An unusually high number of Senate polls were released today, prompting me to separate my poll roundup in two. Presidential polls will have to wait a bit longer, as the surveys of seven different senatorial races (six of which can be described as competitive) give us a good overview of the current playing field:
- Quinnipiac polled Colorado’s senate race, where Mark Udall is ahead of Bob Schaffer 48% to 38%, including a 54% to 37% lead among independents.
- In another Quinnipiac poll, Minnesota’s Norm Coleman leads Al Franken convincingly, 51% to 41%. He crushes him 55% to 35% among independents. There were no match-ups that included Jesse Ventura.
- In Oregon, a poll conducted for the conservative Chamber of Commerce found Sen. Gordon Smith with a narrow lead over Jeff Merkley, 38% to 34%.
- In New Jersey, Farleigh Dickinson confirms that Frank Lautenberg has a clear edge against former Rep. Zimmer, as he leads 45% to 28%.
- A Lyceum poll of the Texas Senate race finds an unexpectedly tight race, with Sen. Cornyn and Rick Noriega within the margin of error, 38% to 36%.
- In Mississippi, Rasmussen polled the two Senate races, confirming that Sen. Cochran faces no trouble against Erick Fleming, whom he leads 59% to 32%.
- But in the other race from the state, Ronnie Musgrove comes in with 47% to the 46% of the newly-appointed Sen. Wicker. Musgrove’s favorability rating is lower, however, 47% compared to 56% for Wicker (the two candidates are as well-known).
- (Update: Rasmussen’s website is being screwy and giving two sets of numbers, with another version showing 48% for Wicker and 47% for Musgrove. In either case, the difference is within the MoE and the race is a toss-up.)
- Finally, a quick note from a non-senatorial race as Utah Gov. Huntsman should have no problem this fall according to a new Rasmussen poll. He leads jon Hunstman 66% to 19%…
It is difficult to know what to make of the Oregon and Texas polls given the very high number of undecided voters. Undecideds typically tend to break towards the challenger, and for Smith and Cornyn to come in under 40% is clearly an ominous sign. But take both polls with a grain of salt — perhaps particularly the Texas one, since it also shows McCain leading Obama by 5%, which seems to good for Democrats to be true. Note, however, that two polls taken in May (Rasmussen and Research 2000) found Cornyn leading by only 4%, leading to speculation that Texas could indeed be a battleground, so this survey does not come as a shock.
Quinnipiac’s surveys are the most interesting of this bunch, certainly, and they are also the most reliable. Both confirm the conventional wisdom: In Colorado, this is the third poll in a row to find Udall opening a comfortable lead against Schaffer, in what many Democrats expected would happen months ago. But the open seat race remained tight for long. Schaffer seems to have been hurt by the mounting bad press, particularly regarding his ties to Jack Abramoff and it is also likely that the dismal environment for the GOP has caught up with him. This race is unlikely to join Virginia and New Mexico as almost sure pick-ups, but we should expect Udall to have leads hovering around the high-single digits/low-double digits mark at least until the campaign heats up.
As for Minnesota, Quinnipiac follows the SUSA survey that had found Coleman ahead by 12%. Just as Schaffer, Franken has been suffering through months of bad press — a lot of which has concentrated on his past as comedian, but also on his tax disclosures. Speculation that he might have trouble winning the DFL’s endorsement never came to pass, but Franken is clearly taking a toll from the controversies. Once one of the Democrats’ best opportunities, MN seems to have migrated in the “lean retention” category.
Thankfully for Schumer’s dreams of reaching 60 seats, the Mississippi race is holding on as a toss-up and polls have repeatedly shown that the GOP would be deeply mistaken in regarding this seat as a sure retention (as they sometimes do). The fact that the two candidates’ party ID will not be on the ballot is a further boost to Musgrove in this deeply red state, though it is unclear whether Rasmussen mentioned the candidates’ party affiliation.
Let’s tally it up: Adding Colorado to the list of probable pick-ups (VA, NM, and NH) already gets us to four. While Minnesota is becoming more difficult for Dems, Oregon and Mississippi are still strong options — and so is Alaska, not polled here. And the poll from Texas confirms that the DSCC has a large pool of states that are perhaps not first-tier right now but that could become truly competive (add to this list NC, KY and perhaps KS with Maine somewhere between this group and Alaska). And with New Jersey clearly leaning Lautenberg, that leaves only Louisiana as a race they have to play defense in. That leaves an unlikely but plausible road to 60.