By Molly K. Hooper - 07/29/12 07:20 PM EDT
A former House Republican lawmaker could siphon votes from Mitt Romney in the battleground state of Virginia and boost President Obama’s chances of winning a second term.
Former five-term Rep. Virgil Goode, who represented southwest Virginia’s 5th District, has a strong chance of making it on the state’s general election ballot. That would set up a potential Ralph Nader-like spoiler scenario circa 2000.
At that time, then-Vice President Al Gore, the Democratic presidential nominee, lost the state of Florida by fewer than 600 votes to former President George W. Bush. Nader, a liberal third-party candidate, won nearly 100,000 votes in the Sunshine State.
According to a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey of Virginia voters, Goode would win 9 percent of the vote, with Romney winning 35 percent to Obama’s 49 percent, with a margin of error of 3.9 percent.
Goode discounted the polling firm’s numbers, which showed him taking votes from Romney.
The Democrat, turned Independent, turned Republican, turned Constitution Party member told The Hill that he’s not worried about taking votes from Romney, sharing an anecdote from a recent petition signature gathering event.
“A local Republican committee member from Bedford [Va.] said, ‘I want you to know Virgil that I'm not going to vote for you; I'm going to vote for Romney. But I’m going to sign your petition because I know a lot of disgruntled Democrats that won’t vote for Romney under any circumstances. But if you’re on the ballot, they will vote for you — not all of them but a lot of them,’” Goode said.
But one political insider says that while Goode may win votes from southern Democrats who are not fond of Obama, the Constitution Party candidate will win more votes from Republicans frustrated with Romney.
“Goode is a household name in the 5th district, and could be Romney’s worst nightmare if he qualifies for the ballot,” GOP political operative Ford O’Connell told The Hill.
Should Goode get on the ballot, his name would appear as an “independent.”
Even though some GOP insiders discount the PPP poll, they do worry that Goode could garner one or two percentage points from Romney. That would be enough, they say, to hand a Virginia victory to Obama.
Despite the high stakes, Goode says that he hasn’t heard from any of his former congressional colleagues to ask him to back down.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told The Hill that he has not reached out to Goode in light of the recent poll, nor have Reps. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) or Randy Forbes (R-Va.).
Forbes said, “I don't know of any contact made to Virgil on that yet.”
“They're not going to call. They probably wouldn’t want to discuss the issues with me,” Goode said, noting his stance against illegal immigration and recent call for a moratorium on green card admissions to the U.S.
Both positions hold more appeal to hard-line conservatives.
In fact, Goode says that he became a member of the Constitution Party because it was the only party to support Arizona’s controversial immigration law.
Some say that Goode’s former colleagues know better than to ask him to back down because doing so would “embolden” him.
Goode, who did not endorse Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for president in 2008, lost his 2008 reelection race to former Democratic Rep. Tom Perriello. Before he had a chance to enter the race in 2010, Republicans had already endorsed Rep. Robert Hurt’s bid to win the seat. Hurt defeated Perriello two years ago.
One Old Dominion political official pointed out that the closer it gets to Aug. 24 — the Virginia deadline for petition to appear on the general election ballot — the more serious local Republicans may become about approaching Goode.
To date, Goode is on the ballot in 17 states; he hopes to be on the ballot in 30-40 states by Election Day. He told The Hill that his campaign has already turned in 14,000 signatures to the state election board, with a goal of submitting 18,000.
Only 10,000 signatures are required for inclusion on the ballot, but those signatures must be collected from registered voters in Virginia. Goode wants a healthy cushion to allow for invalid signatures from unregistered signers.
According to the Federal Election Commission’s most recent reporting, Goode has less than $60,000 in his campaign coffers. He has spent so much time gathering petition signatures that he hasn’t been able to fundraise, Goode said, noting that his campaign isn’t taking PAC money and won’t accept checks for more than $200.
Goode’s admitted that he’s unlikely to win the popular vote but, he says there’s a “slim chance” that he could win the Electoral College.
“The big money is behind Obama and Romney, and if you want a fundamental change that would be somewhat of an upheaval in Washington, vote for me,” Goode said.
And if his name makes it on the ballot in Virginia and enough voters check the box beside his name on Election Day, he may just cause an upheaval for team Romney.
After all, O’Connell says, “for Obama, Virginia is not a must. But for Romney, it is a must have in terms of winning the White House.”