The best key to winning this year’s Virginia governor’s race? Be like Bob.
Gov. Bob McDonnell can’t run for a second term in the commonwealth, but the Republican incumbent remains incredibly popular in the Old Dominion, boasting a 61% approval rating in the new NBC News/Marist poll with registered voters–far overperforming the 53% unfavorable rating his party holds statewide.
McDonnell would also be the heavy favorite to win this fall if he weren’t constitutionally barred from running for re-election. In a hypothetical matchup with Democrat Terry McAuliffe, McDonnell has a 15 point lead, 51%-36%.
McDonnell’s popularity remains intact despite an investigation looming over his administration. The FBI is now investigating the relationship between the governor and a campaign donor who paid for food at McDonnell’s daughter’s wedding last year, according to the Washington Post. Questions have arisen over the McDonnell family relationship with the donor’s dietary supplement company, Star Scientific.
However, the reality is that most of the public isn’t yet tuned into the investigation–and it might not impact their impression of his performance over the past three years. Sixty-one percent of registered voters also say the state is headed in the right direction.
“I don’t think most Virginians know this is happening,” Larry Sabato, University of Virginia Center for Politics director, said Wednesday on The Daily Rundown. “It will play out over a number of months. Either the FBI will find something or it will not. That will affect the final results. The guy’s been governing now for three years. He’s had ups and downs–a big success in transportation…People are viewing him over a long period of time. That’s why it hasn’t had that much of an impact yet.”
With McDonnell on his way out of office, the Star Scientific investigation could throw a wrinkle in any potential White House plans the governor may have. But in his key home swing state, voters aren’t that excited about a potential McDonnell candidacy anyway.
Fifty-eight percent of registered Virginia voters say they don’t want their governor to run for president in 2016, with just 24% saying they’d like to see him on the ballot.
In hypothetical 2016 general election matchups, McDonnell trails former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, 41% to 52%. But the governor narrowly leads Vice President Joe Biden, 49% to 42%.