Poll watch: Tight race in MO, Burr and Corzine in trouble

Just six days have passed since Kit Bond’s retirement, and Public Policy Polling has already released the first poll of Missouri’s open Senate seat.

Secretary of State Robin Carnahan is the only Democrat PPP tested, a decision that makes sense since Carnahan is expected to run for the seat and other state Democrats are likely to defer to her decision. On the GOP side, PPP included all three Republican front runners, all three trail the Democrat:

  • Carnahan leads 45% to 44% against Rep. Roy Blunt, 47% to 43% against former Senator Jim Talent and 47% to 36% against former Treasurer Sarah Steelman.

The poll shows that Carnahan would start the race in a strong position, and that she would be a formidable candidate.

Furthermore, the poll finds Carnahan underperforming among African-American respondents (she only leads 54% to 30% against Blunt and Talent). African-Americans are sure to vote for the Democratic nominee by more than 80% on Election Day, so we can consider Carnahan’s advantage to be bigger than these margins indicate.

On the other hand, these numbers are far from disastrous for Republicans and there is surely no reason for Democrats to start celebrating. For one, two of Carnahan’s leads are within the margin of error and the one larger lead comes against a candidate with far lower name recognition.

Furthermore, Carnahan has one of the most famous last names in Missouri politics and she has been elected statewide twice. Thus, she is a known commodity and she might not have as much room to grow as a challenger generally does. On the other hand, Steelman remains mostly unknown and Blunt’s political notoriety has not necessarily spread outside of his one district and outside of Washington’s political insiders (Blunt served as House Minority Whip).

All in all, the most encouraging match-up for Democrats is that opposing Carnahan to Jim Talent. The former Senator has ran in two very competitive statewide races in the past decade (in 2002 and in 2006) and voters already rejected him three years ago. For Carnahan to post a 4% lead against such a well-known state politician is a very good sign.

But even then, the poll is taken in a context that is still toxic for the GOP; no matter what the political environment looks like in 2010, it is unlikely to be this favorable for Democrats - not to mention that Roy Blunt will no longer be weighed down by the unpopularity of his son, the state’s outgoing Governor Matt Blunt.

In other words, there is still a long way to go, and all this poll shows us is that Missouri’s open seat will be very competitive.

Research 2000 released a North Carolina poll, pairing Senator Richard Burr against two potential rivals. Burr leads Attorney General Roy Cooper 45% to 43% and former Treasurer Richard Moore 46% to 40%.

There is no question that North Carolina’s Senior Senator is among the cycle’s most endangered Senators, alongside Kentucky’s Jim Bunning and Pennsylvania’s Arlen Specter. To come in under 50% is already a sign of vulnerability, so being unable to break out of the margin of error foreshadows possible disaster.

Cooper, who was just re-elected in November, has given little indication as to his thinking but he will now come under heavy pressure from the DSCC. This is the second poll to find Cooper highly competitive against Burr: PPP released a poll in December that found Cooper in the lead!

Moore, meanwhile, has hinted that he is unlikely to jump in another electoral adventure, but his numbers are also encouraging. All in all, the fact that North Carolina leans blue at the state level means that Democrats have a strong bench to choose from.

As expected, New Jersey Governor John Corzine is vulnerable to a Republican challenge in the 2009 gubernatorial election. A poll released last week by Farleigh Dickinson finds Corzine well under 50% in potential trial heats, even though his approval rating is not disastrous (46% approve of his performance, versus 40%).

The strongest Republican is former U.S. Attorney Christ Christie, who just entered the race last week. Corzine beats him 40% to 33%. He also leads 46% to 28% against former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan and 43% to 23% against Assemblyman Rick Merkt.

All three Republicans  (especially Lonegan and Merkt) bear low name recognition, which obviously influences the results and explains why there are so many undecideds. (Note that the election is in ten months, however, so it is not too early to test potentials match-ups.) That Corzine only musters 40% in a match-up with probable Republican nominee Christie is a worrisome sign that voters are open to kicking him out of office.

Of course, New Jersey voters have long been open to kicking their Democratic officials out of office; they just have been unwilling to get themselves to consumate the deed once in the voting booth.

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