The Northern Virginia Daily's Political Depot

A service for our readers outside the Northern Shenandoah Valley... a sampling of The Daily's political coverage, plus unofficial, 'reporter's notebook' stuff. And occasional dry humor...

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Location: Strasburg, Virginia

Friday, August 05, 2005

Pollsters: Potts the difference; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Maybe Jerry Kilgore does hold a lead over Tim Kaine outside the margin of error after all. It depends on what you think about H. Russell Potts Jr.

A new survey by independent pollster Scott Rasmussen released Thursday found Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry Kilgore leading Democratic contender Tim Kaine by 6 percentage points — a margin identical to the survey done by the polling firm in July.

The former at-torney general leads the lieutenant governor 45 percent to 39 percent. Some 5 percent reported that they would vote for Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester who is running as an independent candidate.

Kilgore has an advantage over Kaine, but not an insurmountable one, Rasmussen said. Factors like “get out the vote” efforts and voter intensity could swing the results one way or the other, and in the heat of summer, it’s hard to get a good read on those factors.

“We won’t have a good idea about” those variables until fall, he said.

Rasmussen’s poll of Thursday contradicts a late July Mason-Dixon survey that found the race to be a statistical dead heat, with Kaine holding a 1 percentage point advantage over Kilgore, 38 percent to 37 percent. Potts polled at 9 percent.

Both polling firms say the difference between the two numbers comes down to one thing — whether to include the independent candidate.

Mason-Dixon mentions the Winchester native by name, while Rasmussen doesn’t.

“He’s on the ballot. You need to ‘ask’ Potts,” said J. Bradford Coker, Mason-Dixon’s managing director.

But polling a third candidate early in the race tends to skew the results this early in the race, said Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Research.

Independent runs tend to benefit from the frustration of voters in both parties and undecided voters in the months leading up to the election, he said.

When the electorate begins to break one way or the other, though, that frustration often turns into resigned support for one of the two front-runners.

There are exceptions, such as Gov. Jesse Ventura in Minnesota, who finished strong and beat both a Republican and a Democrat in November 1998, Rasmussen said. Potts has retained Ventura’s old advertising firm.

Both men agree that it’s early for polls to be spot-on.

“It’s a summer poll,” said Rasmussen. “When Mason-Dixon is polling after Labor Day” the various numbers will start to converge on the final result.

Regardless of their differing methodology, both polls share similar themes.

Both Kaine and Kilgore continue to have nearly identical favorability ratings — 50 percent for Kilgore, 49 percent for Kaine — though both have slipped slightly since July.

Mason-Dixon found the two men comparably close in late July, with Kaine’s name being recognized favorably 31 percent of the time to Kilgore’s 30 percent.

Neither man can measure up to the favorability enjoyed by incumbent Democrat Gov. Mark R. Warner. Some 67 percent of voters view the outgoing executive favorably, up 4 percent from July. Mason-Dixon found Warner had positive job approval rating of 74 percent.

Mason-Dixon’s last sample was 625 voters taken over three days, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent.

Rasmussen’s survey of Thursday was taken on Aug. 3 and was made up of 500 voters, with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.5 percent.

All three campaigns have said the only poll that matters is the one taken on Election Day, Nov. 8.