Former Senator George Allen won a landslide victory in Tuesday’s Republican primary - as expected - barreling towards an extremely tight general election with a key advantage on voters’ No. 1 issue: the economy.
Polls have shown a tight race for more than a year now, and the economy looks to be the major focus over the next five months. A May Washington Post poll found Allen performing particularly well among voters focused on the economy, taxes and the deficit, with former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) doing best among those highlighting education as key in their vote. Paralleling these strengths, each candidate has focused his message on his strongest issues.
As in national polls — where the economy is the No. 1 issue — 54 percent of Virginians called it “extremely important” in their decision. More than four in 10 said the federal budget deficit is a crucial issue. Allen led Kaine by 12 points among economy voters, and by a whopping 18 points among those who say the deficit is critical.
For all the recent controversies over abortion in Virginia, fewer than three in 10 say the issue will be key in their vote. Even fewer say this of same-sex marriage.
Allen focuses sharply on lowering taxes and the budget deficit, perhaps reflecting the big leads he has among voters focused on these issues.
Kaine fights back among the 44 percent of voters who said education would be extremely important, leading Allen by 14 points among this group. Kaine consistently pushes for investments in education to create a “talent society” that draws businesses and jobs to the country.
The contest may be overshadowed by the presidential race, where Virginia could be a make or break state. Allen has already has gone on the attack, portraying Kaine as “Obama’s Senator” in a video featured on his campaign site.
However, Obama may not be a drag on Kaine. Half of Virginia voters approved of Obama in the Post poll last month, and he has received similar split verdicts in more recent surveys.
Staff writer Ben Pershing contributed to this report.