The West Virginia Governor's race has tightened significantly over the last four months and Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin now leads Republican challenger Bill Maloney by only 6 points at 46-40. PPP's last poll, in May, found Tomblin leading by 15 at 45-30 and on the poll before that in April Tomblin had led by a whooping 33 points at 56-23.
In quite an unusual twist for a race that's become much more competitive, Tomblin is as popular as ever. 50% of voters approve of him to only 25% who disapprove. That makes him one of the best liked Governors in the country and that spread is basically identical to the 49/24 one he had when he enjoyed a 33 point advantage over Maloney.
The reason the race has gotten so much closer is that as voters get to know Maloney better they're really liking him. In May Maloney was known to only 47% of voters in the state and they basically split evenly in their assessments of him, 23% rating him favorably and 24% unfavorably. Now that name recognition has shot up to 72% and folks are mostly reacting positively to him, 43% with a favorable opinion and 29% with an unfavorable one.
The key to Maloney's surge is that he's been able to really get Republican voters lined up behind him in a way they weren't before. Tomblin has much better than average approval numbers across party lines, 29% approving to just 42% disapproving. Because of that on our last poll he was holding Maloney to only a 43 point lead among GOP voters, 60-17. But as the party base has become more familiar with Maloney they've unified behind him and he now has a 65 point lead within the Republicans ranks, 76-11. There are still a lot of GOP partisans who don't have a problem with Tomblin, but they're not voting for him because they like Maloney better.
Maloney is also aided by a 43-38 advantage with independents, although there aren't a lot of voters who fall into that category in West Virginia. His big challenge over the final weeks of the campaign will be increasing his support from Democratic voters. Tomblin leads them by 52 points, 69-17, and that's pretty identical to his margin on our May poll which was 54 points at 65-11. It's a very good sign for him that he's not slipping within his own party. Because Democrats still constitute the strong majority of registered voters in West Virginia, a Republican probably needs to get 25-30% of their voters to win overall. Maloney's not there yet and his ability to get there will determine whether he can pull off the upset or not.
Full results here