Virginia Democratic Sen. Mark Warner would likely roll over any Republican challengers if he decides to run for governor again next year, according to a new Quinnipiac University poll
Warner, a former governor who was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2008 is up for re-election in 2014. But he is said to be considering another run for governor in 2013 and his aides say he will make a decision by Thanksgiving.
According to the new poll of 1,469 Virginia voters taken Nov. 8-12, Warner would beat out top Republican gubernatorial candidates, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, by margins of 52 percent to 34 percent and 53 percent to 33 percent, respectively.
But the poll noted the race would be much tighter if former Bill Clinton fundraiser and Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe becomes the Democratic nominee. McAuliffe, who has already notified friends and supporters of intention to run for governor, would get only 38 percent of the vote to Bolling's 36 percent and 41 percent to Cuccinelli's 37 percent if the election were held today.
"If Sen. Mark Warner decides to run, he begins the campaign as the prohibitive favorite," observed Peter Brown, the assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
"He is much better known and much better liked than either of the Republican aspirants and his job approval rating — 60 percent — is the highest of any [Virginia] statewide elected official."
But McAuliffe, is "another story," Brown continued in a statement released with the poll. "He is not well known and his rating among those who have an opinion of him . . . is not all that impressive."
Brown noted, however, that Bolling is not well known either, although he is slightly better liked than McAuliffe among the survey's participants. Cuccinelli, meanwhile, is only "somewhat better known" than McAuliffe and Bolling, Brown said.
The poll also found that McAuliffe, who was a candidate for governor in 2009, owes his recognition primarily to the Democratic Party's "positive image in the state," as Brown put it, "after President Barack Obama's victory and the president's 52 percent job approval" rating in the state.
McAuliffe, according to the poll, was viewed favorably by 17 percent of voters and unfavorably by 13 percent. But 68 percent of those surveyed said they didn't know him.
On the Republican side, 70 percent said they didn't know Bolling, who received a 20 percent to 8 percent favorable-unfavorable rating from those who recognized him. Cuccinelli fared a lot better. He was recognized by 55 percent of survey participants and grabbed a favorable-unfavorable rating of 29 percent to 24 percent.
Although Warner is clearly the favorite at the moment, 35 percent of those polled said they would prefer that he remain in the Senate.
While the poll focused on next year's gubernatorial race, it also asked voters to rate Obama's job performance. For the first time this year, he broke 50 percent, receiving a job approval score of 52 percent.
Virginia voters also said by a margin of 58 percent to 39 percent that they were generally optimistic about Obama's second term. And 51 percent to 31 percent said they believe the economy will be better than it is today at the end of the Obama presidency.
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