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Poll Finds Deeds Gaining on McDonnell

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Kaine, who serves as his party's national chairman, remains popular in the state -- 59 percent of likely voters approve of the job he is doing -- but nearly two-thirds say they want the next governor to get the state going in a new direction.

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The economy is issue No. 1, with 27 percent calling it the most important in the campaign. Education is the second most-frequently mentioned issue in the governor's race, followed by health care, taxes and transportation.

McDonnell's focus on transportation has not won him supporters on the issue in congested Northern Virginia. Transportation ranks as the second-most important issue in the region, and Deeds has a 49 to 36 percent advantage as the one voters trust to deal with it. A month ago, McDonnell and Deeds were roughly equal among likely voters in Northern Virginia on transportation.

Deeds also benefits from improved ratings for Obama and the Democratic initiative to overhaul health care. Overall, 53 percent of Virginia's likely voters approve of the job the president is doing, up from 47 percent in August. A month ago, most saw government action on health care as doing more harm than good; now, a slim majority sees it as essential to controlling costs and expanding coverage.

The poll, conducted by telephone Monday through Thursday, included interviews with 2,113 adult Virginians, 1,003 of whom said they were "absolutely certain" to vote in the gubernatorial election. The results for the sample of likely voters have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points. Error margins for subgroups are larger.

This analysis highlights opinions among Virginia voters who say they are sure to vote in November; a month ago, the main report focused on all registered voters in the state. As elections near, polling results narrow in on those most likely to vote.

Polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report.

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