Senate polls find worrisome news for Democrats in CT and DE

Delaware, Connecticut and California’s Senate races are rarely considered top-tier contests in which the GOP has strong chances of competing. But a new series of polls suggests that only the last of these three states is securely in Democratic hands.

In Connecticut, Chris Dodd’s popularity has plunged ever since he was hit by a mortgage-related ethics controversy. Last month, a Quinnipiac survey served as the first warning that voters were open to voting against their longtime Senator, but nothing prepared us for the shock of Quinnipiac’s latest poll:

  • Dodd trails 43% to 42% against former Rep. Rob Simmons. Among independents, Simmons leads by a solid 49% to 32%.
  • Dodd leads two other potential challengers, but he fails to cross 50%. He is ahead 47% to 34% against state Senator Sam Caliguri and 46% to 34% against CNBC host Larry Kudlow.
  • At least, Dodd’s approve rating has improved: a respectable 49% now approve of his performance, versus 41% last month.

This survey is enough to mark Dodd as one of the most endangered Democratic incumbents of the 2010 cycle. There is no excuse for such a well-known Senator to be stuck in the low 40s, let alone trail an opponent who has been out of political life for three years. Sure, Simmons was a longtime representative who was able to beat back a number of spirited challenges in his blue-leaning district. But he only represented a fifth of the state and remains unknown to most Connecticut voters: 53% of respondents have no opinion of Simmons, versus only 17% of Dodd. Unfortunately for Dodd, Simmons told Politico that he is “leaning towards a run” - and this poll will certainly encourage him to give it a go.

Of course, that the Senator fails to break 50% against a little-known state legislator (Caliguri) only makes matters look worse. The only good news for Dodd is that he is getting these warning signs a year and a half before he has to mount his campaign; this should give him time to prepare for a competitive run. But this also means that Connecticut could suck DSCC funds and Democratic attention that should have been used elsewhere.

The second worrisome polls comes from Delaware, which is for now the only open seat Democrats have to defend. No candidate has emerged for now, but GOP Rep. Mike Castle and Democratic Attorney General Beau Biden are said to be considering a run. While no one suggests that Castle would be easy to beat, Democrats tend to refute the view that this would be that vulnerable a seat. A new poll released by PPP suggests otherwise:

  • Castle leads Biden 44% to 36%. Among independents, Castle is ahead 53% to 20%; he receives 22% of the Democratic vote.
  • Respondents have a favorable view of both men: 54% approve of Castle’s performance (versus 33%) and 49% approve of Biden’s performance (versus 27%).

The good news for Democrats is that Castle is the GOP’s only credible candidate. If he does not run for Senate (he is 70, after all), it would all but ensure that a Democrat wins the race. And this poll suggests that Delaware voters have nothing against Beau Biden - they would just rather keep Castle in Congress.

The bad news for Democrats is that Castle’s entry would make this a top-tier race, and they would be foolish to view this as an easy hold. Castle served as Governor from 1985 to 1993 and has been the state’s sole representative since then. In fact, he has never faced a competitive race and has built a formidable stature to overcome the state’s Democratic roots every two years. Democrats would be hard pressed to pull off in 2010 what they have failed to do sixteen times over the past twenty-five years: defeat Castle in a statewide race.

The only good news for Democrats comes from California, whose Senate race was tested by the Field poll. Some Republicans are hoping that they can force Barbara Boxer on the defensive with the right candidate, but this poll suggests that the Democratic Senator is in a strong position:

  • Only 42% of respondents say Boxer deserves to be re-elected, while 43% want someone new. But when paired up with the strongest challengers the GOP has to offer, Boxer faces no difficulty: She leads Arnold Schwarzenegger by a massive 54% to 30%. (In an October 2007 poll, the Governor had a 44-43 edge.) Against Carly Fiorina, Boxer is ahead 55% to 25%.
  • As interestingly, Schwarzenegger would face a tough time in the Republican primary: He only gets 31% to Fiorina’s 24% and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore’s 9%. In a two-way race without the Governor, Fiorina leads DeVore 31% to 19%.

The poll contains plenty of bad news for Schwarzenegger. For one, his massive deficit against Boxer confirms that the Governor’s political capital has collapsed ever since he won re-election with unexpected ease in 2006; now, Schwarzenegger is seen as an ineffective executive who represents a party despised by most Californians.

The primary numbers are even more worrisome for Schwarzenegger: The state’s GOP electorate is so conservative that moderate Republicans have always had difficulty to win the primary, but for a two-term Governor to only get 31% in a primary poll is quite a dismal showing. For Schwarzenegger to realize that he would have to fight his way through the GOP primary could be enough to keep him away from the race.

7 Responses to “Senate polls find worrisome news for Democrats in CT and DE”


  1. 1 MSW

    Chris Dodd should recover within the next 18 months. Ned Lamont could win this race easily against a Republican, although IMO he’s waiting on a rematch with Joe Lieberman. In defense of Simmons, as Republicans go, he’s not the worst one to have around. He’s much more moderate than the Republican party, so if he was elected (I hope he isn’t), he may lead the path for a more needed moderate GOP party. I don’t Simmons could win the race anyway. By 2010, he will be 67 years old (older than Dodd!). That’s pretty old for a freshmen senator.

    Mike Castle is older than Simmons. I think it shows how much the GOP party is in disarray when they recycle senior citizen politicians. Without Castle, the GOP has no chance of taking this seat. Even if he runs, I think its no more than a 50/50 chance he would actually win. Castle is also a more moderate GOPer, and he’s definitely to the left of his party. I’d expect he would seriously consider running for this seat, since being in the minority in the Senate is definitely better than being in the minority of the house.

    I’m not at all promoting GOP candidates. However, I would only hope that the GOP would promote more moderate candidates than they have in the past. If the Dems pick off some of the more conservative GOP seats (Missouri, Kentucky, North Carolina, Florida), I’d be willing to accept Castle and Simmons. Also, if Specter loses in the GOP primary, I think the Dems can pick up a seat there too. A handful of moderate GOP senators can help the Democrats pass some progressive legislation.

  2. 2 MSW

    I wanted to add that the GOP needs to accept that they are the minority party for numerous reasons. First, the younger candidates believe they can spout out conservative rhetoric without actually offering a plan to better our country. They believe that if they compromise at all with the Democrats, they are abandoning their core beliefs. That is hogwash. Our country can no longer be divided like it has been for the last 15 years. Once the Republican Revolution of 1994 took place, the GOP have tried their best to discredit the Democrats without actually trying to improve the quality of government. The few moderates that are in the party have been ostracized (Jeffords, Chafee, both who have now left their party) or have been marked as traitors (Specter, Snowe, Collins). The Republicans need to address their problems soon if they want to be a part of the legislative process for the near future.

    I don’t hate the moderate Republicans at all. Some are brave enought to break away from their parties leaders and support Democratic legislation. Other moderates have been threatened within their party not to sway away from the parties hard core line. If the GOP caucus does change (and it will through attrition), they need to moderate their stance on about all issues.

  3. 3 Jaxx Raxor

    MSW, I’m not sure that Dodd will recover enough to the point that he will be relatively safe, but this is a nice early warning sign that he has to work very hard. I do not think that Dodd will drain the DSCC too much because as Chairman of the Banking Committee, alot of Buisness groups want to get on his good side and will probably donate alot of money to him, and CT is well known for it’s many Wall Street types and Big businesses. The DSCC may give him some money but I suspect that Chris Dodd will be able to do most of the money raising himself, leaving the DSCC to focus more on offensive threats. Chris Simmons on the other hand will probably need alot of help from the the RSCC in order to defect the inveitable Dodd attacks and to prevent Dood from rehabilitating his message. Not to mention that buissness groups are not likely to give to the candidate of the minority Party. However, seeins as how CT has probably now replaced IL as the most vulernable Democratic seat, Coryn will probalby think it’s worth spending alot of money if Simmions get in so they avoid not picking up a Democratic held seat for the 3rd cycle in a row.

    On Deleware, I’m very suprised that Castle has a statisitcally signicant lead over Biden. Yes Castle is very popular, but he has the benefit of not getting any real strong opponents in his House Races, and Beau Biden is a state wide elected office from the Democratic party in a very strong Democratic state. I would have thought that at best Castle would make it a tie, so I see this a kinda of an outlier until I see other polls come out.

    Despite this poll result, Castle (as Taniel mentions) is much less likely to jump into the Delaware Senate race than Simmons is into the CT Senate race. For Castle to jump would cause Democrats to work much harder then they would like, but they would likely get brutal. In particular, I see the Democrats in Deleware using Castle’s vote against Obama’s Stimulas package as a signal that he is a partisan Republican and that he would block Obama’s agenda. I’m not sure that Castle would be willing to endure such a tough campaigin, not least because of his age but also because of his demenour.

    On California, Schwarzenegger has been hurt by his approval of a budget that increases taxes, so for him to look weak in both a primary and general election isn’t unexpected. Boxer may not be well liked, but she has the benefit of being a Democrat and of her Republican opponets being even less liked than her.

  4. 4 bcarter3

    If I were a Delaware voter, I’d be tempted to vote for Castle out of disgust for the assumption that the Senate seat belongs to Biden Jr by some kind of political droit du seigneur.

  5. 5 Right-wing Genius

    MSW, you are so clueless it’s almost comical. Your only valid point was “the GOP needs to accept that they are the minority party for numerous reasons,” but you failed to mention any of the ACTUAL reasons why Republicans are now in the minority. First, you claim that “the younger candidates believe they can spout out conservative rhetoric without actually offering a plan to better our country. They believe that if they compromise at all with the Democrats, then they’re abandoning their core beliefs. That is hogwash.”

    That IS hogwash. Replace “conservative” with “leftist” and “Democrats” with “Republicans”, and you’ve got a perfectly cogent description of Washington politics from 2001 through 2008. Look at how the power structure has changed since then and you might want to reconsider your logic. Then, you made the absurd declaration that since the Republican Revolution of ‘94, “the GOP have tried their best to discredit the Democrats without actually trying to improve the quality of government.” As I recall, Congressional republicans did more “to improve the quality of government” from 1995 to 2003 than their Democratic predecessors did over the previous several decades. They reformed welfare, balanced the budget, cut tax rates, overhauled costly bureaucratic agencies and abolished those which were beyond repair … The list goes on. Finally, you urge the party to “moderate their stance on about all issues,” but you fail to explain WHY that would be a winning strategy or even HOW.

    Your ramblings are a perfect example of why Republicans should not take advice from the left. The GOP’s salvation will come from within.

  6. 6 Art Downs

    Castle may be dead meat if he faces a primary.

    He is a time-serving hack who has kept his nose in the public trough for most of his life.

    He is without principles but has the support of some ineffective lackeys who call themselves leaders.

    Mike is for Mike and would sell what his left of a mess of pottage for more trough time.

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