Jim Webb appears to be in decent position for reelection, if he doesn't run again Tim Kaine would be an able substitute, and at this early stage George Allen is clearly the strongest potential candidate on the GOP side. Those are the takeaways from PPP's first full scale poll of the 2012 Virginia Senate race.
Webb leads Allen 49-45 in a hypothetical contest, a margin slightly better than what he earned in his upset victory over Allen in 2006. Webb leads Allen 49-44 with independents and wins over slightly more Republicans (9%) than Allen does Democrats (6%). There's been a lot of speculation in recent days about whether Webb might decline to seek a second term. We found that if Kaine was the Democratic nominee instead of Webb he would actually do slightly better, leading Allen 50-44.
Voters are pretty mixed in their feelings about all three in the trio of Webb, Kaine, and Allen. Webb has a 43/37 approval rating, not bad but not stellar either. Kaine's favorability rating is 43/40 and Allen's is 40/41.
Allen looks like he would be a much more formidable opponent at this point than either of Virginia's down ballot statewide office holders, Lieutenant Governor Bill Bolling and Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. Cuccinelli trails Webb 49-39 and Kaine 50-39 in possible contests, while Bolling trails Webb 49-38 and Kaine 48-41 in head to heads. For Bolling a large part of the problem is anonymity- 55% of voters in the state say they don't know enough about him to have an opinion positive or negative. For Cuccinelli the problem is more that voters don't like him- 39% have an unfavorable opinion of him while only 31% have a favorable one and independents split against him by a 28/42 margin.
We also looked at Tom Perriello as a possible Webb alternative. He trailed Allen 47-42 and Bolling 42-41 but led Cuccinelli 44-41 in hypothetical matches.
Some other thoughts on the numbers:
-Clearly Allen is not 'unelectable' in the future but he also doesn't have very much appeal to Democrats so he could struggle if Virginia moves away from the Republican friendly electorate it saw in 2009 and 2010- which it almost definitely will move away from with Obama back on the ticket.
-70% name recognition, like Cuccinelli has, is pretty darn high for an Attorney General. The last one we polled on- North Carolina's Roy Cooper- has been in office for 9 years longer and only had 50% name recognition. The negative slant in Cuccinelli's numbers suggests though that he's made himself notorious more than anything else.
Obviously 2012 is a long way off but it looks like Democrats have a good chance at changing the bad direction they've been on in the state over the last couple years and holding onto this Senate seat.
Full results here