As we prepare to wave goodbye to April in a few hours, let’s take a look at the burning questions from the campaign trail from the past seven days:
- What two states that were carried by President Obama in 2008 continue to look more perilous as he heads into 2012? Furthermore, which toss-up state in 2008 actually looks safer for Obama than it might have three years ago?
- Before the political cartographers get to their map-drawin’ festival known as redistricting, might we have a marquee House race on our hands in 2011?
- Why are both parties going to be paying rapt attention to some dude named Ross Miller in the coming week? Here’s a hint: it has to do with John Ensign.
- What rapidly reddening state offered at least a little good news for Democrats this week?
All this…and more!…as we prepare to welcome May to the door by closing out the week with another edition of our weekend roundup.
THE RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE
NATIONAL: National general election polling slackens way off this week, with one of the sole contributions being a truly strange survey put out by internet-basedYouGov. Why so strange? It is the most extreme example I have seen yet of the dichotomy we have discussed all year long. Obama’s job approval numbers are pretty awful in this poll (41/51), but he has sizeable leads over the GOP field, much more than we have seen elsewhere. Paired against just three GOP rivals, Obama leads Mitt Romney by nine (46-37), and lays waste to both Donald Trump (49-32) and Sarah Palin (52-34). If you buy stock in this poll, the GOP has to be petrified by this thought: at least 46% of the electorate is either “not too likely” or “not at all likely” to vote for the entire GOP first tier. That gives them what would seem to be a narrow window of opportunity to derail Obama’s re-election campaign.
Meanwhile, Fox News looks at the GOP field, and unlike a lot of recent polls, they get a clear separation in that so-called first tier. They have Romney (19%) and Huckabee (17%) with a significant lead over the rest of the field. Unlike most other polls, the rest of the field is considerably more garbled, with everyone in the single digits (Palin, Trump, Gingrich, and Ron Paul all run between 7-9%). They do not test general elex numbers, but they do run the President’s job approval numbers, and they find him right at the break-even point (47/47).
The House of Ras keeps moving their way back into the polling picture (but not enough yet to merit their own little holding cell, like they did in 2010), and they also look at the GOP primary. And, hey, who would know the GOP better than the kids at RR? They have Donald Trump pacing the field at 19%, with Romney (17%) and Huck (15%) just behind. The rest of the field languishes in single digits (some, as comedian Mark Russell once observed, getting only the middle one).
Only one other pollster released approval numbers this week. It was PPP, as part of the Daily Kos/SEIU State of the Nation Poll. The nums weren’t too appetizing (44/50). In sum, we have now gone over a month since a national poll showing President Obama’s approval in the 50s (you have to go back to a late March AP/GFK poll).
THE STATES: New data out this week makes it clear that President Obama could struggle in a handful of states that he carried comfortably in 2008. One of those states, New Hampshire (PDF), has been an issue for some time. Given how sharply the state veered away from Democrats in 2010 (after being solidly in the Dems corner in 2008, when Obama came close to a double-digit win here), Obama trailing a Republican here shouldn’t be an immense surprise. The Republican in this case (Mitt Romney) also claims NH as an adopted home state of sorts, which undoubtedly is a factor in his seven-point lead over Obama in the Granite State (50-43). The UNH poll tests Mike Huckabee for the first time, and gives Obama a lead, albeit a narrow one (46-42). When tested against dark horse Tim Pawlenty, the President holds a lead of seven points (45-38). His approval rating, meanwhile, sinks to its lowest point yet (44/52) in the state.
Meanwhile, as you read here on DK earlier today, the President’s fortunes in two other states he carried in 2008 are going in distinctly different directions according to new polling from PPP. Nevada seems to be trending away from the President slightly, as he now trails Mitt Romney there (46-43), and has smallish leads over the rest of the field there (2-11 points, all beneath his 2008 performance). As commenter Calvin Jones and the 13th apostle astutely noted, that could be the flagging Silver State economy drying up the President’s support in a state that has been battered by the lengthy recession. Also, as I noted earlier today, the President has seen his support plummet with Nevada’s growing Hispanic voting community.
Meanwhile, the new wave of North Carolina residents (and a more optimistic electorate overall) have kept that state in the blue column. President Obama, who barely won the state in 2008, holds leads ranging from 1-12 points over the GOP field in the Tar Heel State.
In other statewide presidential polling news, a number of early 2012 primary/caucus states offered up new data this week, but all it did, primarily, was echo the themes we have seen at the national level, with Romney and Huckabee leading with relatively small shares of the electorate. The sole exception, predictably, may have been New Hampshire, where the “pirate pollster” (ARG!) has Mitt Romney (32%) coming close to doubling up his nearest competitor (Donald Trump, at 17%). Most notable in the Granite State: Sarah Palin’s awesome 2% haul, which puts her in a dead heat with Herman Cain. In South Carolina, meanwhile, a pair of polls (from ARG and Winthrop University) show very similar results. Both have Mike Huckabee staked to a two-point lead over Mitt Romney (at or near the 20% mark), with Donald Trump running a somewhat distant third. Lastly, part of PPP’s package in Nevada included primary polling in the Silver State. Given his lead in the general elex polling, one might expect Mitt Romney to be lapping the field here. One would be wrong–Romney leads, but with only 24%. Trump (16%) and Gingrich (11%) trail Romney.
THE BATTLE FOR THE U.S. SENATE
THE POLLS: Speaking of Nevada, there was some big news out of the Silver State this week, with the (utterly predictable) announcement that Republican Governor Brian Sandoval had decided to appoint Republican Congressman Dean Heller to finish off the term of the soon-to-be-resigned GOP Senator John Ensign.
Just prior to that, the crew at PPP polled the pending Nevada Senate battlebetween the newly-minted GOP incumbent and his likely Democratic challenger, Las Vegas-area Congresswoman Shelley Berkley. And therein lay some good news for Democrats: Berkley has really tightened the gap between herself and Heller. What was once a double-digit GOP edge in Nevada is down to four points (47-43). The “decider”, in this case, appears to be Democrats, who are cooling rapidly to Heller.
PPP also polled the Nevada primaries, and they confirm that a Heller/Berkley general election matchup is the likely scenario. Berkley leads wealthy Democrat Byron Georgiou handily (65-8). But that race is a toss-up when compared to a potential GOP primary between Heller and 2010 nominee Sharron Angle. Heller leads that one…and no, this isn’t a typo…84-8. The words “buyers remorse” are coming to mind here, for some strange reason.
Meanwhile, PPP also polled West Virginia, and found that freshman Democrat Joe Manchin is managing to defy the rapid reddening of his home state (sadly, largely because he is plenty red on his own). Their poll of the Mountaineer State gives Manchin sizeable leads over all comers, including the most popular potential Republican in the field, Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito (48-40). In a sign of Manchin’s considerable strengths, he now leads 2010 GOP nominee John Raese by thirty two points (61-29). Manchin actually defeated Raese by just ten points last year.
Meanwhile, in the Keystone State, chances are that Democratic incumbent Bob Casey will have to run against a real, breathing Republican. But on the off-chance that “generic Republican” actually pulls off the primary win among Pennsylvania Republicans, Casey is still in decent shape (46-34), according to Quinnipiac.
Lastly, for those up late at night worried about the GOP primary in New Mexico, we have an answer for you, as well. GOP pollsters Magellan Strategies hit that race, and find former Congresswoman Heather Wilson lapping the field, taking 59% of the vote to just 17% for state Lt. Governor John Sanchez.
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL:
- The big news of the week did come from Nevada, where GOP Governor Brian Sandoval surprised precisely no one with his announcement that Congressman Dean Heller was his pick to replace scandal-tainted Senator John Ensign, who is set to make his resignation official next week.
- Meanwhile, in Massachusetts, Democrats look like they have a legitimate candidate finally pulling the trigger on a bid. Former Senate candidate Alan Khazei is in. Others may follow, although their cause would undoubtedly be helped if prominent state Democrats would refrain from lionizing the Republican incumbent. Longtime Rep. Richard Neal is the newest Democratic member of the Scott Brown fan club. No word on whether 8×10 glossies of the Republican in his pickup truck are included with membership.
- Speaking of candidate entries, a potential game-changing one in North Dakota. With the rather pedestrian early fundraising by Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk, now it looks like freshman GOP Congressman Rick Berg is eyeing the race. Within days of this revelation, however, a shout of “veto” was heard through the offices of the Club For Growth, who have determined that Berg is insufficiently loyal to the right-wing. Berg still seems more likely than not to make the run, setting up a potentially divisive GOP battle (which will ultimately be decided at a state convention). Now, if only the Democrats could find a top-tier candidate willing to make the plunge…
THE RACE FOR THE U.S. HOUSE
THE POLLS: Yes, Virginia, there is data to digest in the battle for control of the House. Two polls, in fact, though in fairness one of them is a bit of a stretch. The first poll, however, is intriguing as Hell. It comes from Siena College, looking ahead to the special election in New York-26. This race, to replace another scandal-tainted incumbent (Rep. Chris Lee, lover of women through the internets), was expected to be a GOP hold. But the race is surprisingly close, with GOP nominee Jane Corwin leading Democrat Kathy Hochul by just five points (36-31). The wild card here, oddly enough, is former Democratic nominee Jack Davis, who is running under his own “Tea Party” line. Davis polls in the low 20s, and draws a bit more from Republicans than Democrats.
The other poll to peruse is not a direct head-to-head, but may be an awfully appealing tea leaf for Democrats. It comes from a PPP poll out of Iowa. The PPP crew did statewide favorables, as it happens, for both incumbent Republican Rep. Steve King, and his near-certain opponent in the newly-drawn Iowa 4th district, former first lady Christie Vilsack. Statewide, Vilsack (38/23) is quite a bit more popular than King (27/34). Of course, there is a major-league caveat here: this isstatewide, while Vilsack and King will be going heads-up in just one-fourth of the state (and the most conservative quarter of the state, at that).
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL:
- The aforementioned appointment of Dean Heller to the U.S. Senate also opens up a first–a special election for a House seat in the state of Nevada. Courtesy of Governor Brian Sandoval, we now have a date for that contest–September 13th. Now all that is needed is clarification for the rules governing the election. That decision will fall on Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller. This actually could be a decision that has a bearing on the outcome: if the parties get to select the nominees, that would play into the GOP’s favor. The terrain naturally favors the GOP, plus it would allow Republicans to avoid being saddled with damaged goods in the form of Sharron Angle, who has already announced her bid. The other possibility is an all-candidate contest, a la Hawaii-01 in 2010. This would benefit Democrats in two ways: it would allow Angle into the field to do her magic, plus the deep GOP bench in the district would then work against Republicans, by splintering their support among multiple candidates. Assuming the Democrats can keep their options narrow, the math suddenly works in their favor.
- Meanwhile, in northern Wisconsin, Democrats have found a legitimate candidate to take on freshman Republican Sean Duffy. Duffy, who first got a piece of ill-advised spotlight by decrying his financial woes on merely $174,000 per year, has invited a challenge from former Democratic state senator Pat Kreitlow. Kreitlow’s op-research got another boost last week, with another town hall related hissy fit from the freshman Republican.
- Can the heat on embattled Democratic incumbent David Wu in Oregon-01actually be helping the Congressman. There now appear to be a total of four legitimate Democrats either in the primary to battle Wu, or actively considering it. The danger, of course, is now Wu has the chance of squeaking to a primary win with 30-40% of the vote if his opposition is fractured among multiple candidates.
- Democrats have to be a bit pleased this week, as several potentially intriguing districts look likelier to have Democratic candidates. In Minnesota-08, Franken staffer Daniel Fanning is mulling a bid against potentially vulnerable freshman Chip Cravaack. In the newly configured (and slightly more Dem) Indiana-08, longtime state legislator Dave Crooks is very close to declaring against freshman Republican Larry Bucshon. Meanwhile, one Democratic incumbent (conservative Rep. Heath Shuler) is now being met with a primary challenge inNorth Carolina-11. The challenge is coming from a potentially legitimate source, in the person of Asheville City Councilman Cecil Bothwell. Republicans have a competitive primary of their own in Arizona-06, where state House Speaker Kirk Adams got in this week. Former Congressman Matt Salmon launched his bid last week.
THE BATTLE FOR THE STATE HOUSE
THE POLLS: In addition to the normally scheduled 2011 gubernatorial elections in Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi, election junkies are getting a fourth race this year, courtesy of the resignation in West Virginia of former Governor (and current Senator) Joe Manchin. The departure of Manchin (a Democrat) opened up a potentially attractive chance for the GOP to steal a statehouse in the off-year.Not so fast, says PPP, who finds the Democrats well positioned to hold the mansion in West Virginia, despite the rapid conservative turn of the state at the federal level.
Any of the state’s quartet of Democratic hopefuls would be favored over the pair of GOP contenders, according to the PPP poll. Leading the Democratic charge is acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin, who holds solid leads over either GOP challenger. Former Republican Secretary of State Betty Ireland comes closer, but “closer” in this case is a relative term. She trails Tomblin by 22 points (51-29). That’s still markedly better than Republican Bill Maloney, who trails by 33 points (56-23).
If one of the other Democratic hopefuls gets the nod, the lead is considerably less, but still a lead nonetheless. Natalie Tennant would lead by 6-13 points, while John Perdue would hold a similar edge (5-12 points). The closest contest would come if Rick Thompson got the nod, but he still holds an edge of either 3 points (against Ireland) or 10 points (against Maloney).
PPP also polled the primaries, and found both Tomblin and Ireland staked to double digit leads.
We do get one other poll this week, and it comes in a state that isn’t scheduled to have a gubernatorial election until 2014. But if a large number of Wisconsin residents have their way, they may see an election next year, in the form of arecall of GOP Governor Scott Walker. The poll, a poll by GOP firm Etheridge and Associates, shows a slight majority (51%) opposed to a recall of Walker. But, it’s worth noting, that’s not how the recalls in Wisconsin work. It is a straight election between the officeholder and an opponent from the other party. And if that opponent is…say…former Senator Russ Feingold, the race would suddenly be tied (48-48). And, remember, this is a Republican firm making the calls.
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL:
- Maybe this is too much tea-leaf reading, but could this be a sign that we might see another Democrat vying to be Governor of Indiana? Former Congressman Tim Roemer stepped down as the ambassador of India this week, and a spokesman claimed it was for “personal, professional, and family reasons.” Ahem…professional reasons? Since the rumor mill said that Roemer didn’t have his eye on the Senate race, could a gubernatorial bid be in his immediate future? One potential caveat–Dems already got news this week of a legitimate contender mulling the race, as former state House Speaker John Greggconfirming he is eyeing the race.
- Speaking of recalls, we may have another recall election in the midst. A three-person panel in Washtenaw County, Michigan (the home county of GOP Governor Rick Snyder) approved the language for a recall petition for Snyder. Now the signature gathering effort begins. Snyder’s opponents now have 90 days to gather 807,000 signatures. A sign of Snyder’s potential peril lie in thethousand-plus protestors who showed up outside the gates for his commencement address today at the University of Michigan.
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