With just three weeks before Election Day, Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Ben Salango has some ground to make up.
The latest edition of the MetroNews West Virginia Poll has incumbent Republican Governor Jim Justice ahead of Salango by 19 points.
On the question to likely voters, “If the election for Governor of West Virginia were held today, who would you vote for,” 53 percent said Justice, 34 percent answered Salango, five percent chose Libertarian Erika Kolenich and two percent said Daniel Lutz from the Mountain Party. Only six percent said they were not sure.
The poll was based on interviews conducted between October 1-6 of 450 likely registered voters using online and telephone methods. It has a statistical error rate of plus or minus 4.6 percent.
Poll author Rex Repass, President of Research America, said the results reflect a number of advantages Justice has in the race.
“First, the Governor is well known and has high name recognition statewide, while his challenger, Ben Salango, is not as well known,” Repass said. “The Governor also has been visible to residents via statewide video news briefings since the start of COVID-19.”
Name recognition has been a challenge for Salango, a Kanawha County Commissioner who is running for statewide office for the first time. On the approval/disapproval question, 37 percent—a plurality of voters questioned—said they were not sure about Salango.
Justice has dominated the news cycle for months because of the pandemic, making it hard for Salango to get the same level of media traction.
However, Justice’s handling of the pandemic also creates a potential political vulnerability. For example, on the question of whether voters approve or disapprove of his management of the metrics and color coded map for school reopening, 41 percent approved, but 39 percent disapproved, while 20 percent were not sure.
That suggests the controversy over mapping presents an opportunity for Salango if he can take advantage of it in the closing weeks of the race.
The MetroNews West Virginia Poll is a snapshot in time, a glimpse of what voters are thinking and feeling on the days we questioned them. In fairness, the Salango campaign has polls that show the race much closer, anywhere in the six to ten point range.
Salango’s campaign believes the candidate is picking up momentum in the closing weeks, when many voters are just tuning in to the race.
Meanwhile, don’t forget about tomorrow night’s West Virginia Broadcasters Association debate between Justice and Salango, sponsored by AT&T. This will probably be the only face-to-face meeting of the two during the campaign. The debate starts at 7:00 p.m. and will air on radio and TV stations across the state, including this MetroNews station.