Democratic Senator Jim Webb could face a tough re-election battle in 2012, according to a new statewide Clarus Poll of Virginia's voters.
The survey, conducted by the nonpartisan Clarus Research Group, shows Webb now leading former Republican senator George Allen by only one point, 41 percent to 40 percent with the rest undecided. Webb defeated Allen for his Senate seat in 2006.
The Clarus poll also shows Webb losing a hypothetical trial heat with Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell by three points, 39 percent to 42 percent with the rest undecided.
In a third Senate match-up, Webb does much better, leading Virginia's Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, a Republican, by 11 points, 44 percent to 33 percent with the rest undecided.
Though most political observers do not now expect either McDonnell or Cuccinelli to take on Webb, Allen is considered a possible contender.
"Senator Webb could face a tough race in 2012," said Ron Faucheux, president of Clarus Research Group. "The fact that he's not polling above 44 percent in any of the trial heats is a danger sign. Despite his defeat by Webb four years ago, George Allen's potential comeback strength is impressive."
"The best thing Webb has going for him is the high undecided vote," added Faucheux. "This gives the incumbent room to grow."
The poll was not paid for or sponsored by any client, candidate or political party. It was conducted by Clarus as a public service.
Other findings from the Clarus Poll:
STATEWIDE JOB RATINGS
Approve Disapprove Don't Know
President Barack Obama 44% 48% 8%
Governor Bob McDonnell 53% 27% 20%
Senator Mark Warner 57% 23% 19%
Senator Jim Webb 47% 24% 29%
Lt. Governor Bill Bolling 29% 17% 54%
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli 34% 29% 37%
Ø SENATE RACE: In the Webb-Allen Senate match-up, the two contenders are tied among men (at 42 percent each). Webb carries women 41-39 percent. Allen, a former governor, carries whites 49-33 percent but loses non-whites 13-69 percent. Webb polls 83 percent of Democrats while Allen polls 77 percent of Republicans. Independents give Allen 32 percent and Webb 31 percent. "Independents are the ball game in this race," said Faucheux. "They're about evenly split and have a high undecided vote of 37 percent."
Ø WEBB'S RATINGS: Webb's job approval is better among men (50 percent) than women (44 percent). His best demographic is men over 50 (54 percent) and his worst is women under 50 (39 percent). Webb scores 65 percent approval among Democrats, 42 percent among independents, and 35 percent among Republicans. He also does better among voters with higher incomes. His approval is 54 percent among those with incomes more than $100,000 and 45 percent among those with incomes below $100,000.
"The 30 percent of voters who don't rate Senator Webb is high for an incumbent Senator who won a major statewide election just four years ago," said Faucheux. "This is an indication that many voters don't feel they know him very well and don't have a clear picture of what he's doing in the Senate."
Ø OBAMA'S RATINGS: Obama's job rating, at 44 percent, is nine points below the 53 percent of the vote he received in Virginia when he was elected president in 2008. Among independents, Obama's approval is now 36 percent and his disapproval is at 47 percent. "Obama will have to do better between now and 2012 if he wants a chance to carry Virginia again," said Faucheux. "The president's position in Virginia will also play a major role in Senator Webb's re-election since they will be on the ballot at the same time."
Ø MCDONNELL'S RATINGS: McDonnell's job approval is much better among men (59 percent) than women (48 percent). His weakest demographic is women under 50 (43 percent approval). He scores 55 percent approval among independents, a key voter group he won handily in his 2009 election.
"McDonnell's 53 percent approval rating is lower than the 59 percent of the vote he won in his 2009 election. But he's closing out his first year as governor in pretty good shape. His positive rating is twice as high as his negative rating," said Faucheux. "While his approval percentage is less than overwhelming, he's doing relatively well compared to other governors across the nation."
Ø WARNER'S RATINGS: Democrat Mark Warner has the best statewide job approval of any official tested. "Warner cuts across partisan lines better than any politician in the state," said Faucheux. "He has higher approval than disapproval ratings among Democrats, Republicans and Independents."
The statewide poll of Virginia voters was conducted by Clarus Research Group, a nonpartisan firm based in Washington, D.C. The survey, conducted by live telephone interviews December 7-9, 2010, had a sample of 600 self-identified voters and a margin of error of +/- 4 percent. Results reported include all questions that related to Virginia politics and the 2012 Senate race.