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February 14, 2012 at 12:44 PM

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Poll: McKenna opens 9-point lead on Inslee in governor's race

Continuing an early trend in Washington's 2012 governor's race, a new Elway poll finds Republican Attorney General Rob McKenna with a 9-point lead over Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee.

The poll, conducted last week, found 45 percent of respondents would "definitely" or "probably" vote for McKenna, compared with 36 percent for Inslee.

Pollster Stuart Elway notes one "ominous" sign for Inslee in the poll data: the proportion of voters with a negative impression of him (22 percent) is nearly equal to those with a positive impression (28 percent).

By contrast, McKenna has a 3 to 1 ratio of positive to negative impression among voters surveyed.

Elway also found McKenna enjoying a lead among key independent voters: 49 percent said they're at least leaning toward McKenna compared with 24 percent for Inslee.

In addition, McKenna is picking up 13 percent of Democrats in the poll, while only 3 percent of Republicans said they'd cross party lines to back Inslee.

Overall, Elway says the results show "a significant early advantage" for McKenna, while Inslee has yet to broaden his appeal beyond the Democratic base.

"McKenna does an even better job among voters who are familiar with both candidates, suggesting that he will get stronger as the campaign unfolds," Elway notes. "But there are many miles to go before we vote."

The poll of 405 registered voters has a margin of error of plus/minus 5 percent.

Inslee's continuing lag in the early polls has been worrying Democrats, who united behind the Bainbridge Island Congressman early, stifling any notion of a primary challenge.

Some Democratic operatives have been quietly agitating for Inslee to quit Congress and concentrate on campaigning full-time. Inslee has said he has no plans to do so.

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