Missouri race still tight after candidate’s death

Associated Press

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Senate race between the late Gov. Mel Carnahan and Republican Sen. John Ashcroft remains extremely close little more than a week after Carnahan’s death in a plane crash.

New polls in Virginia and Michigan also found Senate races in statistical dead heats, though a second Virginia poll showed a sizable gap.

A telephone poll conducted for The Kansas City Star found the Democrat Carnahan and incumbent Ashcroft at 46 percent each.

Seven percent were undecided and 1 percent preferred third-party candidates. The poll had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Because Carnahan died so close to the Nov. 7 election, his name will remain on the ballot. Democratic Gov. Roger Wilson has said he would appoint Carnahan’s widow, Jean, if Carnahan wins. Jean Carnahan has not said whether she will accept.

Experts cautioned the race could change quickly.

“I can’t predict what will happen once a little more time and distance is put between last week’s events,” said Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling &Research, which conducted the survey.

In a second question, the poll conducted on Monday and Tuesday included an explanation of Carnahan’s death and Wilson’s plan to appoint Carnahan’s widow for a two-year term if Carnahan were the top vote-getter.

With the additional information, Carnahan’s support rose to 47 percent with Ashcroft at 45 percent, a difference that is not significant statistically.

In Virginia, a poll of registered voters released Thursday found Democratic Sen. Chuck Robb had pulled statistically even with Republican George Allen.

Forty-seven percent of the voters said they would vote for Allen if the election were held then, while 44 percent backed Robb. Nine percent were undecided.

The poll of 627 registered voters on Tuesday and Wednesday was conducted for newspapers and broadcasters by Mason-Dixon Polling &Research. It has a margin of error of four percentage points.

But a second poll of people who said they were likely to vote found Allen with a double-digit lead over Robb. The survey of 596 people by Virginia Commonwealth University showed 54 percent backing Allen, 39 percent for Robb and 7 percent undecided.

The poll was conducted Oct. 18 through Tuesday and had a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.

For the past two years, Allen has enjoyed a comfortable lead in the polls. But the Mason-Dixon poll found Robb had cut the margin with gains among female voters. In that poll, Robb had an 11-percentage point lead, while Allen led by 20 percentage points among men.

Robb is no stranger to comebacks. Six years ago, he also trailed his Republican opponent throughout most of the campaign, taking a small lead in the polls only a few days before winning the three-way race.

In Michigan, a poll released Thursday found Democratic Rep. Debbie Stabenow in a dead heat with Republican incumbent Spence Abraham after months of trailing Abraham.

The poll, by Lansing’s EPIC/MRA, shows Abraham and Stabenow each with 41 percent, with 15 percent of voters undecided. The poll, conducted for the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV of Detroit, questioned 600 likely voters Monday through Wednesday and had a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Only two weeks ago, Stabenow was 10 points behind.

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