By all indications, Virginia is going to be a key battleground state in the 2012 presidential election, and with polls showing President Obama with an edge in the commonwealth, Mitt Romney will need every advantage he can get.
With this in mind, this week's setback may prove to be very important.
Former congressman Virgil Goode Jr. has qualified for the presidential ballot in Virginia, the State Board of Elections ruled Tuesday, adding a potential obstacle to Republican Mitt Romney's hopes of winning the pivotal state.
The state Republican Party is challenging Goode's eligibility, alleging petition fraud, and the Constitution Party's nominee still could be knocked off the ballot.... Third-party hopefuls rarely garner many votes in Virginia, but Goode's status as a longtime officeholder -- he spent 12 years in Congress and 24 years in the state Senate before that -- could bring him more support than usual. Just 2 or 3 percent of the vote going to Goode could be enough to swing the contest.
For those unfamiliar with the Constitution Party, it's the extremely conservative party that perceives Republicans as too moderate and accommodating. There's no realistic sense that the hyper-far-right party will seriously compete in any state, including Goode's home state of Virginia.
But Goode doesn't have to win to make a difference. Republicans have fought to keep Goode off the Virginia ballot for the same reason Democrats have traditionally worried about Ralph Nader splitting progressive votes -- the GOP wants a united front against President Obama, and Goode gives those on the right an alternative to Romney, whom many conservatives still don't trust.
State Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (R), an ardent Romney backer, is already using his office to conduct a criminal investigation of Goode's ballot petitions, so the former congressman's spot on the ballot is not yet a done deal.
But for now, Goode has become a major headache for the GOP, picking up between 5% and 9% in recent Virginia polling, and helping position the president to win the state again. Without Virginia's 13 electoral votes, Romney's options to reach 270 are that much more difficult.