PPP's new West Virginia Senate poll finds Shelley Moore Capito starting out in a good position, with big leads for both the general and primary elections.
Capito's up 50/36 on Natalie Tennant. She's actually not that much more popular than Tennant, sporting a +9 favorability rating at 45/36 compared to the Democrat's +7 at 39/32. Capito's net favorability has declined a good deal from our last West Virginia poll in 2011 when she was at +25 (53/28).
But perhaps more important in defining the race at this point than the candidates themselves is how voters in the state feel about Barack Obama. Only 28% of voters approve of him to 67% who disapprove, the worst numbers we've found for him anywhere in the country other than Wyoming. He has a negative approval rating even with Democrats at 45/49, and that all adds up to this race starting out on friendly terrain for Republicans.
The key to Capito's early lead is winning over 30% of the Democratic vote, while losing only 11% of Republicans to Tennant. She's also up by almost a 2:1 margin with independents at 54/28. Capito has the early edge with both women and men and voters in every age group.
There are a couple silver linings in the results for Tennant. Capito has an 11 point name recognition advantage on Tennant, but among voters who have an opinion about the Secretary of State she only trails Capito 47/44. Those numbers suggest she could get closer as she becomes better known.
West Virginia, more than other states, has also seen some races shift dramatically in the last few years. In the 2011 Governor's race Earl Ray Tomblin started out with a 33 point lead over Bill Maloney but ended up winning by only 3 points in the end. And Joe Manchin followed up a 10 point win over John Raese in 2010 with a 24 point victory in the 2012 rematch. So Mountain State voters have shown a willingness to change their minds.
Democratic voters are pretty well lined up behind Natalie Tennant as well. 51% say they support her for the nomination compared to 8% for Sheirl Fletcher, 4% for David Wamsley, and 3% for David Harless with 34% unsure at this point who they want their candidate to be.
The election's a long way off but Barack Obama's extreme unpopularity in West Virginia has Shelley Moore Capito looking like the early favorite.
Full results here