The survey’s results mark a significant shift: The past two Post polls about the race, taken in May 2011 and May 2012, showed a tie among registered voters, and several more recent surveys have shown a deadlock.
A Quinnipiac University-CBS News-New York Times poll released Wednesday also has Kaine in the lead.
With seven weeks until Election Day, Kaine appears to have a clear edge, helped by a growing lead among women and a significant uptick in support among seniors and residents of the area surrounding Richmond, where he served as mayor. Although Kaine previously lagged behind President Obama, his support now tracks closely with the top of the ticket: Obama leads his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney, in Virginia in the Post poll by the same eight-percentage-point spread among likely voters.
Virginia by no means has the only tightly contested race in the country. Democrats are fighting to keep their Senate majority by holding seats in Montana, Missouri and Wisconsin, while Republicans are battling to keep control of Indiana, Maine and Massachusetts, among others.
But no state is considered more integral to winning the Senate and the White House than Virginia, making the new poll’s shift toward Kaine and reinforcement of Obama’s lead especially welcome signs for Democrats. And no other state features such a high-powered matchup: Allen and Kaine are proven fundraisers with high name recognition. The race is Allen’s fourth statewide campaign and Kaine’s third.
The survey results come as the contest enters a decisive phase. Kaine and Allen are set to debate Thursday in McLean, with two more face-offs scheduled in October. Both candidates have multimillion-dollar ad campaigns inundating the airwaves — Kaine’s team introduced two new spots Wednesday portraying him as a bipartisan dealmaker — and outside money is pouring into Virginia.
Although Kaine’s campaign has consistently outraised Allen’s, outside conservative groups such as Crossroads GPS have pumped millions of dollars into negative ads against the Democrat. Yet voters’ opinions of Kaine have improved significantly since the previous Post poll.
Fifty-four percent of registered voters now have a favorable impression of the Democrat, while 34 percent view him unfavorably. In May, the score was 41 percent to 41 percent. Allen has a margin of 51 percent to 35 percent, similar to the 47 percent to 31 percent he recorded in May. For both men, the percentage of voters expressing no opinion is dwindling quickly.