The Democratic primary for Governor of West Virginia, if indeed there is one, will start out highly competitive. Things are a lot more cut and dried on the Republican side.
Acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, at 25% and 24% respectively, are the early front runners to win the Democratic nomination. Treasurer John Perdue is within striking distance at 16%. The other folks most seriously considering the race are stuck in single digits- Senator Jeff Kessler at 7%, House Speaker Rick Thompson at 6%, and Senator Brooks McCabe at 4%.
A lot of these early numbers can be explained by name recognition. Tomblin and Tennant are each known to 67% of Democrats in the state, while Perdue's at 53%, and Thompson's at just 36%. We didn't test favorability for Kessler and McCabe but they are probably similarly or less well known as Thompson. If the folks back in the pack right now raise a lot of money and are able to run highly visible campaigns they'll pull closer.
There's a clear ideological divide in the way voters are leaning right now. Tennant leads Tomblin by 11 points with liberals and 3 with moderates. But Tomblin has the slightest of leads overall because of a 15 point edge over her with conservatives who are actually more numerous within the West Virginia Democratic ranks than liberals, one of the few states where that's the case. There's also a gender gap in the numbers with Tennant ahead by 4 points with women but Tomblin holding an 8 point advantage with men.
Bottom line on the Democratic primary: it's going to be competitive.
That does not appear to be the case on the Republican side. If Shelley Moore Capito reverses course and decides to run for Governor this year, the nomination is hers for the taking. But barring that Betty Ireland is an overwhelming favorite.
72% of GOP voters say they would want Capito to be the nominee if she ran with only 10% preferring Ireland over her. Clark Barnes is at 5% with Capito in the picture and Mark Sorsaia and Mike Stuart each barely register at 1%. Capito's favorability rating with Republican primary voters is a pretty remarkable 78/9 spread and the gap between her and Ireland makes it very clear who the most beloved Republican in the state is.
Capito doesn't seem likely to enter though and if she doesn't Ireland has a similarly dominant lead over the field, registering as the first choice of 46% of Republican voters to 11% for Barnes, 9% for Sorsaia, and 4% for Stuart. Name recognition is an issue here too with Ireland known to 49% of GOP primary voters compared to only 21% for Barnes and 17% for Stuart, but that still leaves quite a hill to climb for the other Republicans interested in running.
We don't know whether there's even going to be a primary but if there is things look a lot more settled on the Republican side than they do for the Democrats.
Full results here