- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 3, 2005

Democrat Timothy M. Kaine is leading Republican Jerry W. Kilgore in the race to be Virginia’s next governor, a new statewide poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports shows.

If the election were held today, Mr. Kaine would receive 49 percent of the vote to Mr. Kilgore’s 46 percent, according to the poll, released yesterday to The Washington Times.

H. Russell Potts Jr., a Republican state senator from Winchester running as an independent, would receive 2 percent. Three percent of voters are undecided going into Tuesday’s election, the poll shows

The poll results can be found on the Internet at www.rasmussenreports.com/2005/Virginia%20Governor_November%204.htm.

The Kaine-Kilgore numbers include “leaners,” who are Potts voters or undecided voters who were pressed to choose between the two main-party candidates. Mr. Kaine and Mr. Kilgore are tied at 37 percent when it comes to voters who are “certain” of their choice.

The results mirror those in several other statewide polls, which show the candidates either tied or with Mr. Kaine having a slight edge.

New Jersey-based Rasmussen surveyed 1,000 likely voters by telephone Wednesday night. The poll has a margin of error of three percentage points, meaning the two leading candidates are statistically tied.

However, Mr. Kaine, the lieutenant governor, has been consistently gaining in polls during the past month. Over the summer, Mr. Kilgore held a six-point lead. The last Rasmussen poll, taken Oct. 26, had Mr. Kaine with a two-point lead.

“It’s surprising, and it’s the story of the campaign,” said Scott Rasmussen, president of the polling firm. “This is a Republican-leaning state where a generic Republican would beat a generic Democrat.”

He said support from Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat with a 72 percent approval rating, has contributed to Mr. Kaine’s increase in recent weeks.

“It can be attributed to the enormous popularity of Governor Warner,” Mr. Rasmussen said.

President Bush, a Republican, received a 53 percent approval rating and 47 percent disapproval rating in the poll. He raised more than $2 million for Mr. Kilgore at an event this summer. However, Mr. Kilgore did not attend Mr. Bush’s terrorism speech in Hampton Roads last week.

Responses in the poll showed a backlash from emotional, death-penalty ads the Kilgore campaign ran to criticize Mr. Kaine’s position on the issue.

Mr. Kaine, a Catholic, is personally opposed to the death penalty but has said he will sign death warrants.

The ads feature family members of murder victims and call Mr. Kaine “too liberal” on the issue.

The poll also found that the ads made 26 percent of those surveyed more likely to support Mr. Kilgore and 36 percent more likely to support Mr. Kaine. Thirty-six percent said the ads had no effect on their vote.

“Those ads did not help Kilgore,” Mr. Rasmussen said.

However, the majority of those surveyed said they are more in line with Mr. Kilgore’s viewpoint on the death penalty.

Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the close race suggests Republicans can retake the Virginia governorship.

“This is not good news for Tim Kaine,” he said. “We are in the position to have our ground game carry us through, and we will win.”

Mr. Rasmussen said turnout and get-out-the-vote efforts will be key.

Creigh Deeds, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, predicted that the party will sweep the state’s top three offices — governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general — and pick up seats in the House of Delegates.

“The momentum has shifted in this race,” Mr. Deeds, a state senator from Bath County, said earlier this week.

The Kilgore campaign is now running an ad stating that Mr. Kaine “wants it both ways” on abortion rights issues.

“Tim Kaine — in rural Virginia he opposes abortion, in Northern Virginia he favors it,” a female narrator states.

The poll shows 89 percent of Democrats surveyed support Mr. Kaine, while 85 percent of Republicans support Mr. Kilgore.

Mr. Kaine had 49 percent of independents choose him. Mr. Kilgore captured 40 percent of those voters. Mr. Kaine captured a higher number of somewhat conservative and moderate voters.

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