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Virginia Politics: Undecided in Sixth?

Column by Chris Graham

In the absence of hard numbers in the form of updated polling data to break down, it’s hard to get a handle on the Sixth District congressional race beyond the rendering now six weeks old that has Republican incumbent Bob Goodlatte comfortably ahead.

Which makes our completely unscientific and unverifiable finding based on phone calls to Waynesboro independents and undecideds last week if nothing else interesting, in that it’s something.

Volunteers in the Waynesboro Democratic Committee made 500 phone calls to a list of independents and undecideds last week to try to get a handle on where things stand in the River City relative to the presidential, U.S. Senate and Sixth District congressional races now that the leaves are beginning to change colors. What we found at the top two rungs of the ticket was not surprising – the split among the independents and undecideds was about 50-50 in the Barack Obama-John McCain presidential race and close to 70-30 for Mark Warner in his Senate race against Jim Gilmore. The nature of what we heard back from voters in the Sixth District race was surprising. Only a handful of voters reported that they had made a call in the race, and among those who had, it was close to a 50-50 split between Goodlatte and Democratic Party challenger Sam Rasoul.

What does this mean in terms of where things stand in the Goodlatte-Rasoul race? Probably not much. Again, we weren’t doing any kind of official poll, just trying to determine where people are for the purpose of devising strategies for the walkup to Nov. 4. And so the methodology was thus wholly unscientific in light of how polls are conducted, with their many controls aimed at ensuring proper sample size and that kind of thing.

That said, upon second reflection it might not be all that surprising to hear that people are undecided in the Goodlatte-Rasoul race, if only because of the hyperattentive focus that we’ve all had on the presidential race, in particular.

I’ve joined in the chorus of analysts who feel that this race is clearly Goodlatte’s to lose. I still feel that way, but based on a few hundred somewhat random phone calls, I think the door may be, if not open, at least ever-so-slightly ajar for Rasoul to get a foot in.

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