Poll watch: Rubio ties Crist, Marshall within 5% of Burr, GOP leads 3 key Governor’s races

With 9 months to go, Rubio has already tied Crist

As soon as Marco Rubio made it clear he would stick to the Senate race, it was clear that Florida’s Republican primary had the potential to be explosive. But who expected him to gain enough traction to make his race with Charlie Crist a toss-up before we even entered 2010? There is still 9 months to the primary, but the former state Speaker has for the first time tied in the Governor in a public poll: Rasmussen finds the two at 43%.

Until now Rasmussen’s poll numbers have not been excessively positive for Rubio. In August, Crist led by 29% in Quinnipiac and 23% in Rasmussen; in October, Crist led by 15% in Quinnipiac and by 14% in Rasmussen. We have yet to receive a Quinnipiac survey this month, but it shall be very interesting to see whether that pollster will continue finding the same trend as Rasmussen. For now, we can certainly say that there is a lot of evidence that the Governor’s fortunes have collapsed.

Somewhat surprisingly, Crist’s favorability rating among Republicans remains overwhelmingly positive (61% to 38%) but that also means he is far from having hit rock bottom: As conservative groups start pouring in millions to portray him as unprincipled, liberal and/or too friendly to Obama, Crist should see his numbers continue to drop and he’ll have to ensure his campaign isn’t as hapless over the next 9 months as it’s been since the summer. Crist has spent little time engaging Rubio, which has allowed the conservative to build strong popularity among Republicans (64% to 15%); the Governor has plenty of money and institutional support to ensure Rubio’s numbers take a dive.

Two polls find Burr under 50%, vulnerable against Marshall

Richard Burr’s poll numbers have been low ever since the cycle began and two new polls confirm he has a lot of work to do to ensure his re-election. PPP finds his approval rating is plagued by two worrisome signs: For one, it is in negative territory (35/37); second, an unusually large share of voters don’t know him well enough to have an opinion. That also translates to Burr polling at weak levels in match-ups. Against a generic Democrat, he leads 41% to 40% while he is up 42% to 37% against Elaine Marshall. In the Civitas poll, Burr is ahead by a larger margin but he is even further away from the 50% threshold, since he leads 40% to 32%.

While Burr’s numbers are stronger than those many Democratic incumbents are facing, they still point to his being vulnerable - as is any incumbent who is stuck in the low 40s. In fact, given the name recognition differential between Burr and Marshall (69% of respondents don’t have an opinion of her), she has room to grow and her 5% deficit could be smaller still: While only 13% of Republicans undecided, 24% of Democrats and 25% of African-Americans say the same.

Despite the lack of evidence Marshall faces any electability problem, the DSCC is committed to defeating her so let’s look at her rivals’ numbers: PPP finds that Kenneth Lewis trails Burr 43% to 37% while Cunningham is behind 45% to 36%. That’s right, the candidate the DSCC is reportedly mulling spending millions on is polling at a weaker level than two other contenders - and it’s not like this can be explained by a difference in name recognition: 81% of respondents have no opinion of Cunningham, 80% of Lewis and 69% of Marshall.

Sure, the difference between the candidates’ performances is too small to draw overarching conclusions, but let me repeat that the DSCC is considering mulling spending millions helping Cunningham in the Democratic primary. I remain on the lookout for a coherent argument as to why he would be the most formidable general election candidate when he has neither name recognition, nor an obvious fundraising network, nor statewide experience - not to mention that Marshall is in a good position herself and that Cunningham’s policy positions are less of a fit with the Democratic base’s preferences.

GOP leads 3 key gubernatorial races

A week after releasing an avalanche of surveys finding Democrats in trouble in Senate races, Rasmussen finds Republicans ahead in 3 key Governor’s contests; here again, Rasmussen’s numbers might be friendlier to the GOP than the polling average but they do not substantially differ from other numbers we have seen from pollsters like Quinnipiac and PPP:

  • In Colorado, former Rep. Scott McInnis ensured his hold on the GOP nomination by pushing out John Penry and Tom Tancredo, and he starts with a solid 48% to 40% edge over Governor Bill Ritter. Rasmussen also tested Penry, who trails Ritter 41% to 40%.
  • In Pennsylvania, Attorney General Tom Corbett is by far the best-known candidate, but his name recognition advantage cannot by itself account for his huge leads over the entirety of the crowded Democratic field: He crushes Auditor Jack Wagner 43% to 30%, former Rep. Joe Hoeffel 48% to 26%, Dan Ornato 44% to 28% and Scranton Mayor Chris Doherty 46% to 23%.
  • In Florida, Attorney General Bill McCollum leads CFO Alex Sink 44% to 39%. That’s actually an improvement for the Democrat, who trailed by 11% in Rasmussen’s October survey. That poll now seems like an outlier, since Research 2000 and Quinnipiac recently found McCollum leading by 2% and 4%, respectively. As always, the Republican enjoys higher name recognition which suggests that the race should be a complete toss-up once Sink introduces herself to Democratic voters.

For all of the Democrats’ woes in the first two states, where they are also struggling in the Senate races, the party also received some good news: They have gained an edge in party registration in Colorado for the first time in years, so the gains they posted in the 2006-2008 period not only haven’t reversed themselves but they’ve somewhat surprisingly continued. The challenge for Democrats is now to ensure these voters turn out.

9 Responses to “Poll watch: Rubio ties Crist, Marshall within 5% of Burr, GOP leads 3 key Governor’s races”

  1. 1 Panos

    Indeed, has any Democratic operative even bothered to argue why they consider Cunningham a better candidate than Marshall? Even a blind quote.

    As for Crist, if in the coming months his numbers continue to slide, then perhaps the prospect of pulling a Specter will look very enticing.

  2. 2 jiffy

    Note on Pa: Rasmussen did a poll in Oct on these match-ups and the spread was the same. What is different since Oct is that the unfavorable ratings have gone up substantially for the Ds … you can ascribe that to Rendell pounding the table for a tax increase and the state budget being way late … and still not finished. Also, Corbett remains realtively well more popular but his favorables came down and his unfavorables went up in the Dec poll compared to Oct.

  3. 3 Gerard

    Very interesting on Colorado’s Dem enrollment going up, and it was in August that they started passing the GOP. Any good websites showing how enrollments are changing in other states? It would be almost too bizarre if Crist jumped back to the Governor’s race, but, it is going to be an odd year anyway. What is a Florida’s filing deadline?

  4. 4 Taniel

    Gerard, I do not know of any comprehensive websites that track registration.

    As for Florida, the deadline for federal races is April 30 while the deadline for state races is in June (a good source to look at deadlines); I really don’t see Crist switching.

  5. 5 Nathan

    I wonder whether Dem enrollment in CO is actually up in raw numbers, or just relative to the GOP. The GOP is hemorrhaging Tea Party “independents,” so the Dems could take an edge in party membership without really changing the voting tendencies of the population.

  6. 6 Guy

    Taniel - you mention that Marshall’s positions are more in tune with the Democratic base than Cunningham. I agree but could that be one of the reasons the DSCC support Cunnigham because they think in a state like North Carolina a candidate in tune with the base can`t win and needs to be more “centrist”. I am not subscribing to this idea as I think it is inexplicable what the DSCC is purpotedly doing. However is is possible they think Cunningham has a better chance of winning (male, military experience etc).

  7. 7 Taniel

    Guy, I don’t buy that the DSCC is worried Marshall is not ideologically in tune with North Carolina. She is a 14-year statewide official, so it’s hard to argue she can’t be elected statewide. (And while she might not have won high-profile races lately, her first election was very contested.) At the very least that makes her a nonthreatening figure to voters. Add to that the fact that the electorate Democrats need to appeal to in order to secure a majority in NC isn’t that far to the right and Democratic state officials (including Hagan) haven’t tended to be that conservative.

    Gender: Does the DSCC really think that Cunningham being male gives him such an electability edge that it’s worth spending millions helping him win a primary? I think this is unfortunately a plausible explanation, and it is all the more sad considering that 2 of the last 3 senators NC has elected have been female - and the governor is a woman. As for military experience, I think this is a very plausible explanation also; as I have already pointed out, the DCCC has been guilty in recent cycles of overestimating the electoral dividends a military background will pay. (In fact, both parties overestimate that every four years in presidential elections, as Bush senior, Dole, Kerry and McCain can attest to.)

  8. 8 Tumble

    It seems the recruitment of Cunningham has Rahm Emanuel’s fingerprints all over it as his profile fits the type of candidate Rahm recruited in 2006 (Fighting Dem, DLC/Third Way). The overwhelming majority of such candidates lost. Rahm gets the credit for 2006, but the wins came mainly came in districts the DCCC didn’t originally target or candidates the DCCC fought against in the primary.

  9. 9 Guy

    Taniel - I completely agree and certainly hope it isn`t gender bias. It was just one of the few things that differentiate Marshall from Cunningham.
    I would say that her races have not been very political, in the sense that her position does not allow much conservatove or liberal policies to go forward. The Governor, maybe AG are more important and allow candidates to be differentitiated.

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