It’s official. Jon Stewart broadcast the first “Indecision 2012” segment last night. The 2012 election cycle is underway.

Virginia is shaping up as a key swing state for President Obama’s re-election prospects. Since Jim Webb dropped out, it has also emerged as a critical must-win for the Democrats to retain their Senate majority.

Public Policy Polling has a couple of new polls out focusing on the state. So far, it’s all good news for the Dems, and the Independent voters in Virginia are a big part of the story.

Obama Strong in Virginia:

“Part of the reason Obama’s doing well in Virginia is that he has respectable, if not great, approval numbers there. 48% like the job he’s doing to 45% who disapprove. There are two keys to his solid standing. The first is that 87% of Democrats stand with him- that’s an indication he’s generally holding onto white voters within his party, even ones who might lean a little bit more to the conservative side of the ideological spectrum.

The other key to his standing is that he’s coming close to breaking even with independents- 48% disapprove of him to 42% who approve. It may seem counter intuitive that negative numbers with those voters are a good sign for Obama, but after two straight election years where independents in Virginia leaned toward the GOP by a margin of about 30 points a Democratic politician getting just slightly negative reviews from them is progress.”

Toss up in Virginia

“The Virginia Senate race is about as much of a toss up as it could be: Tim Kaine and George Allen tie at 47% in our first poll since Jim Webb announced his retirement… The conventional wisdom has been that if Obama wins the state the Senate race is likely to come with him, but could there actually be a group of independent voters that go Obama/Allen in the interest of divided government? These early figures hint at the possibility of that and it’s something to keep an eye on moving forward.”

Clearly, it is an open question whether there is anything meaningful to be gleaned from polls 20 months out from an election. Minimally, these polls offer a baseline set of numbers for comparison when the campaigns kick off in earnest.

For me, The most interesting element of the PPP poll summary is the highlighted question “could there actually be a group of independent voters that go Obama/Allen in the interest of divided government?”. Regardless of the answer, it is significant that the question of whether independents are consciously making a divided government voting decisions is even being asked. I offered my answer in the comments on that post.

In honor of the official start of the 2012 presidential election race, a suggestion for the Virginia Election Theme Song:

Sweet Virginia” – Rolling Stones

Wadin’ through the waste stormy winter,
And there’s not a friend to help you through.
Tryin’ to stop the waves behind your eyeballs,
Drop your reds, drop your greens and blues.

But come on, come on down Sweet Virginia,
Come on, come on down, I beg of you.
Come on, come on down, you got it in you.
Got to scrape that sh*t right off you shoes

Cross-posted from Divided We Stand United We Fall

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