Early Gubernatorial Polling Shows Tight Race 11 Months Out

Rasmussen released a poll earlier this week showing that all four candidates for governor are not only close heads up but that nearly a third of those polled don’t know enough to hold an opinion yet:

Rep. Brian J. Moran of Alexandria is the only one of three leading Democratic hopefuls who beats Republican Attorney General Robert F. McDonnell in a straight match-up, 41% to 37%, according to a new Rasmussen Reports survey of Virginia voters. Five percent (5%) favor some other unspecified candidate, and 16% are undecided.

McDonnell, who is expected to be his party’s unchallenged gubernatorial nominee, runs dead even with Rep. R. Creigh Deeds of Bath County at 39% apiece. Four percent (4%) prefer a third candidate, and 18% aren’t sure. This is a repeat match-up for the two since McDonnell defeated Deeds for attorney general in 2005 in a race so close it required a recount.

Deeds is also the favorite among Democratic voters who will select a gubernatorial nominee in a June primary.

The best-known of all four candidates, longtime Clinton confidant and fundraiser Terry McAuliffe, trails McDonnell 41% to 36%. Five percent (5%) like another candidate better, while 17% are undecided.

Moran’s numbers may reflect the strength of Northern Virginia, but that Deeds is favored by his party but only breaks even is an interesting stat.

Also key to note is McDonnell’s standing among independents – he beats all Democrats heads up among unaffiliated voters – and that his favorables and unfavorables beat every Democrat heads up as well:

Forty-nine percent (49%) of Virginia voters have a favorable opinion of McDonnell, with 18% saying their view of him is very favorable. He is viewed unfavorably by 19%, with 32% not knowing enough about him to have an opinion one way or the other.

Deeds is regarded favorably by 37% of Virginia voters and unfavorably by 24%. Thirty-eight percent (38%) have no opinion of him.

For Moran, his favorables are 33%, his unfavorables 31%, with 36% having no opinion.

McAuliffe, who served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee from 2001 to 2005, is seen favorably by 36% and unfavorably by 34%, with only 30% undecided about him.

All three Democrats are viewed Very favorably by 11% of Virginia voters.

Admittedly, it’s hard to take any polls at face value eleven months out from the actual election and with only one debate under their belts.  But the Democrats are going to face a tough fight for the nomination and those unfavorables – 24%, 31%, 34% – are only going to go up if things get ugly.

Deeds is in the best position being outside of Northern Virginia.  Moran and McAuliffe are fighting over the same base and while neither can outright ignore the rest of Virginia, they have more ground to cover there than Deeds would given his roots.  So if Moran and McAuliffe eat each other alive, Deeds can come right up the middle and beat both of them out fairly unscathed.