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Poll Gives Obama 8-Point Va. Lead

Obama, however, still has not cleared one important hurdle: Voters are split 50 to 47 percent on the question of whether he would make a good commander in chief. A slim majority of independent voters and almost 60 percent of veterans now think he would not be effective in that capacity. Overall, McCain has a 16-point lead among veterans.

In recent weeks, McCain and state and national Republicans have sought to slow Obama's momentum in Virginia by sending out a flurry of mailers and automated calls that try to link him to 1960s radical William Ayers.

"I honestly believe Obama is a socialist, a Chicago thug," said Donna Tilley, 58, who lives in Chesterfield County, outside Richmond.

But overall, the poll indicates that McCain's attacks on Obama's character do not appear to be working. Two-thirds of Virginia voters have a favorable impression of Obama. About half have a favorable view of McCain, but his unfavorable rating stands at 45 percent, which is 15 percentage points higher than Obama's. A month ago, about as many voters said McCain was the more honest and trustworthy as said so about Obama. Now, Obama has a 20-point lead on the question.

Obama holds a 17-point lead in Hampton Roads, a crucial area in Virginia elections, while McCain is narrowly ahead in the Richmond area and in the Shenandoah Valley and southwestern Virginia. Even in those areas, though, Obama is breaking the 40 percent mark.

Obama has solidified the Democratic base in Virginia, drawing almost universal support from African Americans and self-identified Democrats, and he has also made major inroads with white voters in Virginia. McCain is winning white voters by 12 points, but Bush carried them by 36 percentage points in 2004.

The poll was conducted by telephone Oct. 22 to 25 among a random sample of 1,026 Virginia adults, including 902 registered voters.

The results for the sample of 784 likely voters is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta and staff writer Anita Kumar contributed to this report.

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