Poll watch: Daggett reaches 20%, Rubio’s on fire and MI Dems are in trouble

Three New Jersey polls, all within the margin of error

A few weeks ago, I wrote that Chris Daggett would need to receive around 20% of the vote in New Jersey’s gubernatorial race for Jon Corzine to envision clinching victory with the maximum level of support he reaches in polls - about 42%. It’s difficult for any independent candidate to reach such a level, so that didn’t sound the likeliest scenario - but a Rutgers just found Daggett at 20% for the very first time.

Unsurprisingly, it is Corzine who benefits: He remains at 39%, a number that reflects the fact that a large share of New Jersey voters are loyal Democrats, and thus grabs a lead over Chris Christie, who receives 36%. A 3% lead is nothing to celebrate, but remember that Corzine went 9 months without leading in a single poll.

Last night, another pollster (Democracy Corps) released a survey finding Corzine in the lead, albeit just as narrowly: 42% to 39%, with 13% for Daggett. Note that this poll is in my view less positive for Democrats than Rutgers’: Corzine has long been stuck at the 42% level, which is why I continue to think Daggett needs to receive more than 13% for the governor to win re-election. Not that it is enough for Daggett to receive a large percentage: A new SUSA poll, also released last night, finds Christie narrowly ahead 41% to 39% even though Daggett is at 19%.

That speaks to the two conditions that need to be met: Corzine needs to mobilize loyal Democrats enough to reach 42% - and he needs Daggett to receive a high enough percentage for 42% to be enough.

Florida’s Senate race will be competitive

When I wrote earlier this week that Marco Rubio had become a major headache for Charlie Crist, I did not expect two polls to be released within days confirming just how much the political situation has changed in Florida. What a few months ago seemed like it could be an easy hold for the GOP is now bound to become a far more competitive Senate race.

Within one day, Quinnipiac and Rasmussen both found Crist’s primary lead melting. For the former, it’s now 50% to 35% (down from a 30% lead in August); for the latter, it’s now 49% to 35% (down from 22% in August). Those may look like healthy leads, but the trendlines are atrocious for the governor - especially when you consider the big notoriety gap that still separates the two men. There’s no denying that something (the economic crisis, continued attacks on Crist’s conservatism or increased activism among the GOP base) has damaged the governor’s aura of invincibility.

Of course, Democrats are very interested in what occurs in the GOP primary: While Rubio would certainly be difficult to defeat, he would be easier to defeat than Crist, who is still highly popular among independents. And that is confirmed by Quinnipiac’s survey: Crist crushes Meek 51% to 31%, while Meek leads Rubio 36% to 33%.

But here is where things get complicated: For the very first time in any poll, Rasmussen finds Rubio performing better in the general election than Crist! Rubio leads 46% to 31% while Crist leads 46% to 34%.

What is bizarre is that the governor’s lead is not fundamentally different in the two surveys while Rubio results are incomparable: 33% in one survey, 46% in the other? Can Rubio be well known enough that roughly as many voters say they’re undecided as in the match-up with Crist? Quinnipac’s finding that there are far more undecideds when respondents are asked about two men they don’t know well (Meek and Rubio) makes more sense.

But the two pollsters interviewed very different samples: Quinnipiac is testing registered voters, and Rasmussen is testing likely voters. As such, the difference in Rubio’s support is a testament to how the conservative base is far more committed to voting in 2010 than other constituencies. And here is the bottom line: If other polls also find that Rubio performing as well as Crist in the general election, the governor’s electability argument - his strongest primary asset, since Rubio is undoubtedly closer to the median GOP voter - will evaporate.

Both Florida polls have McCollum in the lead

Over on the gubernatorial race, Republican Bill McCollum continues to lead Alex Sink in most surveys that are released - though Quinnipiac and Rasmussen find widely differing margins, reflecting the widely differing samples they interviewed (see above): McCollum leads 36% to 32% in Quinnipiac’s poll, 46% to 35% in Rasmussen’s poll.

As we’ve seen over and over again, there is a name recognition gap between the two contenders: 50% have no opinion of McCollum while 68% have no opinion of Sink in Quinnipiac’s poll. The difference is even larger among their base (41% of Republicans don’t know McCollum, 61% of Democrats don’t know Sink), which is bound to affect how much support they receive from their base in a head-to-head match-up.

Michigan Republicans lead John Cherry

Democrats saved themselves in Michigan in 2008, but it will be hard for them to keep the governorship in 2010: A new EPIC-MRA poll finds Lieutenant Governor John Cherry, the front-runner in the Democratic primary, widely trails against three Republicans: 40% to 33% against Rep. Peter Hoekstra, 45% to 30% against Attorney General Mike Cox and 39% to 30% against Sheriff Mike Bouchard. He does lead 34% to 32% businessman Rick Snyder.

Cherry’s one hope is the certitude that the GOP primary will be highly competitive, and the hope that the late date at which it will be decided (August 3rd) could give him a heads-up. The poll finds Hoekstra and Cox ahead, with 29% and 28%, with Bouchard at 14% and Snyder at 3%. But this will not be enough for Cherry to overcome the obvious problem he’ll face: Michigan is suffering more than most states economically, which is driving down not only the popularity of Barack Obama (the president’s approval rating sank from 57% to 48% in two months) but also that of Jennifer Granholm’s state administration, to which he is necessarily tied as Lieutenant Governor.

2 Responses to “Poll watch: Daggett reaches 20%, Rubio’s on fire and MI Dems are in trouble”

  1. 1 Cliff

    As someone who likes Rubio better then Crist for a lot of reasons, and thinks he’d be a great Senator and a great young face for the party, here’s what worries me about the situation: If Rubio offs Crist in the primary while he’s still popular, running to his right, it’ll be easy to pidgionhole him as some sort of “extreme right winger” regardless of evidence.

    As a former Speaker of the Florida State House and representing a diverse, suburban district, Rubio, and based on his record, Rubio can hardly be called anymore of a right wing nut then Jeb Bush or Bill McCollum, and Jeb is practically a saint in Florida.

    But if he’s able to off Crist with all his money and backing, it could lead to a “Toomey ‘04 problem” in which he had to run too much to the right to win the primary. Now, Toomey represented a district that has went for Gore, Kerry and then later Obama, and was no more an extreme right-winger then, say, Glenn Nye is an extreme left winger. But he would have gotten crispy fried had he won the primary in ‘04 because he had to run too much to the right to do it.

    NOW that he’s able to run to the middle the entire campaign, he’s got a shot, probably not much worse then dead even.

    Rubio’s situation is a little different. He’s younger then Toomey, Florida is a lot more Republican friendly, and Crist is a lot less left-wing then Specter was. But it could still create the same problem.

    I have no doubt that Rubio could win a crushing Senate victory if he merely were the nominee without the primary. I wonder what’ll happen if he’s forced to off Crist and all his name ID and money.

    That said, I think eitehr Rubio or Crist are likely to win the general, and I think both would make a fine Senator.

  2. 2 Guy

    Looking at Rubio’s websit eit is clear he is running on the right on every issue listed (Judicial nominations, spending, taxes, environment, energy, immigration and abortion). Florida is a swing state and most GOP senators who are not totally hardcore like Inhofe of Oklahoma have some deviation “leftwards” from that list of issues. Cliff is right that Rubio could easily get painted into a corner especially since he is held up by the uber Conservative grass roots as someone to defeat the “liberal” Crist. Why Crist has such a reputation, especially if he has cut spending and taxes (anyone can cut taxes, its the spending part that is difficult).

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