- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 25, 2011

President Obama’s sinking job-approval rating in Virginia is so far having no impact on poll numbers for Senate candidate and close Obama ally Tim Kaine, despite Republican attempts to link the two together as their 2012 campaigns grind into gear.

Two highly regarded pollsters show a nearly identical situation, in what is projected to be among the most expensive and closely watched races ever.

A Quinnipiac University poll in June had Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, and George Allen, a Republican, essentially tied at 43 percent and 42 percent, respectively, while Mr. Obama’s approval-disapproval rating was split at 48-48 percent.

Then a Quinnipiac poll released this month showed the Democratic president’s approval-disapproval rating dropping to 40-54 as the U.S. economy continues to struggle, while Mr. Allen led Mr. Kaine 45 percent to 44 percent — still within the poll’s error margin of 2.7 percentage points.

A Public Policy Polling survey released in March had the front-runners locked at 47 percent with Mr. Obama’s approval rating at a 48-45. Then a survey in July by the liberal-leaning firm showed Mr. Obama’s rating had slipped to 47-48 percent, while Mr. Kaine and Mr. Allen remained essentially tied at 46 percent-43 percent, respectively.

“My sense is that Kaine probably feels pretty good right now, given that Obama’s approval ratings are dropping, but his are still even,” said longtime Virginia political analyst Bob Holsworth.

Democratic strategist Paul Goldman thinks the former Virginia governors are such well-known commodities across the state that they could be insulated from what’s happening at the national level.

“Two guys, well-known, both of them elected several times statewide,” he said. “The Allen-Kaine race is going to be like a heavyweight fight. It’s going to go 15 rounds.”

Mr. Kaine and the president are indeed political friends. Mr. Kaine served as the president’s handpicked chairman of the Democratic National Committee from January 2009 until he resigned in April to run for Senate, and was the first governor outside of Illinois to endorse Mr. Obama for president during the 2008 election cycle.

However, Mr. Kaine has not exactly given a full-throated endorsement to the president’s most recent deficit-reduction proposal, which includes plans to overhaul the tax code and impose $1.5 trillion in tax increases over the next decade.

“Governor Kaine has called for a balanced approach to deficit reduction that makes targeted spending cuts and asks the wealthiest individuals and corporations to pay their fair share by closing loopholes,” said campaign spokeswoman Brandi Hoffine. “This approach ensures that the middle class doesn’t bear the entire cost of reducing the deficit and protects the economy from dangerous across-the-board spending cuts.”

Republicans have still jumped at any chance to link Mr. Obama and Mr. Kaine, repeatedly referring to him as “chairman” and “cheerleader-in-chief.”

Still, Mr. Kaine since June has improved his status among independent voters, as Mr. Obama’s numbers worsened among the coveted voting bloc, according to the Quinnipiac polls.

In the university’s September poll, independents gave Mr. Kaine a 42 percent-40 percent edge, while giving Mr. Obama an approval-disapproval rating of 29-62, compared with the June poll, in which they favored Mr. Allen 46 percent-38 percent and gave the president a 41 percent-54 percent approval-disapproval split.

“The recent polling confirmed what we already know: This is going to be a very close race that will likely come down to the wire,” said Allen spokesman Bill Riggs.

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