Update: Obama pulling ahead in Virginia?

After last month’s Quinnipiac poll release for Virginia, I looked at whether there was a relationship between the improved job numbers (as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)) and Obama’s recent job approval ratings in the commonwealth.  This month, the BLS updated and revised all of its monthly unemployment numbers and Quinnipiac came out with a new poll of registered voters.  The new data still show a close relationship between unemployment rates and job approval in Virginia, but perhaps that relationship is a little more complex than one might think.

Despite pundits and political analysts touting unemployment rates as the golden metric that will predict an Obama loss or victory in November, I tend to agree with conservative columnist Donald Lambro’s assessment that “one statistic doesn’t tell the whole story” when it comes to perceptions of the economy, nor does it predict how people will vote.  For instance, Virginia and the rest of the country have high numbers of people who remain out of the labor force; yet this month’s poll shows that Virginia’s registered voters are still torn on whether President Obama or former governor Mitt Romney will do a better job on the economy.

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?
March 2012 Feb. 2012 Dec. 2011
Obama 47% 44% 41%
Romney 45% 47% 46%

Yet, it would be difficult to find bad news for the Obama campaign in these latest poll numbers.  The major highlights:

1.   For the first time since Quinnipiac started polling Virginia last year, Obama’s approval is above his disapproval rates (49% to 47%); although that edge is still well within the poll’s margin or error.

2.  In a hypothetical match-up with the likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney, Obama is ahead 50% to 43%.  Even the inclusion of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell on the vice presidential ticket would not help Romney in Virginia.  Despite McDonnell’s wide popularity in the commonwealth, it would seem his inclusion would not automatically put Virginia in the red column.

3.  Obama’s approval rating among self-described independent, registered Virginians is trending upward from a 29% low late last year to 46% this month.

A couple month’s numbers, of course, can only tell us so much.  However, within the limited data that is available for Virginia, the key metrics that pundits and analysts look at (job approval, trial-heat match-ups, unemployment rates) are all trending for Obama since late last year.