Virginia Voters Warm Up to '08 Mark Warner Campaign; Cool Off to Sen. Allen, Poll Says

Democrat Mark R. Warner looks better as a presidential prospect to home-state voters now than he did 14 months ago when he was governor, according to new statewide poll results published Tuesday.

The state's other White House aspirant, Republican Sen. George Allen, lost support since the same poll gauged Virginians' native son presidential preferences in July 2005.

Fifty-four percent of those surveyed last week by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. said Warner should run for president in 2008 compared with just 42 percent in July 2005. Those who said he should not run decreased from 39 percent to 23 percent. Another 23 percent were undecided in the latest poll compared with 19 percent previously.

Click here to see the full poll results.

When asked whether they would vote for the multimillionaire businessman-turned-governor if he is the 2008 Democratic nominee, 56 percent said yes, 30 percent said no, and 14 percent were undecided — totals almost unchanged since the previous survey.

Warner left office in January with record high job-approval ratings, despite orchestrating a budget-balancing 2004 tax increase. He has toured key early presidential nomination venues such as Iowa and New Hampshire since.

Allen, another former governor, also visited key presidential battlegrounds before he found himself locked this year in an unexpectedly close re-election battle with Democrat Jim Webb.

Those who wanted to see Allen run for president in two years dropped from 42 percent in July of 2005 to 37 percent last week. Those who didn't want him to run, however, leaped from 38 percent to 49 percent. Fourteen percent were undecided in the latest poll compared with 20 percent previously.

When respondents were asked last week whether they would vote for Allen if he is the 2008 GOP presidential nominee, 39 percent said yes, down from 47 percent earlier, while 52 percent said no, up from 41 percent previously. Nine percent were undecided in the latest poll and 12 percent were undecided previously.

Mason-Dixon surveyed 625 randomly selected registered Virginia voters by telephone Sept. 5-7. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The results are the latest setback for Allen in the past month since he referred to a Webb campaign volunteer of Indian descent by the name "Macaca" before a nearly all-white crowd at a rally in far southwest Virginia.

The word "macaca" denotes a genus of monkeys, including macaques, and is considered an ethnic slur in some countries.

The Webb aide, S.R. Sidarth, was following Allen's campaign and videotaping public events. Footage of Allen's gaffe was posted on the Internet and it became a major political story, provoking international criticism.

Allen later apologized personally to Sidarth, a 20-year-old University of Virginia senior who was born in Fairfax.