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Rigell's survey says he's the clear frontrunner in GOP race to face Rep. Nye

Looks like it's "Release a Poll Day" in Virginia's congressional primaries. Auto dealer Scott Rigell has opened up a commanding lead in the 2nd District Republican primary according to a new survey conducted by his campaign, leading a large field of candidates angling to take on Rep. Glenn Nye (D).

Rigell's poll, conducted May 17-18 by Public Opinion Strategies, shows him earning 47 percent of the vote in the GOP primary. Army Reserve Gen. Bert Mizusawa is second with 10 percent, followed by businessman Scott Taylor at 9 percent, businessman Ben Loyola at 6 percent and construction contractor Ed Maulbeck at 1 percent. The poll also showed Rigell with the best name identification in the field -- 86 percent -- by a wide margin.

"He owns a wide lead on the ballot test that cuts across every subgroup in the poll," writes pollster Patrick Lanne in a memo to Rigell's campaign. "There is no question; Scott Rigell has emerged as the clear frontrunner in this race."

Shawn Pattison, Mizusawa's campaign manager, said the only thing that was clear is that the contest isn't over.

"We're excited to see we're in a strong second position and there are still many undecided voters," Pattison said.

Rigell has consolidated the support of much of the state party establishment, including getting Gov. Robert McDonnell (R) behind his bid, and he has also developed a strong financial advantage. But he has taken flak from his opponents and from some critics on the right for two primary reasons: 1) He gave $1,000 to Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2008 (because, Rigell says, Hillary Clinton would have been worse); and 2) His auto dealerships participated in the federal "cash for clunkers" program, which many conservatives thought was an improper government intervention in the market.

Those two data points, and his status as the "establishment" candidate in an anti-establishment year, might make Rigell vulnerable in a primary dominated by conservative voters. But so far, none of Rigell's opponents appears to have spent the money on mail and media it would probably take to bring Rigell's standing down. The primary is June 8.

By Ben Pershing  |  May 25, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Virginia Congressional Races , Ben Pershing , Glenn Nye , Scott Rigell  
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