Tuesday, June 12, 2012 | 6:10 p.m.
Gov. Brian Sandoval retained his high approval ratings and would trounce the top two potential Democratic opponents, according to an independent poll released today.
The Public Policy Polling survey of 500 Nevada voters found 52 percent approve of the job the first-term governor is doing to 28 percent who disapprove.
Sandoval is not up for re-election until 2014, but the poll shows why Democrats have been hesitant to directly challenge the incumbent.
Voters favored Sandoval over Democratic Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto 51 percent to 33 percent, and Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller 50 to 28 percent. Masto and Miller are considered the top two Democrats for higher office.
Both Masto and Miller, who are term-limited out in 2014, remain relatively unknown to most voters, according to the survey.
Miller said running for governor "doesn't appear to make much sense at the moment." He's focused on serving out his term, but: "I am certainly interested in exploring a bid for attorney general."
Erin Bilbray-Kohn, Masto's political director, said in an interview: "At some point, I think (Masto) would be interested in running for governor.
Right now, her focus is "being the AG."
That doesn't necessarily mean she'd run in 2014, Bilbray-Kohn said. But, "I think there would be a lot of people out there that would love to see a Nevada woman governor."
She noted about Sandoval's popularity: "There's a long time to his re-election. Things can happen very quickly in politics."
Greg Ferraro, a Sandoval adviser and lobbyist, said the governor's strong approval numbers are "attributable to his strong leadership in tough times and his unique ability to bring people together."
Conservatives have apparently shrugged their shoulders over Sandoval's support for extending taxes during the 2011 legislative session and again when the Legislature meets in 2013, despite grumblings from anti-tax activists. His highest approval ratings were among those who identified themselves as "very conservative." He had a 74 percent approval rating.
But he also did well among Democrats, with 35 percent approving of the job he's doing and 45 percent disapproving.
Public Policy Polling conducted the survey from June 7th to 10th. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.4 percent.
Details of the poll can be viewed here.