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Va. Poll Gives Mark Warner Wide Lead in Senate Race

Former governor Mark R. Warner, left, hopes to join fellow Democrat James Webb in the Senate after the '08 election. Virginia Democrats have had statewide success this decade, winning the governor's office twice and the Senate seat.
Former governor Mark R. Warner, left, hopes to join fellow Democrat James Webb in the Senate after the '08 election. Virginia Democrats have had statewide success this decade, winning the governor's office twice and the Senate seat. (By Gary C. Knapp -- Associated Press)

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Va Poll
By Tim Craig and Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 12, 2007

Former Virginia governor Mark R. Warner holds a 30-point lead over his two potential Republican rivals in next year's U.S. Senate race, boosting Democrats' chances of expanding their congressional majority and highlighting the party's ascendancy in the state, according to a new Washington Post poll.

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Warner, a Democrat who announced his candidacy last month, would get more than 60 percent of the vote in a hypothetical matchup against Rep. Thomas M. Davis III or former governor James S. Gilmore III, the two Republicans who have indicated they are considering running against him.

The Senate race will unfold against the backdrop of next year's presidential campaign, and the poll suggests that the state's 13 electoral votes could be up for grabs. By a margin of 11 percentage points, Virginians would prefer that the next president be a Democrat, indicating that even a reliably red state could flip in 2008.

The election is 13 months away, and other Senate candidates could emerge. But the new numbers could dampen the GOP's hopes for keeping the seat, held since 1979 by Sen. John W. Warner, who is retiring, along with three other Senate Republicans.

Virginia's GOP leaders will meet tomorrow to decide whether to select their nominee in a primary or convention. If a primary were held today, the poll shows, Gilmore would beat Davis by 19 percentage points.

Few outside Northern Virginia know Davis, a moderate seven-term congressman from Fairfax County who has raised more than $1 million for a possible Senate bid. The poll suggests that Gilmore, a conservative who dropped out of the presidential race this year, could be hampered in a general election against Warner, because people's perception of Gilmore has worsened since he left the governor's mansion in 2002.

Since the start of the decade, Virginia has elected two successive Democratic governors, and last year James Webb (D) unseated Republican George Allen in the U.S. Senate race.

Virginia voters have not supported a Democrat for president since 1964, but the poll shows that the party's prospects are boosted by President Bush's waning popularity. Bush's approval rating in Virginia is 35 percent, the poll shows. In a finding that mirrors national polls, negative feelings toward Bush are intense: 48 percent of Virginians "strongly disapprove" of his job performance, while only 16 percent "strongly approve."

In the campaign for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani (R) outpace their rivals, according to the poll.

Clinton leads all other Democrats by a 2 to 1 margin or more, despite Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's early and vocal support for Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). About half of Virginia Democrats would vote for Clinton, compared with one-quarter who say they support Obama and 11 percent who favor former senator John Edwards (N.C.). All other Democrats are in the single digits. Virginia's presidential primary is scheduled for Feb. 12.

Clinton's lead in Virginia is fueled by a prevailing sense that she is the strongest leader in the Democratic field (59 percent of Democrats polled said so) and that she is also the most electable (65 percent).

Clinton has wide leads over Obama among men and women and among whites. The race is more competitive among African Americans, with 49 percent preferring Clinton and 37 percent, Obama.


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