Poll results released Thursday in the U.S. Senate race in Virginia have Tim Kaine leading George Allen by 5 points in what thus far largely has been a statistical dead heat between the two political heavyweights.
Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, led Mr. Allen, a Republican, 47 percent to 42 percent, according to results released by the liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling firm. Mr. Kaine's lead is just outside the 4-percent margin of error of the poll, which surveyed 600 Virginia voters Dec. 10-12.
Mr. Kaine's lead, the largest by either man since they declared their candidacies, comes in the first poll conducted since last week's debate by the former governors, who are the presumptive nominees of their parties.
Many observers said Mr. Kaine appeared to have the stronger performance in the debate, jabbing Mr. Allen on his record in the U.S. Senate, while Mr. Allen stumbled on some issues.
"After receiving strong reviews for his debate performance last week Tim Kaine has expanded his lead in the Virginia Senate race," said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. "This will be a close contest, but Barack Obama's holding up comparatively well in the state should work to Kaine's advantage."
The firm released results Wednesday from a new poll showing President Obama's approval ratings actually above water in Virginia, with 48 percent of respondents saying they approve of his job performance to 47 percent who said they disapproved.
While there hasn't been a clear correlation between Mr. Obama's job-approval ratings and Mr. Kaine's poll numbers, pundits agree it would be extremely difficult for Mr. Kaine, who served as the president's handpicked chairman of the Democratic National Committee, to win the state if the president fails to carry it, or vice versa.
The results also showed Mr. Kaine making progress with independent voters.
In February, Mr. Allen led Mr. Kaine among independents, 50 percent to 41 percent, while Mr. Kaine now has a slim 43- to 39-percent edge with the coveted demographic.
Voters who do not identify themselves as Southerners favored Mr. Kaine, 61 percent to 29 percent. Among those who do, Mr. Allen has a 47- to 41-percent advantage.
While Mr. Allen is the presumptive front-runner for the Republican nomination in the race, Mr. Kaine also holds a 49- to 33-percent lead in a would-be matchup with tea party candidate Jamie Radtke, the poll said.
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