Thursday, September 29, 2005

The race to be Virginia’s next governor is tied, with both Republican Jerry W. Kilgore and Democrat Timothy M. Kaine receiving the same percentage of support, a statewide poll conducted by Rasmussen Reports shows. [See Poll]

If the election were held today, both men would receive 45 percent, the survey of 500 likely Virginia voters shows. The poll suggests more voters are making up their minds as the Nov. 8 election nears and as both candidates run negative television ads critical of their opponent.

Independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr. would receive 5 percent of the vote, no change from the last poll conducted, Rasmussen said.

The poll showed that 5 percent of voters were undecided, down from the last poll taken on Sept. 14, which showed 10 percent of voters were unsure. The margin of error is 4.5 percentage points.

The results were provided to The Washington Times yesterday. The New Jersey-based Rasmussen surveyed the voters by telephone Wednesday.

“Kaine is making progress among the important constituencies he needs to reach,” said Scott Rasmussen, president of the polling firm. “So far, Kaine is doing a better job of getting those who are unsure.”

The survey showed 82 percent of Democrats favor Mr. Kaine, up from 67 percent in the last poll.

This is the closest two gubernatorial candidates have been in Virginia since at least 1989, when Democrat L. Douglas Wilder beat Republican Marshall Coleman, said Mark J. Rozell, a professor of public policy at George Mason University.

“There’s never been a really solid or comfortable lead for either candidate so far,” Mr. Rozell said. “It’s the tightest race in modern history.”

The Wilder-Coleman race resulted in a recount; the election was decided by fewer than 5,000 votes. However, Mr. Wilder had held a steady lead in polls.

Mr. Kaine’s strategy of capitalizing on Gov. Mark Warner’s popularity — he has a more than 70 percent approval rating in all polls — seems to be working. The Rasmussen poll shows Mr. Warner with wide statewide support.

Tomorrow, Mr. Kaine will begin airing statewide television and radio ads that star the Democratic governor.

“Tim Kaine had the guts to stand with me and put our financial house in order,” Mr. Warner says. “It’s working, and we can’t afford to go backward. We need a leader like Tim Kaine to keep Virginia moving forward.”

Mr. Kaine generated slightly more than $500,000 at a Wednesday night fundraiser headlined by the governor.

The poll also suggests that many Virginia voters are dissatisfied with President Bush, who has campaigned for Mr. Kilgore.

Mr. Kilgore is a former state attorney general, and Mr. Kaine is lieutenant governor.

The largest bloc of undecided voters is the group between the ages of 40 and 49.

The tight race leaves the Kilgore and Kaine campaigns scrambling to reach a smaller portion of the electorate.

It also puts Mr. Potts, a state senator, in the role of spoiler, Mr. Rozell said.

The independent candidate is “going nowhere at this point,” and if support for him dwindles, “it could be just enough to turn the election one way or another,” Mr. Rozell said.

Mr. Potts is likely to not be included in the final debate between Mr. Kilgore and Mr. Kaine, scheduled for Oct. 9 in Richmond. Debate organizers have said they will include the candidate, a Republican from Winchester, only if he reaches 15 percent in two statewide polls.

The Rasmussen poll shows that more Potts voters say they are moderate, somewhat liberal or very liberal than say they are very conservative or somewhat conservative, suggesting the senator pulls more votes from Mr. Kaine than Mr. Kilgore. Mr. Rasmussen said he suspects many Potts supporters will abandon the independent and choose a main-party candidate on Election Day.

A Sept. 14 Rasmussen poll showed Mr. Kilgore with 43 percent and Mr. Kaine with 40 percent. Rasmussen polls in August and July showed Mr. Kilgore with a six-point lead over Mr. Kaine.

As of Aug. 30, Mr. Kilgore has raised $13.9 million and had $6.75 million cash on hand. Mr. Kaine had $13.3 million and $5.7 million cash on hand. Both men have been airing statewide television ads this month.

Mr. Potts has raised about $1.3 million and had more than $463,000 on hand as of Aug. 30.

See Rasmussen Reports Virginia Gubernatorial Poll

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