Every few days, I am changing my mind as to which of the two governorships that are currently being contested Democrats have a better chance of defending. For a while in early September, Creigh Deeds looked so far gone that Jon Corzine’s fortunes looked stronger; then, the former managed to get himself back in the running and recent developments were getting me ready to settle on Virginia. But the narrative has changed once more: Now, it looks that Jon Corzine is in far better shape than Creigh Deeds heading into the campaigns’ 5 final weeks.
This is due to 3 polls released over the past 24 hours. The first is SUSA’s survey finding Bob McDonnell up 14%. I wrote about it last night, raising obvious questions as to whether the poll will turn out to be an outlier. As I pointed out, that poll was the only one since the master’s thesis story broke to have McDonnell leading by more than 7%. Well, we did not have to wait for long to get confirmation that SUSA was on to something: Rasmussen’s latest poll has the Republican leading 51% to 42%.
While Rasmussen is often criticized for finding numbers that look too friendly to the GOP, pointing that out cannot account for the trendline: Two weeks ago, Rasmussen found Deeds within the MoE, trailing by only 2% - a survey launched the narrative of the Democrat’s comeback. What’s perhaps worst for Deeds is that Rasmussen’s poll leaves him no clear path to close the gap: 51% of respondents (an impressive share) say the story of McDonnell’s master thesis is important in terms of their November vote. And yet, despite his remarkable success at making this a huge campaign story, Deeds trails by 9%! What more can he hope to do?
In New Jersey, by contrast, a Quinnipiac poll finds encouraging news for Corzine has received in months: The governor trails 43% to 39% - the smallest deficit he has faced in a Quinnipiac poll since November 2008. His favorability rating remains truly dismal (34/56) but Christie is clearly dipping. Consider this: Excluding Neighborhood Research polls (which are finding a bizarrely high level of undecideds) and Democracy Corps poll (which have had far more friendly results for Corzine than other pollsters), the Republican had not dipped as low as 43% in any poll since April!
As I have repeatedly pointed out, the biggest reason I have trouble envisioning Democrats keeping New Jersey is that Corzine is stuck in the 30s range - and that is again the case in this poll. But here’s the second reason Quinnipiac’s survey is good news for the governor: Chris Daggett reaches 12%, a 3% boost over Quinnipiac’s previous poll. The higher Daggett reaches, the more conceivable it is for Corzine to claim victory with just 39-42% of the vote.
Arkansas: Lincoln trails 4 Republican rivals
Keeping in mind that not all pick-ups are equal in terms of altering the balance of power - if Blanche Lincoln were to lose next year, it wouldn’t prove a particularly consequential blow to her party’s agenda considering her actions this year - let’s turn to a new Rasmussen poll that confirms that we should put her on the list of highly vulnerable incumbents. She trails state Senator Gilbert Baker 47% to 39%, state Senator Kim Hendren 44% to 41%, businessman Tom Cox 43% to 40% and businessman Chris Coleman 43% to 41%.
Any senator who trails all challengers irrespective of their profile, name recognition or experience is clearly facing a massive re-election problem. An important note: Once again, I do not for the life of me understand where Rasmussen gets its name recognition numbers: I refuse to believe that more than 60% of Arkansas have an opinion on Cox, Coleman and Baker. Last month, PPP found that 23% of voters had an opinion of Coleman and 22% of Baker. That sounds much more realistic.
Yet, it apparently has little effect on the match-up numbers: PPP also had Coleman and Baker leading, thus confirming Rasmussen’s finding that Lincoln is so vulnerable as to trail little-known opponents. On the other hand, a mid-September Research 2000 poll found far sunnier numbers for the incumbent, though she was still vulnerable. More polls will be needed to figure out the extent of Lincoln’s vulnerability.
Arizona: Second poll in two weeks finds that Goddard is front-runner
A race we have talked relatively little about is shaping up to be one of the Democrats’ top pick-up opportunities thanks to Attorney General Goddard’s popularity: In a new Rasmussen poll, his 54/38 favorability rating is far superior to Governor Jan Brewer’s 42/54 and former Governor Fife Symington’s 36/54. He leads 42% to 35% against Brewer and 44% to 37% against Symington. Those margins are actually smaller than those found by PPP last week, but they are an undeniable sign of strength for a challenger.
Brewer and Symington are arguably weaker candidates than other potential Republican nominees; Brewer because she has failed to impose herself since being elevated governor in early 2009, Symington because of the corruption scandal that forced him out in the 1990s. But for either of them to be defeated would mean a lower-profile Republican nominee, so Goddard’s name recognition and personal popularity would keep him the front-runner even if the GOP was to get rid of Brewer and Symington.
Maine: Gay marriage finally enjoys lead
Two weeks ago, the first and only poll of Maine’s Question 1 found worrisome news for gay marriage proponents: The “Yes” had a narrow lead. But a new poll conducted by Democracy Corps has far more encouraging numbers: 50% of respondents say they will oppose repealing the gay marriage law while 41% say they’ll vote for it.
The survey’s primary purpose seems to have been to gauge Maine voters’ feelings about their two senators in the context of the health care debate. And it does not look like progressive groups have been successful at turning this blue state against Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins 54% say they’ll probably or definitely vote for Collins when she runs for re-election (versus 32%) while 60% say the same of Snowe. Matched-up with a generic Democrat, Snowe leads 56% to 28%. Since I think few people who follow electoral politics expect Snowe and Collins to ever face much of a challenge - if a sitting congressman could not endanger the weaker of the two in 2008, how could Democrats succeed? - these numbers won’t come as much of a surprise.