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Poll Shows Kilgore Ahead of Kaine in Va.

Jerry W. Kilgore, the GOP candidate for governor, is portraying himself as upholding Virginia's values.
Jerry W. Kilgore, the GOP candidate for governor, is portraying himself as upholding Virginia's values. (By Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)

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By Michael D. Shear and Claudia Deane
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, September 11, 2005

Republican Jerry W. Kilgore is leading in the Virginia governor's race despite efforts by Democrat Timothy M. Kaine to tap widespread satisfaction with Gov. Mark R. Warner's performance, according to a new Washington Post poll.

Among all registered voters, Kilgore is ahead by 4 percentage points as the campaign enters its final two months. His lead widens to 7 percentage points among those most likely to vote.

Kilgore, a former attorney general, has cast himself as the perfect fit for a traditionally conservative state. The poll of registered voters shows he would receive 45 percent of the vote if the election were today.

Kaine, the state's lieutenant governor and a former mayor of Richmond, claims to be the natural heir to Warner's legacy as a centrist Democrat. But even though an impressive 76 percent of voters approve of the job Warner is doing, just 41 percent said they would vote for Kaine if the election were today.

Independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr., a Republican state senator from Winchester, gets 5 percent, the poll shows.

"This is very good news," Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said. "But we are taking absolutely nothing for granted. We will run this campaign every day as if we are behind by 10 points."

Kilgore's strength is evident across Southwest, Southside and the Shenandoah Valley, and he has battled Kaine to a tie in Northern Virginia and the rest of the state. Kilgore also has a significant lead among men, among whites and among middle-class voters who make between $50,000 and $75,000 a year.

And Kilgore's lead suggests that Kaine is having a difficult time repeating the electoral magic Warner worked in 2001, when he defeated Mark L. Earley by, among other things, winning support in conservative, rural regions.

"Mark Warner's name is not on the ballot. Tim Kaine's is," Murtaugh said. "Tim Kaine is no Mark Warner."

Many of the independent voters who flocked to Warner's businessman-turned-politician campaign are not supporting Kaine this year. And among those who approve of the job Warner is doing, four in 10 say they intend to vote for Kilgore.

Neal Frazier, a Roanoke insurance agent, is one of those voters. He describes Warner as "a good governor" but is impressed with Kilgore. "He's more in tune with what the people want. He's more in touch," said Frazier, 45. "The Democrats have taken this way liberal swing."

Political observers say there is plenty of time for Kaine to close the gap. But the immediate task before him is more challenging than it was for his mentor.

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