March 1, 2011
With Jim Webb’s retirement, the Virginia Senate race for 2012 looks like a 50/50 proposition. Webb very narrowly defeated Allen in his 2006 re-election bid, and has decided to bow out after a single term. Allen had already thrown his hat into the race before it was open, in an effort to reclaim his seat.
Public Policy Polling’s first poll of the burgeoning contest in November showed Webb a slight favorite to beat Allen once again, but now Allen is at least tied with every Democrat thrown at him, including former Governor Tim Kaine, who is more popular than Allen.
Kaine and Allen are knotted at 47% apiece. Kaine has become slightly more popular since November, from a 43-40 favorability margin to 46-38 now, while Allen has held steady (40-41 versus 39-40 now). Yet Kaine has declined head-to-head, from a 50-44
lead over Allen previously.
“It’s early but this definitely looks like it will be the marquee Senate race of the 2012 cycle, especially if Tim Kaine jumps in,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “George Allen’s status as a very well known but also very polarizing political figure makes this nearly certain to be a closely contested race.”
In other potential matchups, should Kaine not make a bid, Allen beats recently defeated Rep. Rick Boucher, 47-42, and another 2010 House casualty, Tom Perriello, 48-41. In both of those matchups, Allen unites the GOP, wins independents by double digits, and benefits from Boucher’s and Perriello’s low profiles statewide, keeping 12-15% of Democrats undecided. Boucher is an unknown to 60% of voters, and Perriello to 57%. They are both disliked, 14-26 for Boucher and 20-22 for Perriello.
Right now, the three Democrats have leads of four to 14 points over another potential GOP nominee, state Del. Bob Marshall. 72% have no opinion of Marshall, and those who do break 8-20 against him.
Tea Party leader Jamie Radtke (unknown to 82%, 4-14 favorable margin) falls by margins of eight to 16 points. Radtke has already announced her candidacy, and several other Republicans are mulling bids. PPP will have numbers on the GOP nomination race later this week.
PPP surveyed 524 Virginia voters from February 24 to 27. The survey’s margin of error is +/-3.5%. Other factors, such as refusal to be interviewed and weighting, may introduce additional error that is more difficult to quantify.