- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 30, 2011

Virginia voters are equally divided on whether George Allen or Tim Kaine should be their next U.S. senator, as the two former governors anticipate going head to head in a closely watched race next year.

Mr. Kaine came in 1 percentage point ahead of Mr. Allen in a Quinnipiac University poll released Thursday showing the former Democratic National Committee chairman with a 43 percent to 42 percent lead over his potential GOP opponent - a statistical dead heat.

Mr. Kaine’s campaign trumpeted the results Thursday morning, in a last-minute effort to raise money on the last day before second-quarter fundraising reports are due. Both he and Mr. Allen are popular within their parties, with Mr. Allen leading 83 percent to 8 percent among Republicans and Mr. Kaine leading 85 percent to 5 percent among Democrats.

But Mr. Allen appears to have a slight edge with independent voters, who form a strong constituency in Virginia. He was favored by 46 percent of those voters, while Mr. Kaine was favored by 38 percent.

That’s a good sign for Mr. Allen, said Virginia Republican Party spokesman Garren Shipley. He compared the numbers to how independents voted in November, when Republicans regained control of the House and took six Senate seats. In that election, independents nationwide supported Democrats 39 percent of the time and Republicans 55 percent of the time, exit polls showed.

“Plus-eight is not plus-15, but we’ll take it,” Mr. Shipley said.

The poll showed Mr. Kaine favored more by women, 45 percent to 37 percent, and black voters, 69 percent to 11 percent. Mr. Allen was favored more by men, 47 percent to 40 percent, and white voters, 52 percent to 37 percent.

How President Obama fares in Virginia public opinion could give some indication of which direction the Senate race will lean, since the political moods in Virginia and nationwide tend to reflect each other.

Poll respondents gave the president a 48 percent approval rating and split 47 percent to 47 percent on whether he deserves re-election. He would beat an unnamed GOP challenger 43 percent to 41 percent.

The poll of 1,434 registered voters was conducted from June 21 to 27, with a 2.6 percent margin of error.

Both the Allen and Kaine campaigns are using the closeness of the race to draw dollars out of their respective donors.

“A brand new poll released today shows this race is a dead heat. … We only need 119 more donors to reach our goal so we can communicate our message: ‘America has challenges; Virginia has answers,’ ” read an email sent by Mr. Kaine’s campaign.

“We know this is going to be a tight race that comes down to the wire,” said Allen spokesman Bill Riggs. “That’s why Gov. Allen is going across the state to gather grass-roots support.”