A new poll commissioned by The Virginian-Pilot concludes the state remains up for grabs. The survey of 625 likely voters found 47 percent supported Obama, 44 percent preferred McCain and a crucial 9 percent were undecided. Because the poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points, the race is technically a dead heat.
Bradford Coker, who oversaw the survey, said the ultimate outcome in Virginia and elsewhere might hinge on whether undecided white voters are willing to vote for Obama, who would be the nation's first African American president.
The Mason-Dixon poll shows that 11 percent of whites are undecided - far more than usual in the closing week of a statewide election, Coker said. The last time the figure was nearly as high was 1989 in Virginia, when Democrat Doug Wilder was elected the nation's first black governor.
Like Obama, Wilder had a small but clear lead in late polls. But on election night, in a phenomenon that came to be known in Virginia as "the Wilder effect," an unexpectedly large Republican vote in predominately white precincts brought GOP nominee Marshall Coleman within a whisker - four-tenths of 1 percentage point - of victory.
Coker said "almost all" of the undecided white voters broke for Coleman on Election Day; a similar break this year could deliver Virginia's 13 electoral votes to McCain.