you think would do a better job on the economy, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney?
June 2012 March 2012 Feb. 2012
Obama 44% 47% 44%
Romney 46% 45% 47%

This question is particularly important in trying to gauge how undecideds may vote, assuming that the economy is the most important issue on their minds when they enter the voting booth.  The above numbers don’t show much consensus on the subject among all registered Virginians, but the Quinnipiac poll shows a different pattern when narrowing the results down to college-educated, white voters, an important segment of Obama’s winning coalition in Virginia in 2008.  Among white Virginians with a college degree, 54 percent think that Romney would do a better job on the economy, a sizable and significant margin over the 41 percent who think Obama would do a better job. Ronald Brownstein at the National Journal has recently argued that Romney’s advantage among college-educated whites on this question poses a real threat to Obama’s chances in the commonwealth.

He could be right. These latest poll results could be an important sign that Romney has a good chance in reclaiming Virginia for the Republicans, especially since college-educated whites can be counted on to show up at the polls.

Brownstein could also be wrong. He may be overstating the danger these numbers among college-educated whites might pose for Obama for two reasons. While the Quinnipiac polls finds that most whites with a college degree favor Romney on the economy in Virginia as a whole, this may not be representative of the crucial college-educated, white, Northern Virginia voter. As I mentioned previously in my Climbing Mount NoVa piece, the Northern Virginia suburbs of Loudoun, Prince William, and Fairfax Counties hold the key to victory in Virginia. While these voters are predominately college-educated whites, Obama won these counties with comfortable margins in 2008 when he had the support of many, if not most, college-educated whites in the region. This could indeed be different now, but it is hard to tell from the poll results.

Also, perhaps only a small number of these college-educated whites are truly undecided at this point in the race. Many of those who think Romney would do a better job could have either made up their mind on who to vote for already (and thus be reflected in the latest trial-heat match-up results which currently favor Obama) or only represent a small segment of undecided voters.

Yet, Romney might do well in November if he devoted more resources toward luring more college-educated white voters away from Obama, especially in Northern Virginia. As Alan Abramowitz at Sabato’s Crystal Ball points out, Romney should pursue a persuasive strategy on economic issues in the key battleground states. The latest polls results in Virginia may give him an opening to do so.

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