Dr. Robert Bentley, a Tuscaloosa dermatologist and member of the Alabama House of Representatives, appears headed for a rarity in Alabama gubernatorial elections—a landslide. Historically, Alabama’s gubernatorial races are close, hard-fought affairs. Sitting Governor Bob Riley is term-limited, but his first electoral victory in 2002 came by a margin of only about 3,000 votes. He won reelection easily in 2006 as a popular incumbent.
Bentley’s support grew as the two top GOP contenders—Bradley Byrne and Tim James—battled it out in a nasty, bruising primary campaign. Bentley ended up second in the primary vote, and beat party favorite Bradley Byrne in the runoff. Bentley’s low-key personality and gentlemanly primary campaign lured many GOP voters who were turned off by the mudslinging by Byrne and James.
His opponent, Democrat Ron Sparks, doesn’t seem to inspire a lot of faith. After claiming in his election filings that he had no personal assets, Sparks then loaned his own campaign $500,000 during the primary. Sparks easily beat the Democrat party favorite Artur Davis, who despite being as blue as a blue dog Democrat can be, found himself tied to President Barack Obama.
On Friday, Rasmussen Reports released its latest polling results for the race:
Republican Robert Bentley earns his highest level of support yet in the race to be Alabama’s next governor.
A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state finds Bentley with 58% support, while his Democratic opponent, Ron Sparks, picks up 34% of the vote. Three percent (3%) prefer some other candidate, and five percent (5%) are undecided.
In surveys dating back to May, Bentley has led Sparks, with support ranging from 44% to 55%. Sparks has received anywhere from 31% to 37% of the vote. Last month, Bentley held a 55% to 35% lead in Rasmussen Reports’ first look at the race following his GOP Primary runoff win.
Bentley, a Tuscaloosa state representative, is favored by 84% of Republicans, while 78% of Democrats support Sparks, the state’s agricultural commissioner. Among voters not affiliated with either political party, Bentley leads Sparks by an overwhelming 72% - 16% margin.
It’s the eye-popping support of political independents—a large segment of this traditionally red state—that has Bentley running so strong. It’s typically a fickle bunch, but it’s difficult to see Sparks swinging many of those indies into his corner. This is not a year for Democrats in any part of the country, but in Alabama, it’s about as bad as it can get. Bentley’s low-key, genteel style, Sparks’s campaign finance questions, and the toxic atmosphere for Democrats suggest that Bentley will pull off a rare landslide.