Former Arkansas GOP Rep. Asa Hutchinson has a slight lead over Democratic Attorney General Dustin McDaniel in a hypothetical gubernatorial matchup, according to an internal poll the McDaniel campaign sent to supporters Thursday.
The poll, conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research, shows Hutchinson with a 44 to 41 percent lead over McDaniel in the potential matchup.
McDaniel announced his intention to run for governor in June and had raised more than $1 million as of October. According to the poll, McDaniel leads former Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, his biggest potential primary opponent, and Highway Commissioner John Burkhalter with 54 percent to 14 percent to 1 percent, respectively.
Hutchinson has said that he likely will announce in January if he intends to run for governor, but many Republicans say his candidacy is a done deal. GOP pollster Keith Emis told Hotline On Call the poll "establishes Asa Hutchinson as the frontrunner in the general election."
Hutchinson previously ran for governor in 2006 against Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe, who is personally popular with voters in both parties, and lost. But the state shifted toward Republicans in the past four years with the party making historic gains at the state and federal level.
The poll also shows McDaniel leading in a general election matchup with GOP Lt. Gov. Mark Darr, 46 percent to 34 percent. Darr, who has had financial problems in the past year, is not considered a strong fundraiser and would likely have trouble raising the amount of money necessary for a competitive gubernatorial race.
Safe Foods CEO Curtis Coleman and state Sen. Johnny Key have also been mentioned as potential Republican gubernatorial candidates, but were not included in the poll.
The poll was conducted between November 27 and December 3 and surveyed 800 likely voters. It has a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.5 percent.