In one of the biggest political surprises of 2008, Democrat Tom Perriello narrowly defeated then-incumbent Republican Congressman Virgil Goode by 727 votes to represent Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District, an area that stretches from just north of Charlottesville south to the Virginia-North Carolina border.
Earlier this month, congressional pollster Stuart Rothenberg acknowledged that if the Republican Party is to pickup a House seat in the Commonwealth this fall, the GOP’s best shot lies in the upcoming battle for VA-5.
Currently there are seven confirmed Republican candidates vying for the right to face Perriello on the ballot in November. They include: Ken Boyd, Ron Ferrin, Robert Hurt, Jim McKelvey, Mike McPadden, Feda Morton and Laurence Verga.
Last week, North Carolina-based Public Policy Polling (PPP) completed its survey of 400 likely Republican primary voters in Virginia’s Fifth Congressional District to determine which GOP hopeful had the inside track on winning the upcoming June primary.
With 51 percent of those surveyed undecided, PPP found that state Sen. Robert Hurt scored the best at 22 percent. Albemarle County Supervisor Ken Boyd finished second at 12 percent. PPP did not indicate the margin of error for this survey.
So what does this tell us? At this juncture, any of the seven candidates could technically win the GOP primary. The key to victory will be which candidate can actually turn out the most primary voters on June 8.
Can Hurt or another challenger defeat Perriello come November? In a separate survey of 924 registered Virginia Fifth Congressional District voters, PPP sought to determine this question.
PPP found that Hurt is tied with Perriello at 44 percent with 13 percent undecided in a head-to-head match-up. Perriello trumps other GOP candidates in head-to-head contests. This survey’s margin of error was plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.
Ironically, former Republican Congressman Virgil Goode, who publicly insists that he won’t enter the GOP primary, is tied with Perriello if Hurt was the Republican candidate and Goode ran as an independent. Under this scenario, Perriello and Goode would garner 41 percent each, Hurt would pickup 12 percent with 6 percent undecided.
Politico’s Jessica Taylor posits that “the whole race [for VA-5] could be turned on its head if former Rep. Virgil Goode…enters the race as a third-party candidate.”