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U.S. Senate poll: Virginia’s Warner holds sizable lead over challengers

- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 23, 2014

A new poll shows Democratic Sen. Mark R. Warner with a wide lead over Republican challengers for his U.S. Senate seat from Virginia.

The survey, conducted by the Wason Center for Public Policy at Christopher Newport University, also shows former Gov. Bob McDonnell's approval dropping 10 points overnight after he was indicted on federal corruption charges Tuesday.

Mr. Warner, a popular incumbent leads Ed Gillespie, his closest challenger of three GOP candidates seeking to replace him, by 20 points — 50 percent to 30 percent.

But the poll found that the 50 percent who said they would support Mr. Warner in a two-way race with Mr. Gillespie was less than the 63 percent who approve of the job he is doing and the 56 percent who thought he deserved another term in office — a potential trouble spot as the first-term senator seeks re-election.

"The odds heavily favor Senator Warner, but he clearly has work to do to make the case to voters between now and November," said Quentin Kidd, director of the Wason Center.

The results come after another poll, released earlier this week by the Institute for Policy and Opinion Research at Roanoke College, put Mr. Warner's lead over Mr. Gillespie at 29 points.

The results of Thursday's survey show Mr. Gillespie, the former head of the Republican National Committee, is largely unknown among Virginia voters, with 69 percent saying they don't know enough about him to have an opinion. The survey had a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

The other two Republicans in the race, Shak Hill and Howie Lind, proved less well-known, with about 80 percent of respondents saying they were unfamiliar with the candidates.

The Republican nominee will be selected at a June 7 convention in Roanoke.

The poll, of 1,023 registered voters was taken Jan. 15-22 — a period that straddled the date on which Mr. McDonnell was indicted.

The pollsters said that in six days of polling before the indictment Mr. McDonnell, whose term ended two weeks ago, earned a 59 percent approval rating. In two days of polling after the indictments were publicized, Mr. McDonnell drew 49 percent approval.

Over the same period, his disapproval rating jumped from 30 percent to 38 percent.

"The indictment clearly reminded voters of the scandal that had overshadowed his last year in office," Mr. Kidd said.

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