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

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Mason-Dixon: Kilgore 41, Kaine 40, Potts 6

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Jerry Kilgore leads Tim Kaine by 1 percent in a Mason-Dixon poll released Sunday, reversing Kaine’s margin from July.

But it’s still anybody’s race.

The Republican former attorney general leads the Democratic lieutenant governor by a margin of 41 percent to 40 percent, with independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr. pulling in 6 percent, according to the poll, which was conducted between Tuesday and Thursday. Some 13 percent of the 625 respondents were undecided.

A July poll found Kaine leading Kilgore 38 to 37 percent, with Potts polling at 9 percent. Sixteen percent said they were undecided.

On a regional basis, the Democratic campaign holds significant leads in its expected strongholds of Northern Virginia, 44 to 36 percent, and Hampton Roads, 42 to 38 percent.

Kilgore holds a strong lead in the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont, Roanoke and Southwest, percent and in Lynchburg and Southside, 44 to 39 percent.

Richmond is almost an even split at 41 percent for Kilgore and 40 percent for Kaine.

“Nothing’s really moving,” said J. Bradford Coker, Mason-Dixon’s managing director. “Potts has slipped, [but] that really been about the only major change I’ve seen.”

Both party-backed candidates continue to pull support from voters who identify with the hopeful’s party. Self-identified independent voters, always the ‘swing’ voters in Virginia elections, are currently supporting Kaine over Kilgore, 36 to 32 percent.

Back in Winchester, Potts’ self-styled “Operation Upset” has seen its decline due largely to a loss of support among self-identified Republicans. In July, some 8 percent of that category went to Potts. In September, that figure was 3 percent.

Those voters have largely thrown their support to Kilgore, and are responsible for his slight move upward, Coker said.

“Right now I don’t see [Potts] as anything other than spoiler,” he said.

With less than two months to Election Day, it’s crunch time for Potts. A new round of TV ads is scheduled to hit the air this week. But getting on the air in Northern Virginia, where Potts’ transportation message has the most traction, is tough.

The Washington television market is notoriously expensive, and Potts had yet to crack the $1 million mark, according to his Sept. 15 fundraising report.

“It’ll be interesting to see if he can move the numbers,” Coker said. “If this TV [buy] doesn’t get him moving, he’ll be a non-factor by the time the third debate rolls around.”

Calls to the Potts campaign for comment weren’t immediately returned.

Both Kaine and Kilgore have some heavy endorsements behind them — President Bush and Gov. Mark R. Warner.

A poll released Saturday found President Bush’s job approval in Virginia under 50 percent for the first time, and Warner’s popularity at near-record levels.

But neither may have that much of a pull on his favored gubernatorial candidate.

Some 72 percent of voters in general and undecided voters said Bush’s endorsement would have “no effect” on their decision.

Meanwhile, 73 percent of voters and 75 percent of undecided voters said Warner’s endorsement of Kaine would also have “no effect.”

Mason-Dixon’s phone banks started just a couple of hours after Potts and Kaine left the second debate stage in McLean. But such things are hard to measure, according to Coker.

“I don’t know what effect it had,” he said.

The debate didn’t get a wide television audience outside of Northern Virginia.

Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said the poll confirmed what they’ve known all along — it’s a tough race, but they’re winning.

"We didn't put much stock in the first Mason-Dixon poll" that showed Kaine leading, he said, adding that they don't have much more faith in this one.

“Poll after poll, we have maintained a consistent lead. That said, we’re taking absolutely nothing for granted in any part of the state,” he said. “We’re going to continue to run as if we’re 10 points down.”

Over at Camp Kaine, the reaction reflected the results: in line with expectations.

“I think over the course of the next month and a half there are going to be polls that show us up and polls that show us down,” said Delacey Skinner, Kaine’s press secretary.

“This is very tight race, it’s neck and neck race. I think it shows how important this decision is for Virginians.”

Election Day is Nov. 8