By Kenric Ward | Watchdog.org Virginia Bureau
FREDERICKSBURG — In a surprise move, a major political polling company is pulling out of Virginia, declaring that President Obama cannot win the state.
“I think in places like North Carolina, Virginia and Florida, we’ve already painted those red, we’re not polling any of those states again,” Suffolk University polling director David Paleologos said Tuesday night on Fox News’ “The O’Reilly Factor.”
“We’re focusing on the remaining states.”
Suffolk’s most recent Virginia poll, issued Sept. 27, showed Obama with a 46-44 lead over GOP challenger Mitt Romney, with seven percent undecided.
Paleologos, noting that Obama’s lead was within the statistical margin of error, said at the time that the president maintained “a decided popularity advantage.” Obama’s “favorable” rating was 52 percent, compared with 42 percent for Romney.
“However, with job approval and head-to-head numbers stuck at 46 percent, it will be a significant challenge for Obama to convince the remaining undecided voters to re-elect him,” Paleologos cautioned.
Obama also had maintained slight leads in Suffolk polls in Florida and North Carolina.
The Boston-based polling center has conducted surveys since 2002 in states with what it claims to be “a 96 percent record of accuracy.”
Jim Lee, director of Pennsylvania-based Susquehanna Polling and Research, said he was stunned by Suffolk’s decision to pull out of the three states and call them for Romney.
“I’m surprised an organization would concede those three states. It’s very premature to suggest Obama can’t do well there,” Lee told Watchdog.org.
But Lee, who polls primarily for Republicans, acknowledges that Obama faces a hard fight, and likens the 2012 election to 2004, when George W. Bush beat Democrat John Kerry.
“This is not a transformational election like 2008, when independents went strongly for Obama,” Lee said.
Rather, Lee observed that the 2012 campaign is being bitterly fought in battleground states — including Virginia and Florida. And with two more presidential debates on tap, the outcome is very much in flux, he said.
Kyle Kondik, of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, agrees.
“Virginia is a toss-up, and we still see the state as highly competitive for both parties,” Kondik said. “We need a lot more polling to determine whether the state has decisively swung to Romney, because that is far from obvious at this point.”
Suffolk’s polling partner, NBC12 in Richmond, did not respond to requests for comment on deadline.
Roger Stone, a veteran political consultant based in Miami Beach, called Suffolk’s move “most unprofessional.”
“With a close election, small undecided and unknown impact of third-party candidates, I can’t imagine why they would withdraw,” said Stone, a former GOP operative who now supports Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.
Suffolk’s pullout came just hours after the Republican National Committee and the Romney campaign announced the GOP had surpassed 4 million voter contacts in Virginia. Those contacts included seven times the number of phone calls and 11 times as many as door knocks at this point in 2008, according to the Washington Times.
“After last week’s debate … especially in Virginia, we’ve had a new surge of enthusiasm on our side,” RNC Chairman Reince Priebus said. “In 2012, we’ve matched the Obama campaign volunteer for volunteer, door knock for door knock and phone call for phone call.”
Contact Ward at kenric@watchdogvirginia or (571) 319-9824.