Warner holds early name, favorability edge in Senate race

Item by Chris Graham

It’s all good for Mark Warner right now with five months and change to go to Election Day.

Warner is viewed favorably by just under half of registered voters in Virginia, according to a poll conducted by Virginia Commonwealth University that was released today.

The Commonwealth Poll registered favorability for Warner, a former Virginia governor and the presumptive Democratic Party nominee for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican John Warner, at 47 percent. Ten percent of those polled had an unfavorable view of Mark Warner.

Those number stand in stark contrast to those for another former Virginia governor, Jim Gilmore, the favorite in the race to win the GOP nomination to succeed John Warner on Capitol Hill. Gilmore’s favorability rating was at 23 percent in the poll, with 15 percent unfavorable and a majority undecided or saying that they don’t know enough about Gilmore to have an opinion about him.

Gilmore’s chief rival for the Republican Senate nomination, Northern Virginia legislator Bob Marshall, is not known widely at all, according to the poll. Just 8 percent of those surveyed in the Commonwealth Poll have an opinion on Marshall.

“These results suggest that Jim Gilmore will need to reintroduce himself to Virginia voters if he is the GOP candidate for the Senate,” said Cary Funk, director of the Commonwealth Poll and associate professor of the L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs.

“As the contest for the U.S. Senate seat begins in earnest, Mark Warner has a clear advantage in terms of name recognition. And those with an opinion about Warner tend to think well of him by a margin of nearly 5 to 1. That compares with a positive-to-negative image of about 1.5 to 1 for Gilmore,” Funk said.

Democratic Gov. Tim Kaine has similar favorability ratings to Mark Warner – 42 percent favorable and 16 percent unfavorable. Democratic Sen. Jim Webb’s numbers are closer to those for Gilmore – with 28 percent holding a favorable view of Webb, and 14 percent holding an unfavorable view.

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