make it very hard for John Boehner to smile.
At the close of a particularly active week of political goodness, we can draw the following conclusions:
- Any Barack Obama electoral meme, from invincibility to certain doom, can find some data this week with which to say “See? I told ya so!” It’s a poll-a-palooza, but don’t look for a coherent theme.
- Harry Reid and Senate Dems had an up-and-down week, but it is hard to see this week as a victory for fans of progressive politics in the Senate.
- Democrats might snag a district they couldn’t grab in either of their wave elections. And they’ll have almost comical levels of idiocy out of the Republican and Tea Party candidates to thank for it.
- All this (and more!) as we put a snappy little bow on the week with the weekend edition of the DKE Digest.RACE FOR THE WHITE HOUSE
NATIONAL POLLS: There was absolutely no shortage of national data, but there was some astounding variability in the numbers. So, pick your favorite meme and dive right in:
The “Obama is a juggernaut” meme: The most recent offering from AP/GfKmade a huge splash when it landed on Wednesday morning. The poll, part of a regular series of offerings from the Associated Press, had the President’s job approval at 60%. It also had, for the first time in a long time, the President comfortably in plus territory (53%) on the question of re-election. It also rebuffed recent history by giving Obama net positive marks on both the economy (52/47) and health care (54/46). Almost immediately, some on the right questioned the sample, an issue I addressed on Thursday.
The “Obama is still in trouble, but blessed by his opponents” meme: TheIpsos/Reuters poll came out mid-week, and offered a real head-scratcher for political observers. They are one of the first polls to find a negligible bounce for the President post-OBL. The President’s job approval, according to the poll, was a modest 49/47 spread. But in head-to-head matchups with the entire GOP field, Obama absolutely blasts the entire peanut gallery. Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney came the closest, and they still trailed by double digits. Most notably, President Obama took anywhere between 51-57% against the GOP contenders. This, married with the very middling job approval numbers, would seem to indicate that the GOP field is so weak that it will be difficult to make the election a referendum on Obama.
The “Obama is still plenty vulnerable, even with better job approval” meme:Pessimists can point to the latest monthly offering from the crew over at PPP. While they did find a modest bump in job approval for the President (from 47/48 to 49/43), they also found negligible change in his trial heat performances versus the GOP field. Mitt Romney comes the closest to ousting the President, with a modest 47-42 lead for Obama over Romney. Not exactly panic time for the incumbent, but a smaller lead than he enjoyed in 2008.
Of course, there is still the impact of the whole bin Laden deal on the poll numbers, and it will be several more weeks before we can say whether or not any movement is permanent or fleeting. Right now, however, any political observer would have to conclude that you’d rather have the President’s poll numbers than those of his GOP challengers. Both PPP and AP/GfK confirm surprisingly weak favorability numbers for the whole of the Republican field (with the possible exceptions of Romney and Huckabee).
Speaking of weakness in the Republican field, the big polling story in the GOP primary this week was the evidence of the utter collapse of Donald Trump. PPP’s monthly polling of the field had Trump dropping from 26% of the vote down to just 8%, as the now-classic “top four” (Romney, Huckabee, Palin, and Gingrich) re-established themselves at the head of the field. One other national poll, that isn’t worthy of a link, comes from the notorious Zogby Interactive poll. In Zogby-land, the top three are…wait for it…Chris Christie, Herman Cain, and Ron Paul.
THE STATES: Virginia appears to be the epicenter of pollster interest this week, with a pair of new surveys examining the Commonwealth. On one level, this makes a lot of sense: pollsters had a hot Senate race that is now solidified (more on that later). Add to that the fact that Virginia is a once-solidly red state that is now highly competitive, and you have all the reason in the world to poll the state. The conclusion of both the new poll from PPP and last weekend’s offering from the Washington Post is the same: Obama seems poised to keep these 13 electoral votes in the blue column. WaPo has Obama’s margins no worse than where they were in 2008 (Romney comes closest, trailing the President by six points). PPP actually has Obama in better shape than he was in 2008, giving him leads ranging from 8-22 points over the Republican field.
Meanwhile, another toss-up state seems to be heading in another direction, as PPP explores the state of Missouri. Here, President Obama’s job approval numbers are far from swell (43/53), and he trails in trial heats against Romney and Huckabee. If there is good news in that poll, it is that his deficits against the GOP’s “big two” are relatively thin (2-5 points), and that he still leads the rest of the GOP field. In a sign of his vulnerability in the Show-Me State, however, even against the GOP’s most toxic “contenders” (Palin and Trump), Obama’s lead is only five points.
THE RACE FOR THE U.S. SENATE
THE POLLS: The battle for Democrats to hold onto Jim Webb’s seat inVirginia is a tight one, according to PPP. The pollster, who had presumptive frontrunners Tim Kaine (D) and George Allen (R) deadlocked in a February poll, now gives Kaine a narrow 46-44 lead. Those results are essentially confirmed by the WaPo poll earlier in the week, that had Allen and Kaine all square at 46% each.
Meanwhile, in Arizona, PPP follows up their general election polling (which showed Democrats very competitive in the fight to wrest this seat away from the GOP) with a look at the potential primaries. For a lark, they threw former half-term Alaska Governor Sarah Palin into the mix. Palin has hinted at a possible move to the lower 48. In a sign that the presumptive frontrunner, Congressman Jeff Flake, may not be the colossus of the field, he actually narrowly trailed Palin (35-33) in PPP’s survey. However, Palin is almost certain not to run. On the Democratic side, the convalescing Gabby Giffords laps the field, but 2010 gubernatorial nominee Terry Goddard runs a strong enough second place to be the presumptive frontrunner if Giffords’ health does not afford her the opportunity to make the bid.
PPP also tested the GOP primary to pick an opponent for Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri. There is a clear top two in this contest: with Todd Akin and Sarah Steelman out in front. The open question now is who benefits from the exit of avowed right-wing candidate Ed Martin from the field.
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL:
- This week might mark the start of a domino chain of entrances into the 2012 electoral derby, as a number of candidates jumped into the fray on both sides this week. The ball got rolling last weekend, with the announcement that northern Indiana Congressman Joe Donnelly (D) was planning a bid against longtime incumbent Dick Lugar (R). This was clearly a move fostered by two motives–Donnelly’s district getting lurched to the right by the recently completed redistricting process, and Lugar’s likelihood of getting teabagged in a GOP primary, thus setting up a more winnable race against Republican state treasurer Richard Mourdock.
- Donnelly’s entrance was the first of several Dems to launch bids, some with the clear intent, like Donnelly, of running from the center-left (emphasis on center). In Connecticut, state legislator William Tong, an acolyte of outgoing Senator Joe Lieberman, entered into an already crowded Democratic primary. Meanwhile, Army General Ricardo Sanchez jumped into the race for the Democrats in Texas. He also sounded bipartisan chords in his launch, but in Texas, perhaps that is a higher-percentage strategy. One other potentially major Democratic candidate jumped into the 2012 fray this week: Newton Mayor Setti Warren in Massachusetts (where the Democratic Congressmen really need to shut the hell up with their Scott Brown idol worship). Finally, it looks like Democrats might finally have a viable candidate in North Dakota, where former state legislator (and former Dorgan aide) Pam Gulleson is contemplating a bid.
- Republicans have a few irons in the fire, as well. Most of these are still in the “thinking about it” stage, but it looks like Republicans are closer to having candidates in states like Minnesota (state legislator Dave Thompson) and inNew Jersey (attorney Ian Linker). The bigger news is one of the bigger fish who has been in the “maybe” pile for a while looks like he will poop or get off the pot in short order. The person in question is a House member who might want to move down the hall: Rick Berg of North Dakota. A pair of GOPers also decided to get off the pot late in the week, turning down entreaties to run for the Senate: Blaine Leutkemeyer in Missouri and Thad McCotter inMichigan.
- The other big news of the week was not an entrance from the 2012 electoral derby, but an exit. Four-term incumbent Democrat Herb Kohl of Wisconsinannounced his retirement on Friday, opening up a potentially explosive open-seat battle in the state which has become an epicenter of national politics over the last several months. Several names were bandied about in short order, with names like Paul Ryan, Mark Neumann, and Tommy Thompson publicly mulling it from the GOP side of the ledger. On the Democratic side of the table, all eyes are on former Senator Russ Feingold, though the rumor mill was heavy on Friday with the news that longtime Madison-area Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin is interested in a bid.
THE RACE FOR THE U.S. HOUSE
THE POLLS: On the micro and macro levels, this was not a good polling week for the GOP. The news kicked off at the start of the week, when a poll conducted by PPP on behalf of both Daily Kos and SEIU found that in NY-26, Democrat Kathy Hochul (35%) had moved into a narrow lead over both Republican Jane Corwin (31%) and Tea Party candidate Jack Davis (24%). The poll was conducted over the weekend, before the uproarious videotaped incident between Jack Davis and a video tracker, who turned out to be Jane Corwin’s Chief of Staff. The video makes Davis look fairly unhinged (the laugh after shoving away the Corwin camera has to be seen to be believed), but the aftermath has involved a fairly big amount of blowback for Corwin, whose responses to the incident have been positively comical. There is only one winner in this battle, and her name is Kathy Hochul.
Meanwhile, on a national level, the news was little better for Republicans this week. CNN did their national poll, and found that the Democrats have actually moved into a modest lead over the GOP in the generic House ballot. The Democratic lead, according to the CNN poll, was 50-46. For a sense of perspective, the GOP actually defeated the Democrats nationally in the 2010 House balloting by a margin of 52-45.
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL:
- Just like in the Senate, it was a big week in the House for Democratic bids for 2012. Suburban Virginia will get another serious race, apparently, as retired Air Force General John Douglass (D) will challenge longtime GOP incumbent Frank Wolf in VA-10. Meanwhile, in freshman Chip Cravaack’s district (MN-08), Democrat Tarryl Clark will be angling for another shot at the House. Clark lost to Michele Bachmann in 2010 in the 6th district downstate. Meanwhile, sophomore Republican Leonard Lance has a potentially interesting challenge from former Edison Mayor Jun Choi in NJ-07. Finally, freshman (and, in some ways, accidental) Congressman Blake Farenthold is liable to get a legitimate challenge out of TX-27 in the form of local DA Armando Villalobos (D). Of course, the wild card in that case is that no one is exactly sure WHAT that district will look like when Texas Republicans are done with their inventive cartography.
- Republicans added a few names to their side of the ledger, as well. The GOP landed a challenger to Democratic Rep. Joe Courtney (CT-02), in the person of GOP state legislator Christopher Coutu. Meanwhile, to the possible chagrin of Republicans (go, Angle, go!), the field in the special election in NV-02 got a little bigger when state party chairman Mark Amodei jumped into the fray. Meanwhile, Democratic freshman David Cicilline got a potentially legit GOP challenger this week in RI-01, in the person of former state police head Brendan Doherty.
- For 2012 electoral junkies, and especially those curious of the impact redistricting will have on the landscape, the crew at Daily Kos Elections (and, in particular, the math skills of one JeffMD) have found your bliss. This already has four of the first states to complete the process loaded up, with more on the way.
THE RACE FOR THE STATEHOUSES
THE POLLS: By the close of the night, we will get the “only polls that matter” out of the state of West Virginia. When those final numbers come in, you can compare them to the pre-election polling done by PPP, the lone pollster brave enough to offer numbers in what promises to be a low-key, low turnout affair. For what it is worth, the PPP crew saw a real coinflip between Bill Maloney and Betty Ireland on the GOP side, with acting Governor Earl Ray Tomblin likely to win by double digits on the Democratic side, despite a spirited and late-breaking challenge from state House Speaker Rick Thompson.
Meanwhile, we have another battle brewing next week out of Kentucky, but that one looks like a nonstarter. As he has done throughout, state Senate President David Williams (47%) has a commanding lead in the Republican primary, easily besting businessman Phil Moffett (21%) and Jefferson County Clerk Bobbie Holsclaw (12%). Williams would then face incumbent Democratic Governor Steve Beshear, who has held solid leads over Williams in most polling to date.
ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL:
- Interesting rumor out of one of the other states holding gubernatorial elections this year: Louisiana. With notable silence on a potential Democratic challenger to GOP Governor Bobby Jindal (who, miffed that a local paper had criticized his backing of a “birther bill” in the Pelican State,released his own birth certificate this week), some old names are being peddled as Democratic possibilities. The names: former Governor Kathleen Blanco, and former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial.
- Not that it is likely to matter, but Congressman and conservative darling Mike Pence isn’t going to get a free ride to the GOP nomination in Indiana. Businessman and county commissioner Jim Wallace has announced his intention to make a bid, whereupon he will probably get 20% of the vote and get crushed beneath Pence’s tires.
- Lastly, in a sign that it is never too early to look ahead, a pair of 2014 hopefuls decided to play less-than-coy about their ambitions. In South Carolina, we can expect a rematch, as state legislator Vincent Sheheen (D) is promising to take another run at Republican Governor Nikki Haley. Meanwhile, out in Arizona, GOP Secretary of State Ken Bennett has already filed paperwork for a gubernatorial bid, despite an apparent effort by sitting Governor Jan Brewer to try to pivot around Arizona election law and get herself a third term (she is evidently going to argue that her first term should not count, since she assumed the post upon Janet Napolitano’s selection to President Obama’s cabinet).
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