- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 12, 2011

A new poll shows Tim Kaine and George Allen in a dead heat for Sen. Jim Webb’s U.S. Senate seat in Virginia — but both are viewed less favorably than they were three months ago.

Mr. Kaine leads Mr. Allen 46 percent to 44 percent in a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey released Wednesday, although the advantage is negligible due to the poll’s 4.2-percentage-point margin of error.

The two were tied at 47 percent in a February PPP poll, but the public seems to have soured somewhat on of both candidates since then. Mr. Allen’s favorability rating fell three points, to 36 percent; Mr. Kaine’s fell four points, to 42 percent.

The former governors — Mr. Allen a Republican, Mr. Kaine a Democrat — will face each other next year if they win their respective primaries.

Dean Debnam, president of the North Carolina-based liberal-leaning polling firm, said it was “hard to imagine the Virginia Senate race ever being anything other than highly competitive.”

“When you have two highly polarizing candidates that voters have known for years, its unlikely either of them will break away from the pack,” he said. “Theres going to be a low number of undecideds, and its just going to come down to who does a better job of getting their people out and who can win over the very small number of swing voters.”

Well-known and possessing strong support from their bases, they’ both will be courting independent voters, who have an especially strong presence in Virginia.

With 18 months to go before the general election, the jury is out on who those independent voters will go for.

The PPP survey showed them favoring Mr. Kaine 45 percent to 40 percent, but a poll conducted in February gave Mr. Allen a 50 percent to 41 percent advantage. A poll released by The Washington Post over the weekend showed Mr. Allen with a 10-point advantage among independents.

Mr. Kaine is performing decidedly better among moderates, according to the PPP poll. Of those voters, 61 percent said they will vote for Mr. Kaine, compared to 23 percent for Mr. Allen who lost the Senate seat to Mr. Webb in 2006.

Based on the poll results, black Democratic women younger than 30 are the most likely demographic to support Mr. Kaine. Mr. Allen does best among white Republican men older than 65.

Mr. Allen has been campaigning since January, while Mr. Kaine announced his bid last month, after President Obama and other Democrats urged him to run.

“Considering we got into the race a little over a month ago, we feel good about our standing,” said Kaine spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine.

Mr. Allen’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

The poll also gauged the outcome of other head-to-head contests in the unlikely event that either Mr. Kaine or Mr. Allen loses to their most competitive primary challengers. Tea party activist Jamie Radtke, who is seeking the GOP nomination, trails Mr. Kaine 49 percent to 33 percent. Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, Newport News Democrat who has not entered the race but has been discussed as a possible candidate, trails Mr. Allen 44 percent to 39 percent.

The survey of 547 Virginia voters was conducted May 5 to 8.

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