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

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Poll: Kaine, Kilgore in dead heat; A1

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Election Day could be a long day for Tim Kaine and Jerry Kilgore.

A very long day.

A new poll released Friday shows the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial nominees in a statistical dead heat with less than two weeks until the election.

“Kaine, the Democrat, now earns 46 percent of the vote while Kilgore attracts 44 percent,” said pollster Scott Rasmussen. Friday’s poll is the first by Rasmussen that shows a lead for the Democrat.

State Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, the independent candidate on the ballot, garners 4 percent.

An identical survey of 500 “likely” voters last week found Kilgore ahead by 2 points, 48 percent to 46 percent. Potts polled at only 2 percent in that survey. The margin of error was plus or minus 4.5 percent.

Friday’s results were the third by Rasmussen to include “leaners, those who initially do not express a preference for either major-party candidate but lean one way or the other when asked a follow-up question,” Rasmussen said.

Factoring out those who didn’t express an opinion on the first question, Kaine leads 42 percent to 41 percent.

The race remains a statistical dead heat, according to Jason Scott of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

“The polls have been back and forth, and the only thing they’ve been consistent on is that it’s going to be a close race,” he said. Taking the average of all recent surveys is a good look at the situation, which is “a tie pretty much at this point.”

"It looks like it will be “the closet election night we’ve had since 1989,” when Democrat L. Douglas Wilder beat Republican J. Marshall Coleman by a razor-thin margin following a recount.

“People assume that Virginia is a Republican-leaning state, which it is, but it’s very competitive,” Scott said.

There are some historical trends worth watching, Scott notes.

“Republicans have traditionally outdone Democrats in ‘get out the vote’ on Election Day,” he said. If Kilgore is more successful than Kaine at getting his voters to the polls, he would likely finish with a higher percentage than last-minute polls show.

Previous Democratic candidates have come up short from last-minute polls when all the votes are counted.

“If you think back to this time last year, [Democratic presidential nominee Sen.] John Kerry, [D-Mass.,] thought that he was going to out-perform what he did” in Virginia, Scott said.

Gov. Mark R. Warner also came in below his poll totals four years ago, Scott said, but had a big enough lead to win.

A breakdown of the latest regional numbers from Mason-Dixon also point to an avenue for Democratic victory, said Craig Brians, a professor of political science at Virginia Tech.

Kaine holds a significant lead in Northern Virginia, 46 percent to 38 percent, with all other areas — except for a tie in the Richmond metro area — in Kilgore’s column or close to the margin of error.

Solid turnout in Northern Virginia and sluggish turnout by the GOP in other areas of the state could give Kaine a close win.

“There’s a possibility that Kaine could pull this thing out,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Democratic candidate for attorney general stood before one of the toughest crowds a politician can face on Friday: high school seniors.

State Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, spoke to a government class at Handley High School in Winchester, fielding sometimes blunt questions from students.

Students asked about his plan to seek child support scofflaws through cell phone records, saying they were uncomfortable with government getting that kind of information.

“We’re already there with [other utility companies],” Deeds said. The state already gets information from some, but it would help get more children off welfare if the state had agreements with mobile phone companies to track deadbeat parents, he said.

Others asked how he’s paying for the campaign.

“It’s expensive,” Deeds said. But so is broadcast advertising, and that’s the only way to reach masses of people, he said.

“If I could sit down in the living room of every single voter, I’d get 70 percent of the vote,” he said. That impossibility brings about one of the major realities of political life.

“I spend the bulk of every day of my freaking life on the phone asking people for money,” he said with a broad grin.

Deeds is opposed for attorney general by Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach.

Election Day is Nov. 8.