Deeds still trailing competitor in polls
By Garren Shipley -- firstname.lastname@example.org
Bob McDonnell's 1989 master's thesis is apparently no "macaca."
The former Virginia attorney general and Republican gubernatorial candidate continues to hold a wide lead over Democratic nominee Creigh Deeds, 49 percent to 39 percent, according to a poll by Rasmussen Reports released Wednesday.
With "leaners" included -- voters who initially say they're undecided but pick a candidate when pressed a second time -- McDonnell picks up 51 percent of the vote, while Deeds gets 42 percent.
The poll is the first to be done since reports about McDonnell's controversial 1989 master's thesis appeared on Sunday.
Democrats have pounded McDonnell over the thesis, a policy analysis of how Republicans could support the traditional family going into the 1990s.
Deeds' campaign argues that the paper proves McDonnell is out of the mainstream on social issues.
McDonnell spent more than an hour on the phone with reporters on Monday, disavowing much of the document, saying his views toward no-fault divorce and women in the workplace had changed markedly in 20 years.
While the story had only been circulating for two days when the poll was placed in the field, McDonnell's poll numbers don't look anything like the dramatic drop suffered by then-U.S. Sen. George Allen after he made his infamous remark in 2006.
Allen had been polling as much as 16 points ahead of Democratic challenger Jim Webb before he referred to a tracker from the Webb campaign as "macaca," a word for a type of monkey in some parts of Africa that was interpreted to be a racial slur.
Allen's lead dropped to single digits in a matter of hours after the video began making the rounds on cable news and blogs. His campaign never truly recovered.
Webb went on to win by fewer than 10,000 votes out of more than 2 million cast.
McDonnell's thesis doesn't seem to be carrying anywhere near the same impact as Allen's flub.
According to the Rasmussen poll, about half of voters know about the thesis, but a near majority say it's not important to them, according to the poll.
Some 49 percent of likely voters said they'd been following the story "very" or "somewhat" closely, while an identical margin said they were following the story "not very closely" or "not at all."
As to its impact, 49 percent said the thesis was "not very important" or "not at all important" in their decision making process, while 36 percent said the document was "very" or "somewhat" important.
Another 14 percent said they were unsure.
On specific issues, McDonnell continues to hold a commanding lead on issues of government spending, 51 percent to 29 percent, and splits with Deeds on transportation issues, 36 percent to 35 percent.
Voters also gave McDonnell a statistically insignificant edge on the issue of abortion, with 38 percent saying they trust the Republican more, while 37 percent trust Deeds more.
While the poll gave McDonnell reason to breathe a sigh of relief, it also produced a result that could be worrisome for the Deeds campaign.
More than half of voters, 56 percent, said that the performance of President Obama was very or somewhat important to how they'll vote in November.
Another 37 percent said Obama's performance was not very important or not important at all to their choice.
Obama's job approval has been falling in Virginia for months and now rests within a few points of an even split between those who approve and those who disapprove, according to polls by Rasmussen, Public Policy Polling and others.
The poll of 500 likely voters has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.
Election Day is Nov. 3.