- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Republican Jerry W. Kilgore gained two percentage points over Democrat Timothy M. Kaine in the Virginia gubernatorial race, even though the Republican lost the final debate Sunday, a statewide poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports shows. [Poll here]

If the election were held today, Mr. Kilgore, the former attorney general, would secure 46 percent of the vote, while Mr. Kaine, the lieutenant governor, would receive 44 percent, the survey of 500 likely Virginia voters shows.

Those numbers include “leaners,” who are defined as likely but undecided voters who were pressed to choose a candidate, said Scott Rasmussen, president of the New Jersey-based polling firm.

Still, most of the voters surveyed said they thought that Mr. Kaine won the debate, which was the only televised face-off between the two main-party candidates.

Of the 53 percent of likely voters who said they saw, heard or read about the debate, 40 percent said they thought Mr. Kaine won the debate, while 34 percent thought that Mr. Kilgore did a better job, the poll shows.

“It’s been a couple of weeks since our last poll and the debate is one of several things that’s happened in that time frame, and since the polls show there’s not a huge amount of interest in the debate, there could be other things that are influencing that as well,” Mr. Rasmussen said, emphasizing that 11 percent of voters surveyed watched the debate in its entirety.

The last poll, taken Sept. 28, showed that Mr. Kilgore and Mr. Kaine were tied at 45 percent.

The latest poll shows that the voting pool for independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr. dropped to 1 percent when leaners were asked to declare a favorite candidate. Mr. Potts received 5 percent in the previous poll.

The poll also showed that 9 percent of voters were undecided, an increase from the previous poll, which showed that 5 percent were undecided.

Mr. Kilgore’s lead is statistically insignificant because it is within the margin of error, plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Mr. Rasmussen said the latest poll shows that the race for governor remains “very close.”

“When you talk about a change from 45-45 in one poll to 46-44, it’s difficult to say one candidate has lost or gained a lot of ground. I think what we’re seeing overall is Kilgore has a slight edge and that’s partly because the state of Virginia tends to lean Republican,” he said. “I think it’s important to point out that what this poll really shows is Kilgore’s downward trend has stopped.”

Mr. Rasmussen noted that Mr. Kilgore has come down from a six-point lead over Mr. Kaine in August to a three-point lead in September, and gained two more points from last month’s tie.

Press coverage of Sunday’s debate appears to have had little effect on the race, Mr. Rasmussen said.

When asked the importance of the televised debates in determining how they will vote in the election, 23 percent of voters who have seen, read or heard about the debate said the forums are “very important,” while 39 percent said they were “somewhat important.”

Eleven percent of voters said televised debates are “not at all important,” the poll shows.

Mark J. Rozell, professor of public policy at George Mason University, said debates don’t necessarily change people’s minds.

“Not many voters see these events as instructive as to how someone will lead as governor, and so it’s perfectly logical for many voters to say Kaine is a better debater but they support Jerry Kilgore because he’s a better leader or they like his policies better,” he said. “People like someone who represents their views and who will govern responsibly, and what that means is they’re not necessarily voting for the best debater in the room.”

The results were provided to The Washington Times yesterday. Rasmussen surveyed the voters by telephone Tuesday.

More information:

Rasmussen Reports poll

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