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Virginia Likes Palin, But Not What She Stands For

We sort of knew this just based on the enthusiasm that has followed Sarah Palin's nomination, but the results of today's Washington Post poll put it in clear, stark terms: The Republican vice presidential candidate is personally popular in Virginia--53 percent have a favorable impression of her, versus 38 percent unfavorable--but Virginians have strong disagreements with Palin on some key policy questions.

For example, the largest proportion of Virginia voters in nearly a decade of Post polling now supports having abortion be legal in most or all cases. Sixty percent of those polled support abortion rights, compared to 38 percent who believe the procedure should be illegal in most or all cases.

And although they may be intrigued or inspired by Palin, a majority of Virginians say that Barack Obama would be more likely to "bring needed change" to Washington than John McCain, with 56 percent of those polled giving the nod in that category to Obama over 36 percent for the Republican.

The poll's details bare the tension within many voters' minds between the idea that the country is in a bad way (83 percent say things "have gotten pretty seriously off on the wrong track") and the conflicting impressions we have of how the two presidential candidates would handle our woes. By a strong 51-41 margin, Obama emerges as the candidate Virginians believe would better handle the economy or fix the problems with major financial institutions (49 percent to 39 percent.) But McCain flips the trust meter on questions of security and safety: Virginians trust him more than Obama on those matters, also by a 10 percent margin (52-42 on his ability to handle the campaign against terrorism and 52-42 again on how he would handle "an unexpected major crisis.")

This all boils down to a very close race in Virginia, which, as we hear every day, is one of the crucial swing states in this election. Democrats can take some solace in the continuing strength of their party and its messengers in Virginia. Republican Senate candidate Jim Gilmore has not gained even the slightest bit of ground against Democrat Mark Warner in the race to succeed Sen. John Warner. Indeed, among registered voters, the poll found Mark Warner maintaining a commanding lead with 61 percent of the vote both a year ago and this week, while Gilmore has slipped in that time from 32 percent to 29 percent.

The gaps between the Senate candidates and their parties' presidential candidates are instructive: Obama lags Warner by 12 points in Virginia, while McCain is ahead of Gilmore by 15 percentage points, which is why you hear Warner very cautiously welcoming his "McCain-Warner voters" even as he pledges allegiance to Obama. This is also why Gilmore, a longtime skeptic about McCain, now eagerly links his name to the party flagbearer.

Virginians, always a fairly independent lot, continue their love affair with Democratic governors. Tim Kaine is riding atop a 66 percent approval rating, his highest in two years, and well above the 54 percent who approve of how Democratic Sen. Jim Webb is doing his job in Washington.

So, what will make the difference in Virginia in November?

The race is likely to turn on four factors:

1) The economy and which candidate grabs hold of the public's frustration and fear on a topic that is now #1 for fully 50 percent of Virginia voters. So far, according to the poll, Virginians are narrowly willing to go along with the mega-bailout that the president and Congress are coalescing around. But the 46-42 margin of approval is tight, and only 10 percent of those polled are strongly in favor of the bailout, while 21 percent strongly oppose it. Neither Obama nor McCain has spoken in ways that connect emotionally or rationally with that deep sense of unease that many, if not most, people have with the bailout, though McCain is now clearly testing out a more populist approach on the topic.

2) The Palin phenomenon is no passing fancy. Even if she continues to avoid questioning from the people or the news media, something about her continues to resonate with many people as an alternative to politics as usual. But as much as McCain holds on tight to Palin's coattails, will that be enough to persuade skeptical independents that this is the change they are looking for? Forty-five percent of Virginia voters who call themselves Christian describe themselves in our poll as "born-again or evangelical," but 67 percent of all polled say they are liberal or moderate. Will voters focus more on personality, identity and affinity, or on pocketbook and other policy questions?

3) Race is an important factor for 18 percent of Virginians in our poll, which is, depending on whether you are a glass half-empty or glass half-full kind of person, either remarkably low or frighteningly high. With 70 percent of those polled saying that the race of the candidate is not at all important in their choice of a president, Obama would seem to have room for some confidence that his performance in Virginia will be based on impressions of his ability and character, rather than the pigmentation of his skin. And when you compare those numbers with the answers on how important age is to voters, there's even more reason for Obama to be encouraged. A strikingly high 43 percent of those polled said the age of the candidate is an important factor for them. Perhaps some of those people are worried about Obama's relative youth, but more likely, most are referring to the fact that McCain is a septuagenarian. And of course there is also the likelihood that at least some people are more willing to tell a pollster that they are taking age into consideration than that they are willing to let race alter their vote.

4) Hope and fear. That great American campaign cocktail, the stirring call to patriotism and community, mixed with appeals to deep insecurities about personal well-being and national vulnerability, is at the heart of this campaign. Are Virginians more susceptible to messages questioning Obama's lack of background in military and foreign affairs because 38 percent of those polled are either themselves military veterans or have a vet in their household? Or does the increasing voting power of northern Virginia provide a boost to a Democrat such as Obama who is perceived to be more approving of government and thus of the many people here whose livelihoods depend on a government that works well and is respected?

All of which is to say that the presidential contest in Virginia remains very tight. As for Mark Warner, he could probably spend the next six weeks on, say, an Alaskan cruise, and still slide into the Senate. Which would give Virginia a Democratic governor, two Democratic senators, and a Democratic majority in one house of the state legislature--all in a state that hasn't voted Democratic in a presidential race since 1964. Tighten your seat belts--the wild ride is just starting.....

By Marc Fisher |  September 23, 2008; 5:35 AM ET
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Comments

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Many of us in VA dont like career polticians and party politics. the dems control the Senate and the Reps control the House which has led to gridlock on solving real problems. We cant solve are traffic problems or deal with the issue of illegal immigrants because Reps are more interested in restricting abortion and banning gay marriage. And if we get anything our polticians make sure they benefit especially if they are lawyers. Remember the increse in fines fiasco.

Mark Warner appealed to all VA voters becuase he wasnt a career pol. If the reps put up a similar canidate againt Webb in 2012 he will be a one termer.

I am pro life and for the death penalty but lets deal with real life guys.

Obama and his sidekick Biden are part of the problem. Thousand of Americans will die in terrorist attacks here in the US if they are elected. You all need to read the chatter on radical Islamist websites. As a CI and security pro the last thing this country needs is a mediator for prez. And BTW I vote for Warner for Senator.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 23, 2008 7:27 AM

Do you mean Virginians or carpetbaggers?

Posted by: Like Stick | September 23, 2008 8:49 AM

This is all about geographic and demographic shifts. As migration patterns continue to draw people from the Northeast to the Atlantic South, Virginia, NC, and Georgia will grow increasingly Democratic (or increasingly liberal). Politics-wise, Virginia is the new Maryland, Maryland is the new Jersey, etc. In twenty years, I'd look to the two coasts, plus Colorado and maybe more of the Southwest, as a solid block of urban or semi-urban well-educated professionals; and the old rust belt states peeling away from the reliable blue category.

Posted by: the scattered northeast | September 23, 2008 8:52 AM

I wonder if the Senate race would be closer if Tom Davis were running.

Posted by: Book Guy | September 23, 2008 8:58 AM

"I wonder if the Senate race would be closer if Tom Davis were running."

It would definitely be closer. Kilgore was a wake-up call--Virginia has changed so fast, the far-right in the RPV haven't adjusted to the fact that the conservative base is now outmatched, numbers-wise, in the Commonwealth. But they'll figure it out eventually, once the state goes 100% blue, and they'll start running candidates more in the mold of Tom Davis.

Davis would still lose to Warner. But he would have been able to battle him on his own turf, at least. And it would have closed the gap a little bit.

Posted by: the view from richmond | September 23, 2008 9:14 AM

That's it Marc, keep encouraging the Dems to think that Virginia is ripe for the taking... All the RINOs that the Post keeps finding in NoVA really represent the rest of us. *snicker* The Post does the liberal agenda no favors by constantly reporting out poll results that don't pass a common sense test.

Posted by: athea | September 23, 2008 9:14 AM

"All the RINOs that the Post keeps finding in NoVA"

Yeah. See my comment above.

Posted by: the view from richmond | September 23, 2008 9:24 AM

Here is a useful resource related to Gov. Sarah Palin - the most comprehensive page of information on her record available on the Net. It includes videos of her saying her proposed $30 billion natural gas pipeline is the “will of God,” her saying a month ago she doesn’t know what the VP of the U.S. does, and her complaining four months ago that Hillary Clinton was whining about “sexist” coverage -

http://dailysource.org/palin

It has in-depth research, audio clips, videos, excerpts and links to hundreds of articles, including many from papers and TV stations in Alaska. It has rare footage, including her telling the 2008 convention of the Alaska Independence Party, whose goal is to give Alaska a vote on seceding from the U.S. to “keep up the good work.”

The level of research is unparalleled. The site’s editors include an Emmy-award winning CNN reporter, the former operating editor of the Christian Science Monitor’s web site, the former head of NPRs News Blog and the Executive Director of the Online News Association. Check it out here -

http://dailysource.org/

Please spread the word about this Palin info to anyone who might want to know more.

Posted by: The Daily Source | September 23, 2008 9:38 AM

Here is a useful resource related to Gov. Sarah Palin - the most comprehensive page of information on her record available on the Net. It includes videos of her saying her proposed $30 billion natural gas pipeline is the “will of God,” her saying a month ago she doesn’t know what the VP of the U.S. does, and her complaining four months ago that Hillary Clinton was whining about “sexist” coverage -

http://dailysource.org/palin

It has in-depth research, audio clips, videos, excerpts and links to hundreds of articles, including many from papers and TV stations in Alaska. It has rare footage, including her telling the 2008 convention of the Alaska Independence Party, whose goal is to give Alaska a vote on seceding from the U.S. to “keep up the good work.”

The level of research is unparalleled. The site’s editors include an Emmy-award winning CNN reporter, the former operating editor of the Christian Science Monitor’s web site, the former head of NPRs News Blog and the Executive Director of the Online News Association. Check it out here -

http://dailysource.org/

Please spread the word about this Palin info to anyone who might want to know more.

Posted by: The Daily Source | September 23, 2008 9:39 AM

Davis would be tied with Warner. Many Feds would vote for Davis. Davis might even be a head.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 23, 2008 10:33 AM

Warner would still beat Davis. As a former constituent from his days as Mason District Supervisor, I've seen him as nothing more than an empty suit who kept his legal job with Planning Research Corp while he was Fairfax Exec; note potential conflicts of interest there. He also praised so-called family values while having an affair with Jean-Marie Devolites. And in a hearing on computer security I attended on the hill, he did a perfect "fly-by" - staying five minutes then asking for the transcript and presentation notes - even though he claimed to be interested in the subject from his days at PRC.

By the way, my informal and highly unscientific bumper sticker/yard sign poll puts Obama way ahead in Virginia, even in the Piedmont where I now reside. And I love (sarcasm intended) the certainty of folks like Anonymnous at 7:27 who are convinced that Americans will die if Obama is elected. I predict the tide will come in twice a day whether he or McCain wins - in other words the election won't make a difference in some crazy deciding to attack the US.

Posted by: 66kicks | September 23, 2008 1:05 PM

Here is the latest word on Sarah Palin's hacker. He is the son of a democratic congressman. Now wonder who was behind this illegal hack.
http://www.identitytheft.com/index.php/article/suspect_sarah_palin_email

This guy need to be punished for what he did.

Posted by: Joe | September 23, 2008 1:52 PM

Of course people like Palin. She's hot! After McCain finally figured out that people like Britney Spears from those attack ads he ran, McCain decided to stop fighting it and chose the most Spears-like VP he could find.

Though I still think he'd have done better with the original Britney. If you saw that "campaign video" she put out, her energy plan was better than McCain's.

Posted by: JakeD | September 23, 2008 2:17 PM

Anonymous Posted: "Thousand of Americans will die in terrorist attacks here in the US if [Obama and Biden] are elected."

------------------

You should be ashamed of yourself.

Posted by: Dan | September 23, 2008 2:47 PM

The funny thing is that if the Democrats had picked any one of those three Virginian Democrats, this race would be way over.

Instead they picked a radical socialist and will have to bite their nails once again on election day.

Posted by: info | September 23, 2008 3:22 PM

Anonymous wrote:

"Obama and his sidekick Biden are part of the problem. Thousand of Americans will die in terrorist attacks here in the US if they are elected."

----------------------------------

How in the world can you make such a claim? What actual proof do you have except "chatter on web site"? How do you know McCain would deal with "terrorists" any better than Obama would? Oh, like Bush has?

And before you use the argument that well, there haven't been any more attacks on US soil, I would like to remind you that more US citizens have died in a foreign country than did on September 11, 2001 as a result of our getting involved in a war which never should have been started for the reasons it was and which was falsely liked to said terrorists.

We opened the door for the terrorists and invited them into Iraq by our stupidity and allowed someone with a personal vendetta to dupe most people into believing to was part of the "War on Terror".

I won't even include in the tally of the dead the tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens nor the tens of thousands of US citizens wounded, many horribly so, for our pursuit of this shame.

John McCain was a willing partner in this shame because the only way he knows how to deal with complex issues is with a visceral reaction. I think it much better to have someone with a broader toolbox available to them when reacting to the complexities we face in these days and times. Of the two, at least for me that clearly is Obama.

Posted by: Dave | September 23, 2008 3:28 PM

"Davis might even be a head."

I can just see the Steal Your Face and Dancing Bear on his campaign bus.

Posted by: Rich | September 23, 2008 5:59 PM

"Here is the latest word on Sarah Palin's hacker. He is the son of a democratic congressman."

You need to check your sources, or at least learn the difference between Congress and the Tennessee state legislature.

Posted by: Rich | September 23, 2008 6:02 PM

A Reply to Anonymous who Posted: "Thousand of Americans will die in terrorist attacks here in the US if [Obama and Biden] are elected."

Hmmm... Thousands of Americans died of terrorist attacks here in the US after Bush/Cheney were elected.

Posted by: Tim | September 23, 2008 7:46 PM

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