Let’s start with the obvious: Most folks in Virginia don’t know much about Gillespie. Just 20 percent have a favorable impression, 14 percent have an unfavorable impression, and 64 percent haven’t heard enough about him — including 57 percent of Republicans.
So it’s not that surprising that a Democratic incumbent senator, who served as governor before that, holds a big lead over a little-known GOP opponent, 46 percent to 31 percent.
Obviously, Gillespie is going to do everything he can to tie Warner to Obamacare and his vote for the gargantuan, far-reaching law. Quinnipiac found 31 percent say that they’re more likely to vote for a candidate who supports “the 2010 health care law passed by President Obama and Congress” while 45 percent said they were less likely. Overall, 44 percent of Virginians support the law, 52 percent oppose it.
In short, Gillespie’s going to do everything he can to make the Senate race a referendum on Obamacare, and Mark Warner will do everything he can to make sure the race is about anything besides Obamacare. We’ll see how that battle goes, but Florida Democratic U.S. House candidate Alex Sink might have some thoughts on it.
Don’t think that Obama can swoop in and lock the state down for Warner; just 15 percent told Quinnipiac that Obama’s campaigning for him would make them more likely to vote to reelect the senator, 33 percent said less likely.
Sure, Warner’s favorability is 49 percent, but that’s down from 58 percent in November of 2012.
Finally, note that Libertarian Robert Sarvis, who ran for governor last year, is running in the Senate race this year. Quinnipiac puts him at 6 percent, which is roughly what he received in last year’s race. The final Quinnipiac poll in Virginia last year put Sarvis at 8 percent, but some pollsters put him much higher and in double digits. Third-party and independent candidates usually wilt at the end, particularly in Virginia.
In short, Warner’s certainly the favorite, but it’s early, and these numbers don’t portray an unbeatable incumbent.
Having said that, Warner does take some stances we can all applaud:
— Mark Warner (@MarkWarner) February 4, 2014