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, October 23, 2005

Mason-Dixon: Kilgore 44, Kaine 42, Potts 5

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

The 2005 gubernatorial race is so tight it could all come down to one county.

That’s the gist of a new Mason-Dixon poll release over the weekend.

Former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, the Republican, leads Democratic Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine 44 percent to 42 percent, according to the survey conducted Oct. 18-20, which has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 4 percent.

Independent candidate state Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, trails with 5 percent.

Across the state, the race has started to break toward one candidate or the other, except for the Richmond metro area, which remains split at 43 percent each for Kaine and Kilgore, 7 percent for Potts and 7 percent undecided.

Given historic trends, that region and the race may turn on the outcome in Henrico County.

“It is likely that the city of Richmond will back Kaine and that Chesterfield County will favor Kilgore, making Henrico County [carried by Democrat Mark Warner in 2001] the bellwether county,” wrote J. Bradford Coker, Mason-Dixon’s managing director, in an analysis of the results.

Warner won Henrico by 3.5 percent. He won the entire state by more than 5 percent.

Closer to home, the Potts campaign is going nowhere fast.

More people now recognize Potts’ name, but “he has little to show for it,” Coker said.

“His favorable rating has not increased over the past three months, while his unfavorable rating jumped 11 points from 4 percent to 15 percent,” he said. “The three-month trend line indicates a steady decline in voter opinion of Potts, and suggest he is dead in the water.”

Now likely just a spoiler, it is unclear who will be hurt more by Potts, Coker added.

The candidate himself couldn’t disagree more.

“This race is far from over,” Potts said through a spokesman. “The polls said that [President Harry S.] Truman couldn’t win, and [independent Govs.] Jim Longley in Maine and Lowell Weicker in Connecticut couldn’t win.

“Citizens in Virginia will decide this election,” Potts said, criticizing Kaine and Kilgore’s massive spending on the campaign.

“The governor’s chair is not for sale at any price,” he said. “[I] will surprise a lot of people in this election.”
Over in Richmond, the Kaine campaign was pleased with the results.

“This is a good poll for Tim Kaine,” said campaign spokesman Jeff Kraus, pointing to the single-digit change since last month.

“We’ve said since the day we kicked off that this was going to be a close race. I genuinely think we have momentum, and we’re feeling it all over the state.”

That’s particularly significant, given that Kilgore’s campaign “threw everything and kitchen sink” at Kaine in recent weeks, Kraus said.

“This is really a margin of error race,” he said.

Kilgore spokesman Tucker Martin expressed similar sentiments.

“We feel very good about where we are,” he said. “Republican candidates close very well in Virginia elections.”

As for a recent series of ads critical of Kaine’s stand on the death penalty, the fact that Kaine’s negative ratings have doubled show that “voters are getting to know Tim Kaine” and “we will be discussing Tim Kaine’s liberal record,” Martin said.

Election Day is Nov. 8.