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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Friday, July 15, 2005

New poll: Kilgore still ahead of Kaine; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Republican Jerry Kilgore continues to lead Democrat Tim Kaine, according to a new poll released Thursday.

But polling data and Saturday’s debate in West Virginia hasn’t stopped the two tickets from trying to make political hay this week.

The former state attorney general still leads the Democratic lieutenant governor by 6 percent, according to a poll released Thursday by Rasmussen Research.

If the election had been held on July 12, according to the poll, Kilgore would have come home with 47 percent of the vote to Kaine’s 41 percent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.

One month ago the margin was identical, with Kilgore taking 46 percent to Kaine’s 40. In April, Kilgore held an 8 percent lead, but that number dropped as both candidates brought in more support from undecided voters.
Rasmussen had more good news for Kilgore.

“At the moment, Kilgore’s voters are more committed than Kaine’s,” Rasmussen says in the poll’s abstract. “Among those most likely to vote, Kilgore leads 50 percent to 39 percent.”

The news wasn’t good for state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, who bounced back to 4 percent, up from 2 percent a month ago.

The poll of 500 likely voters didn’t mention Potts by name, giving voters a choice of Kaine, Kilgore or “other.” That’s by design, Rasmussen said.

The April poll found 5 percent supporting “other.”

Mentioning third-party candidates by name early in polling “tends to overstate their importance,” he said. “The only time we would change that would be after Labor Day” if Potts “appears to have a bigger impact.”

“We definitely feel good about where we are,” said Kaine press secretary Delacey Skinner. “The one poll that counts is the one on Nov. 8.”

After all, it’s just July.

“Some people are starting to pay attention, but some people are not,” she said. “We’re looking forward to the debates this weekend, hoping that we’ll be able to talk Jerry Kilgore into a statewide televised debate.”

Potts’ campaign didn’t immediately return calls for comment.

At the Kilgore camp, the new poll — along with early finance reports showing they’d doubled the June fundraising of Kaine — is taken as evidence that the race is rolling their way.
“This, coupled with our very strong performance in raising money in June … demonstrates that momentum is very obviously on our side,” said spokesman Tim Murtaugh.

Kaine’s staff spent the day trying to change that perception.

The campaign took dead aim at Kilgore’s biggest contributor again on Thursday, following up on charges leveled by Democratic attorney general nominee state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, earlier in the week.

Skinner sent out a press release challenging Kilgore’s decision to take campaign contributions from John Gregory, the founder of Bristol, Tenn.-based King Pharmaceuticals. Gregory has donated almost $500,000 to Kilgore’s various campaigns since 2001.

Direct mailers from Kaine sent to competitive areas of the commonwealth in recent weeks accuse Kilgore of overlooking King’s admitted Medicaid overcharge of some $65 million because of Gregory’s donations.

Kilgore’s campaign has said the charges just prove that Kaine and Deeds don’t know how the attorney general’s office works, since the state was investigating King through a multi-state collaboration of Medicaid fraud units.

The GOP didn’t sit still for long after Deeds’ charges.

Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach, the Republican candidate for attorney general, held a press conference Wednesday to call attention to Deeds’ favorable rating from the AFL-CIO and negative rating from business groups such as the National Federation of Independent Businesses.

McDonnell, on the other hand, had uniformly high ratings from business and ratings at or near the bottom of the House of Delegates for labor issues.

“No matter what rating system you use to determine which candidate has been an effective legislator, or which candidate favors business and free enterprise verses unions, there is a stark contrast,” former Attorney General Randy Beales said at a press conference in Richmond.

“McDonnell is the clear choice to protect Virginia’s favorable business climate and right to work laws, and promote economic development,” stated Beales, who replaced Mark Earley in July 2001.

Back in Richmond, the state Democratic Party shot back at Kilgore, this time about debates.

Kaine and Kilgore will formally debate for the first time Saturday at the Virginia Bar Association annual meeting in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va. The event won’t be televised.

Democrats will “discover” that fact when they attempt to watch the 11 a.m. exchange at parties around the state, Communications Director Mark Bergman said.

Afterward, party faithful will head out to campaign for their man — and tell whoever will listen that Kilgore has yet to agree to a televised debate.

Election Day is Nov. 8.