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Virginia Notebook: All Set for a Republican Resurrection

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By Anita Kumar
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 15, 2009

RICHMOND

At the beginning of the year, after the Republicans' worst losses in Virginia in a generation, members of both parties wondered whether the once-conservative Southern state had officially turned blue.

Democrats, who had picked up three U.S. House seats, a second U.S. Senate seat and Virginia's 13 presidential electoral votes for the first time in 44 years, were all but certain their successes would continue.

No one could have imagined just where Republicans would be as they head into the final three weeks of the 2009 campaign.

The once-beleaguered party is in a position to sweep all three statewide races and maintain its majority in the House of Delegates -- maybe even pick up a seat or two.

"Last year, people were writing the obituary for the Republican Party of Virginia," said Jerry W. Kilgore, former attorney general and the GOP nominee for governor in 2005. "Now, good fortunes are coming our way."

Virtually every poll since the general election campaign began in June has shown Republican Robert F. McDonnell leading Democrat R. Creigh Deeds in the race for Virginia governor -- some by double digits.

A Washington Post poll released last week showed likely voters favored McDonnell over Deeds by 53 to 44 percent, and they told pollsters they think that the Republican would better handle almost every major issue facing Virginians, including transportation, taxes, education, the state budget and the economy.

Republicans Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli II each held identical 49 to 40 percent leads over Democrats Jody Wagner and Stephen C. Shannon for lieutenant governor and attorney general, respectively. Fifty-one percent of voters had a favorable opinion of Bolling (compared with 45 percent for Wagner) and Cuccinelli (compared with 41 percent for Shannon).

Identical leads and favorable ratings for the Republican lieutenant governor and attorney general hopefuls indicate that likely voters might be supporting a party, and not necessarily the person, in the two races where candidates struggle to garner attention.

"I'm looking for lower taxes, certainly. And I'm really not happy with the way deficit spending is going," said Bob Dapper, 53, an engineer from Blacksburg who participated in the poll. "There's no way I'd vote for a Democrat in this state this year."


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