Ronald N. Kroll, 71, a retired doctor from Bruington, said he prefers Kaine because of his record.
“We lived in Richmond at that time [Kaine was] mayor, and he did a very good job in very difficult circumstances,” Kroll said, adding that the Democrat was also governor during “tough times financially, and he stuck by the same decisions he did as mayor.”
Susan DiGiovanni, 54, of Midlothian also fondly remembered Kaine’s mayoral days.
“I find him to be a very honest and trustworthy person,” she said. “I believe he is somebody that would fight for Virginia. George Allen, I think, is more for big business and less representative of what I would like to see happen for the country.”
Kaine has a growing advantage among women, who prefer him by 14 points — seven points higher than in May. That trend comes even though Allen spent several weeks this summer airing television ads aimed at improving his standing among women. Kaine has battled to a tie among men, a group that tilted in Allen’s direction in the previous two polls.
Seniors also appear to be gravitating toward Kaine. The two men are essentially tied among voters 65 and older, whereas Allen led by 2 to 1 in May. Democrats have sought to link Allen to the Medicare reform proposals advanced by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.), the Republican vice presidential nominee.
The Post poll asked Virginians whether they preferred to have Medicare continue as a government-run program or become one in which the government gives seniors a fixed amount of money to buy private insurance or Medicare — similar to Ryan’s plan. Fifty-six percent of registered voters said they wanted to keep the program the same, while 35 percent endorsed the reform proposal.
DiGiovanni, a doctor and assistant dean of medical education at Virginia Commonwealth University, said the fight over the federal health-care law factored into her decision.
“I believe that although Obamacare is not perfect, it certainly goes much further than any other president has gone to try to guarantee health care for our citizens,” she said. “I feel like Allen would be with the Republican camp in repealing that and going backward.”
Few Virginians called health care the most important issue in the Senate race. Thirty-nine percent of voters cited the economy or jobs as paramount, and no other single topic exceeded 5 percent.
Virginia voters are more unsettled in their choice for senator than they are for president. Twenty-eight percent of registered voters are undecided or are open to switching their selection, compared with the 19 percent who are up for grabs in the presidential contest. Persuadable voters divide about evenly between Allen and Kaine in the poll, but few have strong impressions of either candidate, leaving plenty of room for debates and nonstop TV ads to fill the gaps.
Doug Lathrop, 41, of Arlington County, a Republican and lobbyist for a life insurance company, is one of many who have not made up their minds in the Senate race.
“I’m pretty sure I would vote for George Allen, but I wouldn’t say categorically I’m leaving out the chance I’d vote for Tim Kaine,” he said.
The fact that both men served as governor, Lathrop added, “causes me to leave the door open. I don’t think the state of Virginia did terribly bad under Governor Kaine, so that’s why I’d give him a look. I think they’re both competent public officials. I don’t think either one has separated himself with the argument that they’d be a better public servant than the other guy.”
Beth B. Lipphardt, a disabled Suffolk resident, said she will vote for Allen as “the lesser of two evils.”
“I have likes and dislikes of both of them,” she said, explaining that although Kaine “was a very good governor,” she dislikes that he served as Democratic National Committee chairman.
Republicans have sought to use Kaine’s DNC service to link him to Obama’s more controversial policies. Equal shares of respondents cited Kaine’s work for the DNC as a reason to support or oppose him.
The poll was conducted by telephone Sept. 12-16 among a random sample of 1,104 Virginia adults, including 934 registered voters and 847 likely voters. Interviews were conducted on conventional and cellular telephones, and carried out in English and Spanish. The margin of error for registered and likely voter samples is plus or minus four percentage points.
Jon Cohen, Peyton M. Craighill, Errin Haines and Laura Vozzella contributed to this report.