CARSON CITY -- More than half of Nevada voters have already decided to vote for someone other than Gov. Jim Gibbons in next year's gubernatorial election, according to a new Las Vegas Review-Journal poll.
Fifty-four percent of the registered voters surveyed said they would definitely vote to replace the Republican incumbent if the 2010 election were held today.
Just 11 percent said they would vote to re-elect him, while 30 percent would consider another candidate.
With campaigning yet to begin for the election that's a year and a half away, most of Gibbons' potential rivals have yet to create an impression on the public. Majorities of voters either had neutral views of Barbara Buckley, Rory Reid, Joe Heck and Michael Montandon or had never heard of them.
The poll of 625 voters statewide was conducted May 12 through May 14 by Washington-based firm Mason-Dixon Polling & Research. for the Review-Journal. It carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
With numbers like these, Gibbons basically has no chance, Mason-Dixon Managing Partner Brad Coker said.
"When you've got a majority of the voters already saying they're going to vote for anybody rather than you, you're in an impossible situation if you want to get re-elected," he said. "He would have problems even in a Republican primary, among his own people. I've never seen somebody recover from these kind of numbers."
More than one-third of Republicans polled, 36 percent, said they would vote to get rid of Gibbons, while 41 percent would consider another candidate and just 17 percent planned to vote for their own party's incumbent.
Though Gibbons is viewed most dimly in Clark County, where just 9 percent want him re-elected and 56 percent would vote to replace him, he also doesn't do well in his traditional geographic base of rural and Northern Nevada.
Just 16 percent of Washoe County voters and 15 percent of rural Nevadans want to see him re-elected, while 50 and 51 percent, respectively, plan to vote for his opponent.
Robert Olmer, who is heading Gibbons' re-election campaign, took a rosy view of the poll's findings. He pointed to a January poll by the Reno-Gazette Journal in which 69 percent disapproved of Gibbons' performance as governor and 25 percent approved.
In the new poll, a smaller percentage, 52 percent, had an unfavorable opinion of Gibbons, but there were also fewer respondents with a favorable opinion, 17 percent.
"The governor has held to his position of no new taxes. He's making very difficult choices for the state of Nevada," Olmer said. "He believes any raise in taxes will kill jobs and slow economic recovery. He's getting a lot of support at the moment."
Olmer said he is confident Gibbons will be re-elected.
Among the other potential gubernatorial contenders, Buckley looked the strongest. The Assembly speaker, a Las Vegas Democrat, enjoyed a 3-to-1 favorable ratio, 29 percent favorable to just 9 percent unfavorable.
Her potential Democratic gubernatorial primary rival, Clark County Commission Chairman Reid, has reason to be concerned, however. More people, 25 percent, had an unfavorable view of him than had a favorable view, 14 percent.
Coker said that was likely because of confusion or association with Rory Reid's father, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, whose approval ratings are poor.
The two potential Republican challengers to Gibbons, former state Sen. Heck and North Las Vegas Mayor Montandon, are almost completely unknown, not surprising considering they have only ever held local office.
Just 19 percent had an opinion of Heck -- 12 percent favorable, 7 percent unfavorable -- while 10 percent had a view of Montandon, 7 percent favorable, 3 percent unfavorable.
Coker said both need to build name recognition.
Contact reporter Molly Ball at mball @reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919.