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Warner holds comfortable lead over Gillespie in Senate race

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Democratic Sen. Mark Warner continues to hold a sizeable lead in his re-election bid over Republican Ed Gillespie, according to the Roanoke College Poll.

The poll of 630 likely Virginia voters also finds that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, a Democrat,  has a significant lead over possible Republican rivals in the 2016 presidential race.

Warner’s lead has declined slightly from the July Roanoke Poll, but he still holds a 46 percent to 27 percent lead over Gillespie. Libertarian Robert Sarvis trailed at 5 percent. Sarvis received 6.5 percent of the vote  in the 2013 governor’s race won by Democrat Terry McAuliffe by only 2.5 percentage points.

"Gillespie's numbers are finally beginning to move, but at a very slow pace. Meanwhile his attacks on Warner appear to be ineffective," Harry Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research, said in a statement. "While Warner may not be quite at the 'magical' 50 percent in the vote question, his favorable rating is well above that mark. Voters tend to see him as a bipartisan problem-solver who does what is best for Virginia. This is clearly his election to lose."   

The results are similar to the July Roanoke College Poll, although the Warner lead has declined from the 25-point margin he enjoyed.

Clinton leads possible Republican opponents Chris Christie (47-37 percent), Rand Paul (51-35 percent) and Paul Ryan (50-37 percent).

Clinton has widened her lead over both Paul and Ryan, but the Christie margin is unchanged.

The July poll included registered voters, but did not screen for likely voters, so the results may not be directly comparable. 

With the campaign in full swing, the survey asked likely voters how they see the candidates.

Warner enjoys the highest favorable ratings of any statewide elected official at 58 percent. Gillespie has climbed to a 20 percent rating, but 52 percent still do not know enough about him to have an opinion.

Sarvis' favorable rating is 11 percent, with three-fourths (75%) of likely voters not having an opinion. 

Respondents were asked to agree or disagree with a series of statements that the candidates have used to describe themselves and their opponents.

Voters in Virginia agree that Warner has been an effective leader who has done what is best for Virginia (55 percent) and is someone who works with both Democrats and Republicans to solve problems (62 [percent). They do not see him as a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama (24 percent) or as a person who does what is best for the Democratic Party or the president rather than what is best for Virginia (31 percent).

Gillespie is more likely to be viewed as someone who would represent the interests of Virginia, not Washington (28 percent agree, 19 percent disagree), but opinion is split regarding whether he would represent special interests and lobbyists over Virginia (24 percent agree, 24 percent disagree).

Sarvis is seen as perhaps bringing a fresh perspective to governing (18 percent), but also as someone with too little experience whose views are too far outside the mainstream (21 percent).

For Gillespie, nearly half of voters do not know enough about him to make those judgments.  Close to 60 percent of voters said they do not know enough about Sarvis to have an opinion. 
The Roanoke College Poll was conducted Sept.  13-19 and has a margin of error of 3.9 percent.




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