If having people know who you are is half the battle in politics, then Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II has an advantage in the race to be Virginia’s next governor.
Thirty-one percent of Virginians have a favorable impression of Cuccinelli (R) while 31 percent do not — but at least people know him, according to a new poll by The Washington Post.
His likely rivals for the governor’s mansion — Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R) and Terry McAuliffe (D) — have favorable ratings in the 20s, while more than 50 percent have no opinion of either of them.
Perhaps that’s not too surprising.
The outspoken attorney general has garnered national attention for suing the federal government over health care, advising colleges that they could not adopt policies protecting gay people and subpoenaing climate change documents from the University of Virginia.
Cuccinelli’s favorable ratings are higher — better than 40 percent — among people who support more conservative policies on health care, abortion and guns. His unfavorable ratings are around four in 10 among those who hold more liberal positions on the same issues, according to the poll.
Bolling, who stepped aside in 2009 to allow Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to run unopposed in the GOP primary, has been campaigning for governor for years. Cuccinelli surprised him — and Virginia political watchers — when he announced in December that he would challenge Bolling.
Fifty-one percent of likely voters had favorable impressions of Cuccinelli and Bolling in an October 2009 poll. But in the new poll, their numbers dropped by roughly 20 points. (Some of that, however, may have to do with the polls. In 2009, the favorable rating questions came after questions where respondents were cued to the candidate’s party ID.)
McAuliffe, a businessman and former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, plans to run for governor, but he has not officially announced his intentions and will not do so until after the November elections.
Cuccinelli’s favorable ratings within his own party (45 percent) are better than for Bolling (26 percent) or McAuliffe (31 percent), the poll showed.
McAuliffe, who ran for governor in 2009 but lost in a three-way Democratic primary, has been making the rounds across the state for months, quietly meeting with possible future supporters and campaigning for Virginia Democrats.
His spokesman said this week that he would not run for governor if U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) does.
The popular former governor is unlikely to run for a second term, but sure likes to keep everyone guessing about his future. In a meeting in Richmond last Sunday, Warner declined to tell his key advisers whether he would run for governor, though he told them that they should feel free to support someone else, according to several people familiar with the meeting but not authorized to speak for the senator.
The poll showed that Warner remains the most popular elected official in the state. A solid majority of Virginians — 63 percent — approve of the way he is handling his job, similar to his 61 percent rating last year. Twenty-six percent disapprove. He faces reelection to the Senate in 2014.
Sen. Chapman “Chap” Petersen (D-Fairfax), who announced the creation of a leadership PAC last month, is also likely to run for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2013.
But we didn’t poll Petersen — yet. And we sure didn’t anticipate that White House party crasher Tareq Salahi would jump into the race.
The poll was conducted by telephone April 28 to May 2 among a random sample of 1,101 Virginia adults, including 964 registered voters and users of both conventional and cellphones. Results from the full survey have a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.
Dig deeper: May 2012 Virginia Poll
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