Obama's Reversal of Fortune in Virginia

Call it a Winter thaw for President Obama.

In the important toss-up state of Virginia, the president, who was the first Democrat to win the state since Lyndon Johnson in 1964, is seeing a turnaround.

He now leads presumed Republican front-runner Mitt Rommey 47%-43% in a hypothetical general election head-to-head match-up in a Quinnipiac poll out Wednesday. That's a six-point turnaround from late December, when Romney led the incumbent president by two, 44%-42%. And it's the first time the president has held the lead in the poll.

He leads the other GOP candidates by wider margins -- Ron Paul 47%-40%, Rick Santorum 49%-41%, and Newt Gingrich by a whopping 51%-37%.

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More Virginians, however, disapprove of the job the president is doing by a 46%-49% margin. Virginians are now split on whether President Obama deserves to be re-elected. They say he does not by a 48%-46% margin. But that is a big turnaround in Obama's favor when a majority -- 53% -- said he did not deserve reelection.

Two reasons for the shift -- women and independents.

Women now favor the president 52%-40% compared to 43%-45% in December, a shift of 14 points. Independents moved slightly in Obama's favor from 41%-41% in December to 45%-41% for him now in a match-up with Romney.

Senate Race Remains Tight

In the key Virginia Senate race, voters continue to be split on former Govs. Tim Kaine (D) and George Allen (R). Kaine leads slightly 45%-44%. The race has been a one-to-two-point spread since June, when Quinnipiac started asking about the race.

Kaine and Allen win overwhelming margins of their respective parties. Kaine has a narrow edge among independents, 44%-40%. Kaine leads by 8 with women -- 47%-39% -- and Allen leads by 7 with men -- 49%-42%. Kaine leads 80%-10% among black voters, a margin that could expand with Obama on the ballot.

Both have fairly good favorability ratings, but large percentages are undecided, meaning the ad war that will ensue and the fight to define the other candidate will be crucial in the next few months.

Many observers think it's possible that as goes Virginia, so goes control of the U.S. Senate. Republicans need a net gain of four seats if President Obama wins re-election and three if he loses. Two seats -- North Dakota and Nebraska -- are likely to be GOP takeovers.

Toss-up races like in Virginia and Missouri (where Democrats currently hold the seats) and Massachusetts and Nevada (where Republicans currently hold the seat) will be key to control.

Domenico Montanaro is an NBC News Political Reporter and an NBC News First Read analyst. Read the national edition of First Read featuring Chuck Todd, Mark Murray and Domenico on msnbc.com.

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