Washington State attorney general and Republican candidate for governor Rob McKenna has earned a 9-point advantage in the race against Democratic congressman Jay Inslee, according to a new poll by Elway Research of registered voters in Washington State.

The poll results released Tuesday based on calls made the week prior found 45 percent of respondents were either strongly in favor of McKenna or leaning in his direction as compared with only 36 percent preferring Inslee.

The worst news for Inslee in the Elway Poll is not the poor showing in how voters currently intend to cast ballots. The worst news is that Inslee’s appeal appears to be confined to the liberal Democratic base while McKenna is doing a good job impressing independents and wooing Democrats to cross over.

From the article filed by Seattle Times political reporter Jim Brunner yesterday:

Elway also found McKenna enjoying a lead among key independent voters: 49 percent said they’re at least leaning toward McKenna compared with 24 percent for Inslee.

In addition, McKenna is picking up 13 percent of Democrats in the poll, while only 3 percent of Republicans said they’d cross party lines to back Inslee.

The current weakness of Inslee’s candidacy may represent a problem for Democrats greater than the symbolic loss of the Governor’s seat for the first time since 1980. Without a strong contender running at the top of the ticket, Democratic candidates running to hold onto their control of the state House and Senate will face an election that could become little more than a referendum on Washington’s poor fiscal state of affairs and the government’s reputation for hostility toward business.

The McKenna campaign was quick to characterize the Elway Poll as advice from the voters regarding the harsh tone and lack of substance coming out of Inslee’s campaign.

“I hope today’s polling data encourages Congressman Inslee’s campaign and the State Democratic Party to shift their strategy from negative to informative,” said Charles McCray III, McKenna’s communications director.

Poll results also showed Inslee is failing to make a positive impression with only a small margin of voters. Twenty-eight percent expressed a positive impression of Inslee, while 22 percent said their impression was negative.

“When the number of voters who view you unfavorably is on par with the number of voters who like you, negativity loses its incentive,” said McCray.