Virginia and North Carolina - two states won by Barack Obama in 2008 that will loom large in 2012. If Romney can reclaim those traditional GOP states, Obama will be in trouble.
At the moment, however, Romney trails by a significant margin.
Barack Obama continues to look like the favorite to win Virginia this fall. He has a 51-43 lead over Mitt Romney in the state. We have consistently found Obama leading in Virginia by margins similar to his 6 point victory there in 2008- he led Romney by 6 in December, 4 in July, 11 in May (right after the killing of Osama bin Laden), and 6 last March.
Adding Bob McDonnell to the ticket wouldn't do much to help Romney's prospects in Virginia. The spread remains exactly the same at 51/43 with him in the mix. McDonnell has solid approval numbers with a 46/36 spread, but isn't overwhelmingly popular.
McDonnell at least wouldn't hurt Romney- the same can't be said of Eric Cantor. If he was on the ticket Obama's lead expands to 12 points at 52/40. Cantor is an unpopular figure in the state with only 27% of voters seeing him positively to 41% with a negative opinion.
Another interesting angle in Virginia is the candidacy of former Congressman Virgil Goode as the Constitution Party candidate for President. We find him polling at 5% in a three way contest with Obama's lead over Romney expanding to 12 points at 50-38. It seems unlikely Goode would ultimately get 5% but anything he gets could help flip the state to Obama given how small Romney's margin for error there is. Goode gets 10% from those describing themselves as 'very conservative,' suggesting that Romney does still have some work to do with the far right.
The key may very well be minority turnout. If the black vote in Richmond, Norfolk, and elsewhere is depressed, and Hispanics in Northern Virginia fail to turn out in numbers equal to 2008, Romney could very well squeak by with a victory.
But he can't count on the other side faltering. Romney has to make a supreme effort in the state because Obama will be doing the same.