Poll Gives Obama 8-Point Va. Lead

By Tim Craig and Jon Cohen
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, October 27, 2008

Barack Obama has opened up an eight-point lead over Republican John McCain in Virginia, and the Democrat is entering the final week of the campaign with several core advantages when it comes to turning out his supporters, according to a new Washington Post poll.

The survey highlights the challenges facing McCain and the GOP during the final stretch of the election, as Obama has made evident progress in the Old Dominion the past month.

By wide margins, Virginia voters think that Obama is the candidate who would do more to bring needed change to Washington, who understands the economic challenges people are facing and who is the more honest and trustworthy of the two rivals. Still, there remains widespread apprehension over whether the Democratic nominee would make a good commander in chief.

McCain's path to the White House is very difficult without Virginia's 13 electoral votes, and Obama now leads the senator from Arizona 52 percent to 44 percent in the new poll.

In a Washington Post-ABC News Virginia poll taken late last month, Obama clung to a slim 3 percentage-point edge among likely voters. As an example of the gains he has made since that poll, Obama is now tied with McCain among college-educated white men, overcoming what had been an almost 30-point deficit for the Democrat.

A Democratic presidential nominee has not carried the state since 1964, but Obama has amassed what Virginia Democrats see as the most comprehensive political organization in modern times for a statewide campaign.

Obama has opened almost 50 offices, dispatched more than 250 paid staffers and recruited thousands of volunteers to knock on doors and call voters across the state.

The poll indicates that Obama's staff and volunteers have made staggering gains in reaching out to Virginia's 5 million registered voters. More than half of all voters surveyed said they have been contacted in person, on the phone or by e-mail or text message about voting for Obama, far more than said so about McCain.

Obama's ground game is being supplemented with a highly energized base of supporters who could give him an advantage in the important get-out-the vote effort.

Seven in 10 Obama supporters said they are "very enthusiastic" about voting for him, an increase from the late September poll. By contrast, 39 percent are that keen on McCain's candidacy, a 6 percentage-point dip over that period.

Obama has an almost 2 to 1 advantage over McCain in Northern Virginia, surpassing even the 60 percent mark that Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) and Sen. James Webb (D-Va.) racked up in the region during their successful campaigns in 2005 and 2006.

Obama is also performing far better elsewhere in Virginia than Democrats have done in recent state and federal elections. He and McCain each drew 48 percent of the vote outside Northern Virginia, a signal that Obama's repeated visits, as well as his multimillion-dollar advertising blitz, has softened the GOP base in the more rural parts of the state.

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