- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Republican candidate Robert F. McDonnell has opened a decisive lead over state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds in the Virginia gubernatorial race, according to the latest poll, released Tuesday.

The poll from Public Policy Polling, a nonpartisan Raleigh, N.C.-based firm, shows Mr. McDonnell with 51 percent support compared with 37 percent for Mr. Deeds. The 14-point lead is up from six points a month ago.

Mr. Deeds is also combating Democratic voter fatigue, according to the poll, which shows only 42 percent of the people who voted for President Obama intend to vote in the fall, while 60 percent of the people who voted for Arizona Sen. John McCain are planning to head to the polls.

The downward trend experienced by Mr. Deeds is similar to Mr. Obama’s diminished approval numbers and is reflected also in New Jersey Democrat Jon Corzine’s poll numbers: The Garden State governor trails his opponent, Republican Christopher J. Christie, by 14 points.

In the other two statewide races in Virginia, Republicans are also leading their opponents. Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is ahead of former state Finance Secretary Jody Wagner, 48 percent to 34 percent in the race for lieutenant governor. State Sen. Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II is ahead of Delegate Stephen C. Shannon 45 percent to 32 percent in the race for attorney general.

“As Barack Obama’s approval rating in Virginia declines, we’re finding that Bob McDonnell is the beneficiary,” said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling. The poll also showed that 81 percent of those polled are solidly committed to their choice.

Despite the polling numbers being in Mr. McDonnell’s favor, Mr. Deeds has shown an ability to surge ahead at the last minute. During the primary, he trailed both of his competitors in the polls but went on to win by a wide margin. Mr. Deeds leads in voter-rich Northern Virginia by 51 percent to 44 percent; however, he trails Mr. McDonnell among self-described suburbanites 51 percent to 37 percent.

Mr. McDonnell’s campaign said the poll numbers are reflective of a growing momentum behind the candidate, who was in Richmond on Tuesday to announce the third part of his education plan, which he said will concentrate on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education to help ensure the state can produce the workers necessary for high-tech jobs.

The Deeds campaign dismissed the poll numbers and noted that Mr. Deeds runs best from behind.

“As we saw during the primary, Creigh runs best as an underdog,” said Mike Gehrke, a Deeds campaign spokesman.

On Tuesday, Mr. Deeds continued his tour of the state, speaking in Danville, where he said that if elected he would introduce legislation that would enable the state to accept $125 million in unemployment-related economic stimulus funds.

“By leading the partisan charge to oppose $125 million in stimulus funds to extend unemployment benefits, Bob McDonnell turned his back on Virginia’s most vulnerable citizens,” Mr. Deeds said. “This unemployment stimulus money will retrain Virginians to improve their job skills and help the unemployed temporarily put food in the fridge and gas in the tank.”

Both campaigns downplayed the poll results, noting that the only poll results that truly count are those on Nov. 3 - Election Day.

Mr. McDonnell has a 54 percent “favorable” rating, compared with the 26 percent who view him unfavorably. With independents, he claims a 52 percent favorable/33 percent unfavorable edge.

Mr. Deeds, on the other hand, has an overall “favorable” rating of 43 percent, compared with 32 percent who give him an “unfavorable,” and things are likely to improve for him. There are still large swaths of undecided voters in groups who voted in high numbers for Mr. Obama last year.

The poll, of 579 likely Virginia voters contacted between July 31 to Aug. 3, has a margin of error of 4.1 percentage points.

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