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, November 05, 2005

Polls show ‘downticket’ races close, too; B1

By Garren Shipley
Daily Staff Writer

With three days left until voters go to the polls, the picture beyond the governor’s race remains as muddled as ever.

Republican Bill Bolling holds a slight statistical lead over Democrat Leslie Byrne in the race to be the next lieutenant governor, 45 percent to 39 percent, according to the latest poll conducted for The Northern Virginia Daily and other newspapers.

A survey of 625 likely voters by Mason-Dixon Polling and Research found that the state senator from Mechanicsville has built a small but statistically significant lead over his Democratic rival, a former member of Congress and the General Assembly.

On a regional basis, Byrne has a decided edge in her home base of Northern Virginia, where she is up by 14 points. She also leads by 1 point in Hampton Roads.

Elsewhere, Bolling has sizable advantages. He leads by 21 points in the Shenandoah Valley and Piedmont regions, 18 points in metropolitan Richmond, 20 points in Lynchburg and Southside and 17 points in Roanoke and Southwest Virginia.

If there’s a trend to be seen, it is a slight edge for Bolling, according to J. Bradford Coker, Mason-Dixon’s managing director.

The results “would suggest that he’s carrying the areas that Republicans need to carry” to win, he said. But there’s a lot of other things that can come into play over the weekend and into Election Day.

Both sides are doing all they can to pump up their get-out-the-vote drives.

Byrne will be making a swing through Southwest Virginia over the weekend with the rest of the Democratic ticket, while Bolling and the Republicans have been flying around the state.

“With the governor’s race right and a high number of still ‘undecided’ voters, potential coattails and/or split ticket voting simply adds to the intrigue,” he said.

Bolling’s lead is slightly outside the margin of error — a 6-point lead with a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent — and his name recognition is a bit higher than Byrne’s, 72 percent compared to 64 percent.

Still, a significant Republican lead all but evaporated in the last two weeks.

State Sen. Creigh Deeds, D-Bath County, has closed within 3 points of Del. Bob McDonnell, R-Virginia Beach.

McDonnell now leads 43 percent to 40 percent, but that’s a major change from the October Mason-Dixon survey.

At that time, McDonnell held the only statistically significant statewide lead, besting Deeds 42 percent to 34 percent.

Those numbers were largely reflective of major advertising by the McDonnell camp, Coker said. Since then, Deeds has hit the airwaves almost as strongly.

“If you look at the last poll, [McDonnell] had opened a name recognition lead on Deeds,” he said. “I think that helped him move the lead out.”

Once the air war was joined, the lead all but vanished.

“The playing field is just a little more level this time,” Coker said.

Both men have similar name recognition and favorable numbers. That makes “this race very tough to handicap,” Coker said.

“Bolling appears to be a nominal favorite in the lieutenant governor’s race, while the attorney general contest is a pure tossup,” he said.

Election Day is Tuesday.