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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Kilgore camp says survey out of whack; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

A new Mason-Dixon poll may show Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine slightly ahead in the race to be Virginia’s next governor, but former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore’s campaign isn’t buying.

The poll, released Sunday, shows Kaine, the Democrat, with 38 percent of the vote, Republican Kilgore with 37 percent and state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, an independent candidate, with 9 percent.

The poll shows 16 percent of voters are undecided. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
“This poll flies in the face of everything we have seen,” Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said over the weekend.
“Eight other public polls and our own internal polling … show Jerry Kilgore with a clear lead in this race.”

Previous polls from Mason-Dixon, SurveyUSA and Rasmussen Research have all showed Kilgore with a significant lead over Kaine.

And at this point in the campaign, both camps want to lay claim to “the momentum,” the public impression that the campaign is on a roll and headed toward victory.

The new Mason-Dixon numbers gave the Kaine camp a fresh claim to the impetus toward victory. Campaign Manager Mike Henry sent out a new appeal for volunteers and donations just hours after the poll became public.

The poll “shows what we’ve known all along — in the race for Virginia Governor, Tim Kaine clearly has the momentum, as voters are becoming more and more convinced that he is the best candidate to keep Virginia moving forward,” Henry e-mailed supporters.

But, just as for Kilgore’s camp, the only poll that matters “is the one on Election Day,” he said.

On the other side, one poll isn’t enough to kill months of positive GOP inertia, Murtaugh said.

“Everything we see places the momentum squarely on our side. Jerry Kilgore won the first debate, dominated the last fund-raising period and just welcomed President Bush to Virginia,” he said.

“Tim Kaine, meanwhile, lost the first debate, raised only half of what Kilgore raised in June and has completely abandoned rural Virginia,” he said.

“There is no evidence to support what this poll says,” he said. If Kaine were ahead, the campaign wouldn’t have needed help recently from 2004 presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., and former Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., in the form of fundraising letters.

Regardless, “we will continue to run as if we are 10 points behind,” he said.

Even what looks like bad news for the Potts campaign is good news, according to the senator’s top political consultant.

Tom D’Amore said he was “right pleased,” to borrow a Southern expression, with the results. Polling at 9 percent when more than half of the state doesn’t recognize the candidate’s name is impressive.

“These polls at this stage aren’t measuring who’s going to win or lose. They’re really measuring voter recognition,” he said.
D’Amore said he was expecting a number of anywhere from 2 to 5 percent. Nine percent is going to make it much easier to bring their bank account back from the brink.

The campaign had less than $150,000 on hand at the end of the last reporting period.

Now, “there’s a real possibility that we could win this thing. It’s a real long shot, [but] it’s less of a long shot every day.” The campaign can’t succeed if 57 percent of voters continue to have no idea who Russ Potts is, though.

“We need to be on TV and do some paid media,” he said.

In the meantime, low recognition is “very good news for us. We’re virtually a blank piece of paper. If our ID was up and we were still this low,” the campaign would be in dire straits, D’Amore said.
R Contact Garren Shipley at gshipley@nvdaily.com