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If U.S. Sen. Mark Warner decides to run for another term as Virginia’s governor, he would start the 2013 campaign as an overwhelming favorite against either Republican candidate for the job, according to a new statewide poll released Wednesday.
Warner, a first-term Democratic senator and Virginia’s 69th governor, has been contemplating another run for governor and has said he’ll make a decision by Thanksgiving. A poll released this week by Quinnipiac University indicates the former governor would be a popular choice if he decides to make a bid for his old job.
The survey shows Warner leading Republican Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling by a margin of 53 percent to 33 percent and leading GOP Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli by a spread of 52 percent to 34 percent.
Former Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe, who already has announced his candidacy for governor, would not have the same advantage, according to the poll. McAuliffe runs virtually even with Bolling, holding an insignificant 38 percent to 36 percent edge. He holds a 4 point lead over Cuccinelli, 41 percent to 37 percent. More than two-thirds of the voters who participated in the poll said they don’t know enough about McAuliffe to form an opinion of him.
McAuliffe made a failed bid for governor in 2009, finishing a distant second in a three-way Democratic primary.
Democrats will elect their statewide ticket in an open primary next year. Republicans will hold a convention to pick their nominees.
“If Sen. Mark Warner decides to run, he begins the campaign as the prohibitive favorite,” said Peter Brown, 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 statewide elected official.
“Terry McAuliffe is another story, however,” Brown added. “He is not well known and his rating among those who have an opinion of him it is not all that impressive. Bolling also is not well known, although he is slightly better liked at this point than is McAuliffe. Cuccinelli is somewhat better known than Bolling and McAuliffe.
“At this point McAuliffe is benefiting from his Democratic identification, which reflects the party’s positive image in the state after President Barack Obama’s victory and the president’s 52 percent job approval.”
Warner served as governor from 2002 to 2006 and was elected to the Senate in 2008. By a margin of 35 percent to 18 percent, voters said they would prefer that Warner remain in the Senate rather than run for governor.
Another 30 percent, mostly self-identified Republicans, said they want him to do neither.
The poll results come from a telephone survey of 1,469 registered voters conducted between Nov. 8 and Nov. 12. The survey has a margin of error of 2.6 percentage points.
In a radio interview Wednesday, Warner said he is “all in on the job I have right now about debt and deficit and getting that fixed.”
“Hopefully that will work through in the coming months,” Warner said on public radio station WHRV.
But Warner said he is still mulling over future plans.
“There were an awful lot of folks, Democrats and Republicans alike, during this past number of months, who have urged me to consider trying to go back to the old job,” Warner said. “And I told them, ‘This is not the right time to talk about it; let’s get through this national election.’ And I owe it to them to finish those conversations. I also owe it to [them] not to dilly-dally around.”
Warner, who has expressed frustration with the pace of the Senate and the partisan gridlock in Congress, said his consideration of running for governor “would only be could you go back to Virginia and almost build this new model that would really show that we can get things done again.”