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

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Mason-Dixon: Republicans lead downticket, but name recognition is low; A1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

Virginia voters are paying a little more attention to the races for attorney general and lieutenant governor with two weeks to go until Election Day.

But not much more, according to a poll released Monday by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research.

“All four candidates for Virginia’s down ballot statewide races have increased their name recognition significantly over the past month, and the Republican nominees continue to run slightly ahead in each respective race,” said J. Bradford Coker, the firm’s managing director.

In the lieutenant governor’s race, state Sen. Bill Bolling, R-Mechanicsville, holds a lead over Democratic former Rep. Leslie Byrne equal to the poll’s margin of error, 41 percent to 37 percent. Some 22 percent remain undecided.

Further down the ballot, Republican Bob McDonnell holds the only statistically significant lead in any of the three statewide races. The Virginia Beach delegate leads state Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, 42 percent to 34 percent.

It’s still anybody’s ballgame, though, Coker said.

“With over 20 percent of voters still ‘undecided’ in each of these races, both remain competitive,” he said.

“Given Virginia’s conservative leanings, the current GOP leads may be an indication that they have a slight inside track,” Coker said.

All candidates have made progress boosting their name recognition, but they’re still nowhere near the almost universal recognition of the top two gubernatorial contenders.

Some 56 percent of voters don’t know who Deeds is, while 44 percent haven’t heard of McDonnell.

Lieutenant governor candidate Bolling is unknown to 36 percent, and 48 percent don’t recognize Byrne.

Kaine and Kilgore’s “don’t recognize” numbers are 2 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

All four campaigns were quick to put the same spin on the race — it’ll be close, but in the end, voters will side with us.

“I think this poll shows what we’ve known all along. This race is a statistical dead heat. It’s a tossup right now,” said Joe Shafer, Byrne’s campaign chief.

“We’re are pleased with today’s … numbers,” said Randy Marcus, Bolling’s campaign manager.

“Our opponent was on TV for five days pretty heavy with a baseless negative attack ad, and our numbers went up since the last poll.”

“I think the bottom line is the outcome of this race will be determined in the final days,” said Deeds spokesman Peter Jackson. “We’re expecting a photo finish.”

“Virginia voters are responding to Bob’s experience as a prosecutor and Army veteran and his proven record of helping abolish parole and crack down on child sex predators,” said Janet Polarek, McDonnell’s campaign manager.

“Voters also are rejecting Creigh Deeds’ dishonest negative attacks on Bob.”

All four conceded that Kaine and Kilgore are eating up almost all of the attention. Getting voters to think about down-ticket candidates — of either party — is a tough job.

“Most of the media coverage is centered on the gubernatorial race,” said John Phillippe, McDonnell’s communications director.

“It’s difficult to punch through,” he said. “It’s not like everybody out there is thinking about politics all the time. People have other important priorities.”

“There hasn’t been a lot of attention focused on the down-ticket races,” Jackson added. “And until there is, these races aren’t really going to take shape.”

“Everybody is focused on Kilgore-Kaine,” Marcus said.