Attorney General Dustin McDaniel sent out an email to supporters on Thursday showing that he has a comfortable lead in the Democratic gubernatorial primary, but will struggle in the general election, particularly against any Republican with strong name identification.

The poll was conducted by Washington D.C.-based Democratic pollster John Anzalone with a sample size of 800 conducted between November 27 to December 3, 2012.

In the Democratic primary, the poll shows McDaniel with a large lead over both former Lt. Governor Bill Halter and Arkansas highway commissioner John Burkhalter.  The poll showed McDaniel with a majority of support in the Democratic primary – 54% for McDaniel, 14% for Halter, and 1% for Burkhalter.

The poll also tested a head-to-head general election with both Lt. Governor Mark Darr and former Congressman Asa Hutchinson.  The result showed McDaniel beating Darr (McDaniel 46% to Darr 34%), but losing to Hutchinson (McDaniel 41% to Hutchinson 44%).

The poll also showed respondents evenly divided on the generic ballot with 34% saying they prefer a Democrat and 35% preferring a Republican.

As with all internal polls, the result should be taken with a big grain of salt, but they indicate that McDaniel is clearly the front-runner for the Democratic primary.  He’s leading in the polls and has more than a million dollars in the bank.  However, the general election looks like an opportunity for the Republicans if they field a strong enough candidate.

Full email from McDaniel…

It’s hard to believe we are in the final weeks of 2012. Like you, no doubt, Bobbi and I are running around getting ready for the holidays and looking forward to sharing the joys of this season with family and friends.

After letting you know in October, that we raised over $1 million in the first quarter of our campaign for Governor, we have more good news to share.

Our pollster, John Anzalone, just completed our first internal campaign poll, and it shows us with a strong lead in the Democratic primary – 54% for McDaniel, 14% for Bill Halter, and 1% for John Burkhalter.*

Even more importantly, it shows that we are in good shape coming into what will most certainly be a competitive general election. Our poll shows that Arkansas voters are split in a general election – with 34% saying they are likely to support a Democrat and 35% likely to support a Republican for governor. And while they favor me by a pretty wide margin against some Republicans (McDaniel 46%, Mark Darr 34%), it does show a very close race against Asa Hutchinson (McDaniel 41%, Asa Hutchinson 44%), due to a slight advantage in Hutchinson’s name recognition.**

The most encouraging numbers, in a poll that has a lot of great news, is that my job approval rating (57% approve, 13% disapprove) is higher than any other candidate tested. And when you look at voters who know both me and Asa Hutchinson, we are actually beating him, 49% to 42%.

We are off to a strong start. A lot will happen over the next two years and it is critical that we have the resources to make our case and turn back the inevitable attacks to come. That is why building a strong campaign war-chest at this time is so critical.

I have so much that I am thankful for this holiday season. I want to extend my deepest thanks to you for your support, your friendship and your encouragement — it means so very much to me and it is a big part of the reason that I am in this race and that we’re in the position we’re in heading into 2013.

Wishing you a joyous holiday and a happy and healthy New Year.

Dustin

*Anzalone Liszt conducted an 800 sample statewide poll, November 27-December 3, 2012. **The head to head contest between McDaniel and Hutchinson is in the margin of error.

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Jason Tolbert is the moderator for his opinion blog, The Tolbert Report. He can be reached by e-mail at Jason@TolbertReport.com. Follow him on Twitter: @TolbertReport.