Virgil Goode is not realistically ‘bad news for Romney in Virginia’

One July 3, NPR’s “Political Junkie,” Ken Rudin, posed this trivia question on “Talk of the Nation”:

[W]ith Independence Day coming tomorrow, that’s what made me think of this trivia question: Who was the last member of Congress to have won election as a Democrat but also as a Republican and also as an independent?

It only took four guesses on the part of listeners from around the country (Dubuque, Ocean City, Oklahoma City, and Lynchburg) before the correct answer: former U.S. Representative Virgil Goode of Virginia.

As Rudin explained:

Virgil Goode was elected to Congress in 1996 and ’98 as a Democrat. He was elected in 2000 as an independent, when he switched to the independent. And then in 2002, when he switched to the Republican Party, he was elected as a Republican. He was defeated for re-election in 2008.

Now the fun thing about him is he is the Constitution Party candidate for president in 2012, and of course, as you know, if he picked Tim Pawlenty as his running mate, you’d have a Goode and Pawlenty ticket, which has never happened before.

(That last paragraph’s pun works better aurally than in print.)

Two months ago in this space, I asked, “Will Virgil Goode hand Virginia to Barack Obama?” That post noted a Public Policy Polling survey that showed Goode with 5 percent of the vote in Virginia.

In Sunday’s Washington Times, that paper’s Virginia political correspondent, David Sherfinski, poses a similar question in the headline, “Goode’s third-party run: Bad news for Romney in Virginia?”

In the article, Goode claims he will take votes away from both presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama, a rather dubious suggestion on Goode’s part.

While Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson can make a plausible case that he can draw votes away from both major party candidates — Johnson favors drug legalization and same-sex marriage, two policy positions favored, generally, by the left, while he also proposes to cut the federal budget by 43 percent and engage in serious reform of entitlement programs, policies generally associated with the political right — Goode, as the standard-bearer of not just a fiscally and socially conservative but also an explicitly religious party, really cannot offer anything that would appeal to former or potential Obama supporters.

(I made this point on Monday afternoon in a conversation with Charlottesville radio host Coy Barefoot on his WINA-AM chat show, when I described Virgil Goode as “a Hollywood casting director’s idea of a Southern politician.”)

Setting that kind of analysis aside, however, one has to look more closely at Sherfinski’s report to discover that he is still relying for his speculation on Goode’s chances upon that same PPP poll that I cited back in May.

That 5 percent figure is statistically significant, as I learned from pollster Scott Rasmussen when I interviewed him at the RightOnline conference in Las Vegas last month. I asked him how polling organizations decide whether to include a third-party or independent candidate in their surveys.

At the presidential level, he explained, “if you include a third-party candidate too early, their numbers are always inflated. If I put your name in right now, you would get probably five or six percent of the vote and — all due respect — you’re not going to get that on election day.”

Sure enough, more recent polls are showing Goode — nationwide, at least — with a lot less traction than that early May PPP poll foretold.

Blogger Damon Eris wrote this morning on (emphasis added):

A Gallup poll published last Friday found that roughly 7% of registered voters support a third party candidate for president. Among survey organizations, it is standard practice to exclude all third party and Independent candidates from their presidential tracking polls. The highly unusual poll conducted by Gallup last month included the names of three third party candidates in addition to the Democratic and Republican party nominees for president: Jill Stein of the Green Party, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party and Virgil Goode of the Constitution Party.

Of these three candidates, Gary Johnson had the most support at 3%, Jill Stein was preferred by 1% of respondents, and Virgil Goode obtained less than .5% support.

Even within Virginia, Goode is unlikely to do much better than the previous Constitution Party candidate, Chuck Baldwin, did in 2008: 0.2 percent of the vote.

It’s true that Goode was a fixture in Southside Virginia politics for well over three decades, as both a state senator and as a Member of Congress, but it’s unlikely that he will get serious consideration as a presidential candidate by voters outside the core of his former district, in and around Rocky Mount. He may, to be kind, win a couple hundred more votes than Baldwin obtained in 2008, when the Constitution Party got 7,474. Breaking 8,000 votes in Virginia, however, would be a noteworthy achievement for Goode and his party.

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