If Mark Warner wants back his old job as Virginia governor, a new poll suggests it may be his for the taking.
A Quinnipiac University survey released Wednesday indicates the first term U.S. senator would be the favorite candidate as the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial campaign gets underway.
Warner, who was elected Virginia governor in 2001 before winning election to the Senate in 2008 (by state law, Virginia governors cannot run for consecutive terms), has said he'll announce by Thanksgiving if he'll stay in the Senate or make a bid for his old job.
According to the poll, Warner holds large leads over the two Republican candidates in hypothetical 2013 general election showdowns. Among registered Virginia voters, Warner leads Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling 53%-33% and tops Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli 52%-34%.
"If Sen. Mark Warner decides to run, he begins the campaign as the prohibitive favorite," says Peter A. 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% - is the highest of any statewide elected official."
The survey indicates that by a 35%-18% margin, Virginia voters prefer Warner stay in the Senate rather than run for governor, with three in ten (mostly Republicans) wanting him to do neither.
Terry McAuliffe, the former Democratic National Committee chairman and former top adviser to Bill and Hillary Clinton, announced last Thursday that he'll make a second run for Virginia governor. McAuliffe came in second to state Sen. Creigh Deeds in a three-candidate battle for the 2009 Democratic nomination. Deeds ended up losing by a landslide in the general election to then-Republican Attorney General Bob McDonnell.
If Warner stays in the Senate and McAuliffe is the Democratic nominee for governor, the poll indicates the race is much closer, with McAuliffe at 38% and Bolling at 36%, and McAuliffe at 41% and Cuccinelli at 37%.
According to the survey, 17% of Virginia voters have a favorable view of McAuliffe, with 13% seeing him in an unfavorable way and nearly seven in ten not knowing enough about him to form an opinion.
Seven in ten also don't know enough about their lieutenant governor to form an opinion, with one in five having a favorable opinion of Bolling and 8% seeing him in a negative light.
Twenty-nine percent see their attorney general in a favorable way, with 24% holding an unfavorable opinion of Cuccinelli, and 45% not knowing enough about him to form an opinion.
The Quinnipiac University poll was conducted November 8-12, with 1,469 registered voters in Virginia questioned by telephone. The survey's sampling error is plus or minus 2.6 percentage points.