by Paul Goldman
Ben Tribbett, one of the state's top bloggers, got me thinking yesterday. He is known as the guy behind the highly rated political blog Not Larry Sabato. But Ben deserves to be even better known as one of the state's best gurus on election statistics down to the precinct level.
Ben has done a lot of mentally "running the numbers" on the potential impact of former Congressman Virgil Goode's run for President as the nominee for the Constitution Party here in Virginia.
Ben is likely - and hopefully soon - to do a blog post an Obama-Romney-Goode race here in the Commonwealth. The media is currently assuming that Goode is not going to be a factor in who wins the White House. They have been assuming the president will win Virginia handily as the polls had been indicating, or that Goode's support in any poll will disappear in November.
But yesterday, a two-way poll in Virginia between President Obama and former Governor Romney showed a dead heat. The national polls are showing a dead heat, with some pundits suggesting Virginia could be the deciding state in the Electoral College.
So again, I am writing in part to encourage Ben - I know he is busy - to lay out the numbers so we all can improve our knowledge here.
We all know what Ralph Nader did in Florida to cost Al Gore the Presidency. We all know what followed in terms of the George W. Bush years. Presidential elections matter. A lot.
A few weeks ago, I was interviewed by a national reporter about Goode's candidacy for President. I said the polls were wrong in saying he would be a big factor in Southwest, where his positions on immigration policy appealed to the most conservative, Republican elements of the area. My view was this: those voters really didn't know Goode and in the end, most would vote for Romney as the viable anti-Obama candidate.
But as to Virginia, I said this: Goode is known in certain parts of the state, and has always shown support there with high name ID in surrounding areas.
So I figured there was a good chance Goode could get some of those folks if they remained skeptical about Romney especially if the GOP nominee was seen as shifting to a more moderate position on immigration. But I couldn't quantify even a range of potential hard core support. Ben has given it a lot more thought and mathematical analysis.
Again, there is no way to ever know and polls tend to be very unreliable in that they generally way overstate the final vote of a guy like Goode. So one has to avoid getting stuck on a specific number.
BUT there is one thing for certain: Almost all of those who ultimately wind-up voting for Virgil Goode in Virginia would NOT have voted for President Obama.
Therefore, if you assume a close Electoral College race for President, one potential political strategy makes a huge amount of campaign sense for Democrats and those Republicans who don't want to see Romney elected President:
Give money, get money, to the Virginia campaign of Virgil Goode.
Indeed, under the new campaign rules, a group of Dems/Anti-Romney Republicans can masquerade as a pro-Goode SUPER PAC, and secretly fund the whole effort.
As Ben can show, there is an existing pool of potential 2012 voters in Virginia who Goode has a chance of wooing over to his side....with a sufficient amount of money and campaign luck.
It doesn't take a math genius to know that 50-50 Obama vs Romney race in VA could easily come out 49.5 for Obama, 48.5 for Romney and 2.0 for Goode.
Moreover, to the extent the Romney campaign comes to believe it might lose VA, then it has to make some very hard and potentially wrong strategy decisions on how to make up the 13 electoral votes.
MEANING: The viability of the Goode campaign in VA - forget the rest of the country - needs to get some more attention by the national press, indeed the VA press.
Virgil is no more qualified to be President than Michele Bachmann or Herman Cain. But in Virginia, the former populist Democrat turned Independent turned conservative Republican turned anti-immigrant Constitutional Party presidential nominee could be the nut in the coconut for the White House come November.
So, I ask you: Given the current polls, the current logic and the current realities, what is more likely to change the outcome of the presidential election? 1) Another $5 million spent on TV ADS focused on Obama or Romney in one way or another; or 2) using that same $5 million to promote Virgil Goode as a protest vote on immigration policy (or whatever), helping persuade voters they can have the biggest impact by using their vote to send both parties a message?
If you will not believe your own common sense, then Ben's numbers will make you see that Virgil Goode, with that kind of chump changed in terms of what is being spent, has as yet an unappreciated ability - with enough money - to get enough votes in Virginia to likely guarantee a win for President Obama in the Old Dominion. And that, in turn, could easily be the key to winning President Obama a second term in the White House.
As a pure matter of risk vs reward, the "risk" of losing votes because you didn't spend that $5 million on either a pro-Obama or anti-Romney ad is far, far less than the potential "reward" of spending that money on pro-Goode ads, thus generating votes for the former Congressman's presidential bid, in turn taking them from Romney, in turn helping Obama win Virginia.
I bet that right now, there are some very smart people sitting around gaming out a strategy of how to make sure Goode gets the benefit of this kind of money, if not more.
In 2000, it was Florida: In 1916, it was California. In 1888, it was New York. In 1884, it was New York again. In 1876, it was Florida. In 1800, it was Delaware. In 2012, it could be Virginia. Which means it could be Virginia's Virgil Goode who determines the 2012 presidential election outcome, one way or the other.