Earl Ray Tomblin begins the general election for Governor of West Virginia as a solid favorite, but Republican Bill Maloney has gained a fair amount of ground on him over the last month and looks like a more viable contender for the fall now than he had before. Tomblin has a 45-30 advantage where it was 56-23 in mid-April.
First a look at why Maloney's doing so much better now:
-On the first poll Maloney led Tomblin only 51-26 with GOP voters. Now his advantage is 60-17. As Maloney surged with Republican primary voters over the last few weeks of the campaign those folks similarly increased their willingness to support him in the general.
-Tomblin took some lumps with Democrats in the final month of the primary. His approval with Dems in April was 54/20 and now it's 47/23. He had a 72/10 lead with Democrats, now it's 65/11. Note that there hasn't really been an increase in Democratic support for Maloney, just an increase in the undecided ranks. It's possible that's Thompson/Tennant/Perdue voters who developed some animus toward Tomblin in the primary but will get back into his camp by the fall.
At any rate Tomblin is still in a strong position against Maloney, even if it's not as strong as it was a month ago. Democrats have a huge registration advantage in West Virginia so for a Republican to win requires holding onto pretty much 100% of their party vote while also winning over a significant number of Democrats- in the neighborhood of 20-25%. Right now Maloney is doing neither of those things. He's getting only 11% of the Democratic vote and he's not sufficiently holding off Tomblin with Republicans either- the acting Governor gets 17% of the vote across party lines. There are a whole lot of undecided voters and Maloney showed comeback ability during the primary so it would be a mistake to write him off but Tomblin is the clear favorite.
There's been some thought that by nominating Maloney Saturday Republicans chose their weaker candidate for the fall but that's not the case. On this same poll we found that Tomblin would have started out with a 48-30 lead over Betty Ireland. Ireland's popularity took a huge hit over the course of the campaign. In January her favorability started at +14 (33/19). By April it was down to +7 (30/23) and on this final poll it's -3 at 28/31. This was not a good campaign for her image.
We also found on this poll that any of the Democratic candidates would have started out with the general election lead over any of the Republicans with the exception of a Maloney match with John Perdue, which would have been tied. None of the Democrats seem to have done much to enhance their future political careers through this campaign either. Tennant's favorability started out at +24 (43/19) and closed at +3 (33/30) for a 21 point drop. John Perdue's started out at +10 (29/19) and closed at -7 (24/31) for a 17 point drop. Only Rick Thompson held his ground, starting at 17/17 and closing at 29/29. Compared with what happened to everyone else holding steady counts as a win.
Full results here