US Presidential Election 2012

Romney supporters worried Virginia long shot could affect election

Republican's supporters in Virginia fear local hopeful may take vital votes from their nominee

PUBLISHED : Monday, 05 November, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 05 November, 2012, 4:14am

Virgil Goode has absolutely no chance of winning the presidency. But in his home state of Virginia, his quixotic quest for the White House as the Constitution Party candidate could peel votes away from Mitt Romney, and that is making some Republicans nervous.

"Why would you do this?" Susan Ferreri, a small-business owner, asked Goode who was recently in a Richmond Italian restaurant to hand out leaflets and rustle up votes. "I'm against Obama, and I will go with Romney, and I just really hope you don't upset it."

Goode, 66, a former congressman who is a staunch opponent of immigration and is a fiscal and social conservative, politely defended himself and moved on.

"I have heard that argument before," he said. Indeed he has. In many states, Republicans have worked to suppress Goode's candidacy. He is on the ballot in 26 states and is running as a write-in candidate in an additional 14.

Republicans succeeded in blocking him in Pennsylvania; Goode says that it would have cost him US$100,000 to fight to have his name included and that he did not have the money.

But the efforts failed here in the swing state of Virginia, where President Barack Obama and Romney are running neck and neck in the battle for 13 electoral votes. In the latest Fox News poll in Virginia, Goode is backed by 1 per cent of likely voters.

Silver-haired and lanky, Goode has roots as a country lawyer in the bucolic southwestern town of Rocky Mount, where he is a household name and has a base of regional support. "The problem for Romney is he is culturally so opposite from most voters in Southside Virginia that there is an area for Virgil Goode to win votes," said David Wasserman of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report. "In 2008, there were close to 40,000 votes cast for third-party candidates in Virginia. What if Virgil Goode took 25,000 votes? That could be a potential difference maker."

The Romney campaign says it is not worried. "This election is a very clear choice between two candidates," said Rich Beeson, Romney's political director.

"We are running a campaign that will ensure Mitt Romney wins regardless of who is in the race."

But Tom Davis, a former Republican congressman from Virginia, is more cautious. "I don't think his candidacy is helpful," Davis said of Goode.

Goode, who was elected to Congress in 1996 but lost his seat in 2008, began his career as a Democrat but infuriated the party by voting to impeach president Bill Clinton. Then he was an independent and later a Republican; in 2010, he joined the Constitution Party, which advocates a strict interpretation of the Constitution.

In 2006, he offended many of his colleagues - and constituents - by attacking Democrat congressman Keith Ellison of Minnesota, the first Muslim elected to Congress, for taking the oath of office with his hand on a Koran. Goode's remarks helped in his losing his seat, said Wasserman of the Cook Political Report.

But in Powhatan, Goode found at least one supporter: Rachel Bondurant, 69, who grew up near Rocky Mount. As she ate her spaghetti at the Italian restaurant, he slipped a campaign flier on the table, and soon they were talking about family connections and a new movie about moonshiners set in their home county.

"I don't like who else is running," she said. "I like him."