By NBC Director of Elections
NBC News
updated 9/29/2006 10:06:24 PM ET 2006-09-30T02:06:24

Incumbent Republican Senator George Allen and Democratic challenger Jim Webb are tied in the latest MSNBC/McClatchy poll conducted by Mason-Dixon.  Each candidate received the support of 43 percent of likely voters in Virginia with 2 percent supporting a third candidate and 12 percent undecided. 

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The results represent a rapid change in support for Allen, who was once not only thought to be a safe bet for re-election but perhaps a candidate for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

If Allen were to lose, the chances of Democrats gaining control of the senate would be increased.  The Democrats need a net gain of six seats to take over control of the Senate.

In July, Allen looked like a safe bet to hold the seat. He led Webb by a 16-point margin, 48 percent to 32 percent in a survey by the same pollster, Mason-Dixon. Allen’s lead shrunk to 4 points, 46 percent to 42 percent, earlier this month.

Allen has had a number of major gaffes which have generated a significant shift in momentum. 

In August  Allen was caught on videotape referring to a dark-skinned Indian-American as a "macaca,’’ and welcoming the native born Virginian to Virginia.   "Macaca" is considered a racial slur in north Africa, where Allen's mother was from.

In subsequent weeks, Allen reacted angrily when asked in a debate whether his mother was Jewish.   Days later he acknowledged his mother's Jewish ancestry, saying he'd learned of it only in August, when she told him after a Jewish magazine raised the issue.

In the past week, Allen was accused by several people, including former college football teammates, of using the n-word for African-Americans in the 1970s, a charge he denies. Previously he'd been criticized for flaunting a Confederate flag as a young man.

2006 key races

But in addition, Allen’s relationship with President Bush has not helped in today’s Virginia.

Among likely voters, 57 percent disapprove of the job George W. Bush is doing as President and only 42 percent approve.  More importantly, 41 percent strongly disapprove of his job performance.  And 57 percent also feel that the country is off on the wrong track.

Voters are divided over the war in Iraq but most do not approve of the Bush Administration policies in Iraq.  Sixty-two percent disapprove of the administration’s policies while 36 percent approve.  And voters are split on troop levels as well with 26 percent wanting to increase the troop level, 19 percent saying that troop levels should stay the same, 21 percent wanting to withdraw some troops and 20 percent saying all the troops should be withdrawn.

And many are worried about another major terrorist attack in the U.S. with 70 percent saying they are worried and 30 percent saying they are not.


About the poll:
The MSNBC/McClatchy Poll was conducted by telephone by Mason Dixon from Sept. 23  through Sept. 27.  625 likely voters were interviewed.  Quotas were assigned to reflect voter turnout by county.

The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points. That means that 95 percent of the time, the true number would fall within that range if the entire population were surveyed.

The margin of error does not take into account other sources of error such as question wording and question order.

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