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, January 14, 2006

Esteem for Warner reflected in Kaine; A1

Poll: Voters would support allowing governors to serve two terms in a row

By Garren Shipley
(Daily Staff Writer)

Virginia voters want their governors to be able to serve two terms, according to a new survey, and some pundits say today’s inauguration of Gov. Tim Kaine is proof.

The survey of 1,181 Virginians was conducted by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics and Center for Survey Research in the weeks following the Nov. 8 election.

The first round of results released Friday show that, had he been able to run for a second term, Democratic Gov. Mark R. Warner would have been a formidable candidate.

Warner is leaving office with a job approval rating of almost 75 percent, and some 66 percent of voters want to change the state’s constitution to let governors serve two terms in a row.

Current law allows for repeat terms for all other statewide offices, but governors have to sit out four years before they can run again.

“It is not surprising, given the remarkable popularity of Gov. Warner that most Virginians support a constitutional amendment to allow a governor to serve a second term,” said Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, in an e-mail to reporters.

“The November 2005 gubernatorial election was, in many ways, a vote of confidence in the policies of the Warner administration,” he said.

Kaine’s campaign sounded that theme early and often during the run-up to Election Day, talking about the “Warner-Kaine administration” as often as possible.

Republicans tried to cast Kaine as a more liberal version of Warner, particularly on issues such as taxes, gun control and the death penalty.

But the Kaine campaign hewed closely to Warner’s line on all counts, invoking the incumbent’s name as often as possible, and the charges refused to stick.

Kaine as Warner II is a theme that the winning campaign carried over after the election as well.

Kaine has named key figures of Warner’s administration to his own cabinet, including Chief of Staff Bill Leighty and Secretary of Transportation Pierce Homer.

Warner’s popularity is likely driving the desire for two-term governors, said Paul Freedman, an associate professor in the Department of Politics at the University of Virginia and research director for the Center for Politics survey.

“More than two-thirds of Virginians would support allowing governors to run for re-election,” he said. “Only 26.8 percent oppose” while the rest say they don’t know.

“Support for easing the one-term limit is strongest among Democrats” at 75 percent, “but even 64 percent of Republicans endorse the notion,” he said. “This may be an idea whose time has come.”

Kaine’s win came from strong support across broad categories of voters, and stronger than expected support in some surprising ones.

“It was a clear and decisive victory in nearly every demographic category for Governor-elect Tim Kaine,” said Sabato.

In the end, it was independents, the elusive block of voters who say they’re not aligned with either major party, who turned the tide for Kaine, according to the survey.

Independents were more than 25 percent of voters and they broke more than 2-to-1 for Kaine, 67.4 percent to Kilgore’s 28.4 percent. State Sen. H. Russell Potts Jr., R-Winchester, who based his candidacy on an appeal to independent voters, took home 4.3 percent of the key block.

While a majority of both men and women surveyed said they supported Kaine in the November election, the poll uncovered a gender gap of more than 10 percent, with almost 62 percent of women in the survey supporting Kaine, compared with only 52 percent of men.

Kaine also peeled off 13.5 percent of Republican voters, according to the survey, while Kilgore only snagged 3.9 percent of Democrats.

“Women and independents were the keys to victory in the November election,” Sabato said.