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First Click -- Virginia

Amy Gardner

Happy Monday, Virginia politicos! Oh, and Happy Last Day of Summer. Only 43 days to go until Election Day -- and, yes, we're counting.

It was a relatively quiet post-Labor Day weekend for our gubernatorial contenders, with Democrat Creigh Deeds sweeping through central Virginia and Republican Bob McDonnell campaigning Sunday at the Redskins season opener in Landover. McDonnell's wife, Maureen, relived her days as a Redskinette by hitting Fedex Field for a cheerleader reunion and a little dancing to Michael Jackson.

The big news was yet another poll (our own this time) showing that Deeds has narrowed McDonnell's summertime lead, due largely to gains among independent women in Northern Virginia.

The poll indicates significant effects of the publication of McDonnell's controversial graduate school thesis, but it also shows that the Republican remains for many voters the better choice to contend with the economy, transportation, taxes and the state budget. In other words, fasten your seat belt and turn off your TiVo, if you want to watch where this race is really going to play out over the next six weeks: on the airwaves.

In addition to the poll, The Post conducted a couple of focus groups of women voters with some interesting results.

Former governor Doug Wilder appears poised to weigh in on the governor's race, but, as usual, it's unclear which way he will go. Wilder, who has a history of holding out support for fellow Democrats in Virginia, has been critical of Deeds for much of the campaign, particularly for a vote against a limit on gun sales. But in an interview with The Washington Times, Wilder reserved more harsh words for McDonnell and judged the election this year to be a referendum on President Obama.

The Virginian-Pilot's Scott Harper took a look at the two candidates' environmental positions, judging the issue to be one of the few policy areas in this race offering dramatic contrast.

The controversy surrounding Newport News Republican Del. Phil Hamilton's acceptance of a part-time job at Old Dominion University heated up over the weekend. According to the Daily Press, an ODU audit shows that Hamilton's part-time, $40,000-a-year job at a teacher training center was "neither well documented, nor supervised." Expect Hamilton's opponent, Robin Abbott, to start using the phrase "no-show" in upcoming literature and broadcast bits.

One interesting note: Despite the controversy, Hamilton continues to do well with campaign donations. According to the latest reports compiled by the Virginia Public Access Project, Hamilton raised $137,000 in July and August compared to Abbott's $69,000. Not everyone has abandoned the beleaguered Republican.

Larry Sabato wonders if Virginia's eight-election presidential jynx will continue this year.

Students at McDonnell's alma mater, Regent University, weigh in on the governor's race and also on the general public's perception of their campus.

The Washington Post editorial page weighs in on Deeds's lack of a transpo plan.

And lastly, the season has arrived for admonishments about the deadline to register to vote: It's Oct 5, at 5 p.m. -- as always, 29 days before the general election.

By Amy Gardner  |  September 21, 2009; 6:30 AM ET
Categories:  Amy Gardner , Election 2009  
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