Warner starts out with 29-point lead over largely unknown Gillespie, poll shows

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Democratic Sen. Mark R. Warner of Virginia leads Republican challenger Ed Gillespie by 29 points in a new poll on the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Virginia.

Mr. Warner, one of the state’s most popular politicians, actually has a 47 percent favorable rating — down 10 percent from September. But he holds a 50 percent to 21 percent lead over Mr. Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee Chairman and adviser to President George W. Bush who officially announced his plans to run last week.

Three-quarters of Virginians do not know enough about Mr. Gillespie, also a former chairman of the state Republican party, to have formed an opinion about him.

Republicans are hopeful, however, that the public will have soured enough on President Obama and his policies — particularly his health care overhaul and the botched rollout of the Healthcare.gov website in the fall — to give their candidate a shot against Mr. Warner come November. Mr. Obama’s approval rating sits at 38 percent in the poll, with 47 percent disapproving.

Other GOP challengers include former Pentagon official Howie Lind and Shak Hill of Centreville. State Del. Ben Cline, Rockbridge Republican, has also told news outlets he’s considering a run.

Republicans are scheduled to choose their candidate at a nominating convention in Roanoke in June.

Voters do not register by party in the Old Dominion, but 31 percent of respondents self-identify as Democrats, 21 percent say they’re Republicans, and 29 percent are independent.

The Roanoke College Poll of 633 Virginia residents, conducted by The Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College in Salem from Jan. 13-17, has a margin of error of 3.9 percentage points.

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