Thursday, June 22, 2006

Democrat James H. Webb Jr. is gaining in the polls, a week after the former Reagan Republican won his party’s nomination to challenge incumbent Sen. George Allen of Virginia.

A poll conducted by the Wall Street Journal/Zogby International since the June 13 primary showed that 43.5 percent of potential voters would pick Mr. Webb while 48.8 percent would choose Mr. Allen.

In March, a Zogby poll showed that 41.7 percent of voters said they would select Mr. Webb, while 48.9 percent said they would pick Mr. Allen.

Earlier this week, a poll by Rasmussen Reports showed that Mr. Webb cut in half Mr. Allen’s 20-point lead since April. The latest Rasmussen poll shows Mr. Allen leading Mr. Webb, 51 percent to 41 percent.

“This says that George Allen is in trouble of losing his job,” said Kristian Denny-Todd, a spokeswoman for Mr. Webb. “Allen has gone out of his way to send a message that he is bored with the Senate, and he wants to be president. He is using his position as a springboard for higher office and people of Virginia want somebody who wants to work for them.”

Mr. Allen’s campaign manager, Dick Wadhams, said the poll “numbers have nothing to do with reality.” “The Wall Street Journal ought to be embarrassed they hired [Zogby],” he said. “I can only hope our opponent bases his campaign strategy on Zogby numbers.”

Zogby defended its numbers. “We are very confident we are close in this race,” said Fritz Wenzel, a Zogby spokesman.

Mr. Wenzel pointed to a Zogby poll in October that showed Democrat Timothy M. Kaine leading Republican Jerry W. Kilgore 48 percent to 46 percent in Virginia’s gubernatorial race. Mr. Kaine ended up winning the governorship with 52 percent of the vote.

Mr. Webb, 60, defeated former lobbyist and party activist Harris N. Miller in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. He is a decorated Marine and best-selling author who supported Mr. Allen in 2000.

Mr. Allen, 54, has served as state delegate, U.S. representative and Virginia governor, an office limited to one term by the state constitution. He ousted Democratic incumbent Sen. Charles S. Robb in 2000.

Mr. Allen, who is getting a firsthand look at the rebuilding effort in New Orleans today, has dipped into his $7.5 million campaign war chest to air a television advertisement in the expensive Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads markets.

Since the primary, Mr. Webb, who had $220,000 since his last filing with the Federal Election Commission, has held one press conference and several closed-door meetings with Democrats on Capitol Hill and in Virginia.

Today, Mr. Webb will be in Richmond with Mr. Kaine, whose political action committee, Moving Virginia Forward, on Wednesday e-mailed Democratic activists urging them to donate to Mr. Webb’s campaign.

“George Allen has already raised $11 million,” Mr. Kaine wrote. “We must help Jim close the gap as much as possible before the Federal Election Commission fundraising deadline. I need you to support Jim, as you supported me last year.”

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