It's too early to really even have a handle on who the candidates for Governor of Virginia will be in 2013 but by popular demand we looked at how a couple of the better known potential candidates on the Republican side and on the Democratic side would match up, at least at this early point in time.
Bill Bolling and Ken Cuccinelli would both lead Tom Perriello and Terry McAuliffe by modest margins. Even though we found yesterday that Bolling would start out well behind Cuccinelli in the primary, he does slightly better in the general election match ups. He has a 5 point advantage over McAuliffe at 38-33, while Cuccinelli leads McAuliffe by only 3 points at 41-38. And he has a 7 point advantage over Perriello at 39-32, while Cuccinelli is only up 5 on McAuliffe at 41-36.
At least 20% of voters are undecided in all of these match ups and that's a function both of how long it is until the election but also how little known all of these candidates, with the exception of Cuccinelli, really are to average voters. 66% don't know enough about Bolling to have formed an opinion and the same is true for 64% when it comes to Perriello and 59% for McAuliffe. Even Cuccinelli isn't really that well known- 35% of voters have no opinion about him.
The anonymity on the Democratic side makes it very clear that field is wide open for other faces to get into the race and while Cuccinelli may be tough to beat in a primary if he decides to run there would be a lot of room for a different face to challenge the little known Bolling.
Of course several decades of Virginia political history suggest that the winner in this race may be determined not in 2013, but by whoever wins the Presidential race in 2012. Barack Obama gets reelected, Republican probably hold the Governor's office in 2013. Obama loses, voters quickly become dissatisfied with the new Republican President, Democrats probably take the office back in 2013.
We took our first look at a Creigh Deeds/Bob McDonnell match up in June of 2008 and found McDonnell leading by a 5 point margin at 32-27, pretty similar sorts of numbers to where we see these four hypothetical match ups. McDonnell of course ended up winning by 12 more points than that. But if John McCain had been elected President and blame for the economy had remained with the Republicans it seems quite possible that 12 point shift from the initial poll would have moved in Deeds' direction. Virginia Gubernatorial race outcomes seem more dictated by Presidential results than most so while these numbers are fun to look at right now they're probably not terribly predictive of what's to come.
Full results here