RICHMOND — Virginia Attorney General Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II leads Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling by 19 percentage points in the likely Republican nomination contest for governor in 2013, according to a poll released Thursday.
The Roanoke College poll, which put Mr. Cuccinelli and Mr. Bolling at 37 percent and 18 percent, respectively, also found 44 percent of voters are undecided, similar to results in other polls in this race.
Mr. Cuccinelli has won support from conservatives in part by suing the federal government over President Obama's health care reforms and challenging the Environmental Protection Agency over carbon emissions regulations. He also has greater name recognition than Mr. Bolling, the poll showed.
Mr. Bolling has spent the second term in his post as Gov. Bob McDonnell's chief jobs creation officer and has been the tie-breaking vote in the evenly divided Senate on several contentious issues so far during the 2012 General Assembly.
Mr. Bolling had a 57 percent favorable rating and 16 percent unfavorable rating, while Mr. Cuccinelli's numbers were 62 percent and 24 percent, respectively.
"Looking ahead to 2013, Mr. Cuccinelli has greater name recognition than Bolling and leads in the head-to-head matchup," said Harry L. Wilson, director of the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research. "But both currently enjoy high favorable ratings among Republican primary voters who are familiar with them. That said, a year can be an eternity in politics."
In Virginia's GOP presidential primary contest March 6, Mitt Romney has a 56 percent to 21 percent lead over Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, the only other candidate on the Republican ballot in the state.
"To state the obvious, it appears inevitable that Mitt Romney will win the primary," Mr. Wilson said. "But with a higher unfavorable rating [36 percent favorable, 37 percent unfavorable] among those voting, he is not an overly popular choice. Whichever candidate gets the GOP nomination, he will have a lot of work to do in Virginia."
Even with additional candidates on the ballot, the former Massachusetts governor still led with 31 percent of the vote, while 27 percent favored former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Thirteen percent went to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and 12 percent favored Mr. Paul.
Half of the respondents identified themselves as Republicans, 28 percent said they were independents and 13 percent were Democrats. Virginia holds an open primary, so anybody can vote, regardless of party.
The poll surveyed 377 likely Republican primary voters from Feb. 13 to 28, and has a margin of error of 5 percentage points.
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