Virginia, which Barack Obama carried 53%-46% in 2003—exactly his national average—is the scene of several seriously contested House races this year.

One is in the 5th district, where Democrat Tom Perriello upset incumbent Republican Virgil Goode by only 727 votes, the smallest popular vote margin in any 2008 House race. Perriello was helped by high turnout in the university town of Charlottesville and among black voters in rural counties. Now it looks like he needs a lot more help. A SurveyUSA poll shows him trailing Republican state Senator Robert Hurt 58%-35%. That’s the worst showing for a non-scandal-plagued incumbent House member I can remember seeing. SurveyUSA points out that its sample tilts Republican, which it says reflects greater enthusiasm among Republican voters; it adds that even if you weight the results to reflect a less Republican electorate, Hurt would still be ahead. Perriello carries moderates and liberals, but Hurt carries conservatives 84%-10%, and they constitute 46% of the sample. I note that Hurt is also ahead 62%-30% among voters under 30. This is a small group (sample size: about 120), so there is a significant margin of error; nevertheless, this is a huge turnaround from 2008, when young voters supported Barack Obama and Democratic House candidates by a wide margin.

There is better news for Democrats is SurveyUSA’s poll in the 9th district, where incumbent Democrat Rick Boucher leads Delegate Morgan Griffith by 52%-39%. Evidently Boucher’s 28 years of incumbency and his high-seniority position on the Energy and Commerce Committee are proving something of an asset and his vote in June 2009 for the House cap-and-trade bill has not proved a disabling liability in this coal-mining area. Nonetheless, Boucher is hovering just a bit above the magic number of 50% and is running far, far behind his previous showings. He first won the seat 50.4%-49.6% from Republican incumbent William Wampler in 1982 and held it 52%-48% in 1984, when Ronald Reagan was carrying the district 58%-41%. But starting in 1986 he has never won with less than 59% of the vote. A rule of standard analysis is that an incumbent, especially a long-time incumbent like Boucher, will receive in polls about the same percentage as he will in an election, while a challenger like Griffith (who actually lives a short distance outside the district), being less well-known, can end up winning a larger percentage than he polls. That suggests that this seat is not totally out of range for the Republican.

Note: Due to an error, this post was originally given the wrong byline.