(Sean Whaley/Nevada News Bureau) – Former federal judge Brian Sandoval has a double-digit lead over Gov. Jim Gibbons in the June GOP primary for governor although a large percentage of voters remain on the fence, a new Nevada News & Views auto-dial poll shows.
The results show Sandoval, a former U.S. District Court judge who stepped down from the bench to run with 36 percent; Gibbons, who has had a rocky three years as governor with 24 percent; and none of these candidates with 33 percent. Former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon pulled 7 percent, according to the poll conducted by PMI Inc.
The automated poll, conducted Friday and Saturday, generated 4,796 responses from likely Republican voters statewide. A total of 15,761 GOP voters were randomly selected for the poll. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
“Robopolls can be unreliable,” noted Nevada pundit Jon Ralston on Sunday, “but they have improved over time and three automated firms came the closest in those NJ and VA governor’s races. As Karl Rove pointed out in the NJ/VA aftermath, voters who stay on the phone longer with an automated pollster may more accurately reflect an off-year electorate when only really dedicated voters matter in smaller turnout.”
Ralston also noted that Jerry Dorchuck, chairman and CEO of P.M.I., has “has done extensive work in Nevada” and is very familiar with the political landscape here.
“I’m kind of amazed the governor is holding on like he is,” said Dorchuck. “One day he gets out of bed and has a great day – says something that resonates with conservative Republicans – and he’s back on track. The next day he puts his foot in his mouth.”
But Sandoval appears to be a strong favorite, he said.
“My money is on Sandoval unless something draconian is unearthed,” Dorchuck said. “In a perfect world, (U.S. Sen. John) Ensign would resign and Gibbons could appointment himself Senator and get out of Carson City.”
Mary-Sarah Kinner, a spokeswoman for the Sandoval campaign, called the numbers encouraging.
“But we’re taking nothing for granted,” she said. “We out there and we’re going to keep working.”
Robert Olmer, campaign chairman for Gibbons, also viewed the poll numbers as encouraging for the governor. They are a big improvement over a poll done for the Las Vegas Review-Journal last month, he said. The Review-Journal poll showed Sandoval with 41 percent to 20 percent for Gibbons and 35 percent undecided.
“I think this is very encouraging,” Olmer said. “If you look across party lines and across the country, most incumbents are not fairing very well because of the poor economy. So moving this number in such a short time is a very positive result.”
Gibbons is determined to win the primary and the general election, he said.
Montandon said Monday he plans to go after the 33 percent of voters identified in the poll who have not yet made up their minds about a candidate, and “maybe take a few from the others while I’m at it.”