RICHMOND, Va. -- Republican Bob McDonnell is slightly ahead of Democratic state Sen. R. Creigh Deeds in the governor's race with President Barack Obama's job approval mark below 50 percent in Virginia, according to a poll released Tuesday.
McDonnell was the choice of 42 percent of the 600 registered Virginia voters surveyed by telephone from Friday through Monday. Thirty-seven percent supported Deeds.
But the poll -- the first in Virginia by the firm Clarus Research Group -- also showed that one-fifth of those surveyed remained undecided just 49 days before the Nov. 3 election. Among the undecideds, the number who said they are independents was double those who identified themselves as Democrats or Republicans.
The poll had a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
The poll indicates that news reports of a socially conservative college thesis McDonnell wrote in 1989 has not been fatal to his campaign, but it has helped rally Democrats behind Deeds.
Slightly more than half of the respondents said they had heard of the college paper in which McDonnell criticized career women and feminists and argued that state discrimination against gays and unmarried people who live together was justifiable.
Forty-eight percent said they had never heard of the thesis.
Among those who knew of the thesis, 63 percent said it did not affect their regard for McDonnell, 31 percent said it diminished him in their eyes, and 5 percent said they liked him even more because of it. But three-fourths of those who they viewed McDonnell less favorably were Democrats.
Deeds has campaigned once with Obama and hopes to do it again, but only 48 percent of those surveyed said Obama is doing a good job, and 43 percent disapprove with 9 percent not sure or not answering. Last fall, Obama won almost 53 percent of the vote over Republican John McCain in Virginia in becoming the first Democrat to carry the state in a presidential race since 1964.
Fifty-three percent approved of Democratic Gov. Timothy M. Kaine's performance despite ordering budget cuts of $1.4 billion last week, including 600 state employee layoffs.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Jim Webb's job approval mark was at 47 percent, a figure sure to embolden Republican challengers if it remains unchanged by the time Webb would have to run again in 2012.
The highest job-approval mark, 61 percent, went to the state's freshman Democratic senator and former governor, Mark R. Warner. He had sound numbers in every geographic region and even a 40 percent approval mark among Republicans.
Clarus is a new, nonpartisan survey and market research firm based in Washington, D.C., and headed by Ronald A. Faucheux, the former editor of Campaigns & Elections magazine. Clarus said in explaining the poll's methodology that the survey was done for the firm's own use and not sponsored or paid for by an outside client.