Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Moran Leads The '09 Virginia Gubernatorial Field

It's not even 2009 yet, and the first poll is out for the Virginia governor's race next November.

On the GOP side, Attorney General Bob McDonnell is the presumptive nominee. Democrats will have a knock-down, drag out primary to see who their nominee will be. At present, the candidates are Delegate Brian Moran (pictured) from Alexandria, Senator Creigh Deeds from Bath County (southwest Va.), and former DNC chairman Terry McAuliffe from McLean.

The first poll, from Rasmussen, is good news for Democrats. It shows that in various two-way match-ups, Moran leads McDonnell by 41%-37%; Deeds and McDonnell are tied at 39% apiece, and McDonnell leads McAuliffe by 41%-36%.

The results are interesting. First, we're fascinated that Deeds and McDonnell are tied. Four years ago they faced off for Attorney General and essentially tied. McDonnell ended up winning by a few hundred votes, the closest statewide contest in modern Virginia history. Three years later, they're still tied!

McAuliffe is behind. No surprise there. He's new to the race and still viewed suspiciously by a lot of Virginians. We remain skeptical, but McAuliffe is a skilled political operative who can raise money. The first time Mark Warner ran for office, as a political unknown, folks were equally dismissive, and look where he is now.

The good news part, however, is that McDonnell, who is a bit better known statewide and who is the consensus candidate of the GOP, is not leading all three challengers and in fact trails Moran. We expect the race to be pretty close, but if Democrats again take the governorship, it will reaffirm Democratic dominance of a state that not that long ago was reliably red.

We're a bit disappointed with the Rasmussen people, however, for not polling on the Democratic primary. The implication of the head-to-head matchups is that Moran would lead in that race, but it would be nice to see some numbers. One possibility is that McAuliffe will siphon Northern Virginia votes from Moran, giving the nod to Deeds, even if Moran is the stronger general election candidate.

The poll results will certainly be a boost to Moran's camp as it tries to line up money and backers for the bruising primary ahead. (We're not worried that the primary will somehow divide Dems and give the election to McDonnell; in fact, history shows that a good primary battle builds interest and vets the winning candidate. See: Obama.)

In any event, there's plenty of time to cogitate on this one--we've got a long way to go.

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