- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The race for a U.S. Senate seat from Virginia is a statistical dead heat, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Wednesday — the fourth straight survey from the institute in which results for Republican George Allen and Democrat Tim Kaine have fallen within the margin of error.

Mr. Allen led 44 percent to 42 percent for Mr. Kaine among the 1,135 registered voters surveyed from Dec. 13-19, but the margin of error was 2.9 percentage points.

The race, which is expected to be one of the costliest and most closely watched in the country in 2012, has been tight since the political heavyweights announced their intentions to run.

“Two popular former governors mean Virginia’s U.S. Senate race could be a real cliffhanger,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.

The survey was released about a week after the liberal-leaning Public Policy Polling firm gave Mr. Kaine a 47- to 42-percent lead — slightly outside the margin of error of that poll, which was conducted after the candidates debated on Dec. 7 for the first time.

The Quinnipiac poll also found President Obama has an approval rating below 50 percent in Virginia. Fifty-one percent of respondents said they disapprove of the job he’s doing as president, while 42 percent approved.

By a 53- to-41-percent margin, voters said Mr. Obama, a Democrat, does not deserve a second term.

“In 2008, President Obama was the first Democrat to carry Virginia since 1964,” Mr. Brown said. “To do it again in 2012, he’ll need to improve his current standing among Virginians.”

In the race for the Republican presidential nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich held a slight 30- to-25-percent lead over former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with none of the other candidates topping 9 percent. In a head-to-head race between the two, Mr. Gingrich leads Mr. Romney 47 percent to 39 percent.

Those results, from a survey of 489 Republicans, carried a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

Mr. Romney’s 44- to-42-percent lead over Mr. Obama was within the poll’s margin of error. Mr. Gingrich trailed Mr. Obama, 46 percent to 41 percent.

Mr. Romney’s favorability ratings were much higher than Mr. Gingrich’s, at a 37- to-27-percent favorable/unfavorable split compared to 29- to-45 percent split for Mr. Gingrich.

Mr. Gingrich, however, is still racing to gather enough signatures to officially get his name on the ballot in the state.

He was scheduled to hold a rally Wednesday in Arlington County and attend a fundraiser for the Republican Party of Virginia on Thursday morning in Richmond.

Virginia has among the most stringent ballot requirements in the country. Candidates must amass 10,000 signatures statewide, and at least 400 signatures must be collected in each of the state’s 11 congressional districts.