RICHMOND, Va. – Democrat Jim Webb is slightly ahead of Republican incumbent Sen. George Allen with a week to go in a key race that could determine control of the Senate, according to a poll released Tuesday.
The poll by Opinion Research Corp. is the first to show Webb with an advantage in the bruising and expensive contest in once reliably Republican Virginia.
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Among likely voters, the former Republican was the choice of 50 percent of those surveyed while 46 percent favored Allen and 4 percent were undecided.
Because Webb's edge is equal to the margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, it means the Democrat can be considered slightly ahead.
The result is based on telephone interviews conducted for a cable news network from Oct. 26-29 among 597 registered Virginia voters who identified themselves as likely to vote.
Among the larger sample of 904 registered voters, the results were about even, with 48 percent of the respondents backing Webb, 46 percent for Allen and 5 percent undecided. Independent Gail Parker also is on the ballot.
While Webb supporters crowed over the results, longtime Allen adviser Christopher J. LaCivita said the poll was skewed because half of it was conducted over the weekend.
"It sure doesn't reflect anything we're seeing," said LaCivita, a national GOP consultant. "Any survey conducted Fridays and Saturdays, everybody knows they're skewed toward Democrats."
The latter two days of the survey, however, reflect two intensive days of news coverage of Allen's claim that selected sexually explicit passages in some of Webb's six gritty novels about war are demeaning to women.
"Virginians are a lot smarter than that, and he insulted their intelligence," said Webb spokeswoman Kristian Denny Todd. "It was a baseless attack on Jim that didn't make sense."
On Oct. 23, a statewide survey by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. showed that 47 percent supported Allen while 43 percent favored Webb. Allen's advantage was also equal to the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.