For the third time this month, a poll suggests David Paterson’s fortunes have taken a turn for the better. First were Quinnipiac and Siena’s surveys, now is SUSA’s monthly look at the governor’s approval rating, which has risen to its highest level since January. Sure, it still stands at a dismal 32%, but that’s certainly an improvement over June’s 18%, October’s 22% and November’s 24%.
While this improvement is certainly not enough for him to be competitive against Andrew Cuomo, Paterson’s hope is that the Democratic establishment eases the pressure he faces to retire: He can now point to Giuliani’s decision not to run and to the uptick in his poll numbers to argue that he is electable after all. Paterson’s strategy is also to give Cuomo second thoughts by ensuring the primary doesn’t just like a formality. As such, the fact that his approval rating among African-Americans has risen from 25% to 43% in two months is excellent news for the governor: In 2002, Cuomo ran in a racially charged primary that proved a significant setback to his career, and he’d be likely to hesitate before getting in if there are any signs 2010 might prove a replay.
Dodd trails in internal poll
Another state, another Democratic incumbent who is trying to fight charges that he’s unelectable: Chris Dodd released an internal poll (conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner) this week that is supposed to reassure his party - but I’m unsure how it’s meant to do that. While he ties Linda McMahon at 46%, Dodd trails Rob Simmons 51% to 46%. The margin is smaller than what other polls’ have shown, but an incumbent will never get positive coverage for releasing an internal poll showing him behind. The desperation underlying such an act is so transparent that it can only raise eyebrows: This is the best showing the campaign has to release?
Is this poll a sign that Dodd is planning to dig, contrary to speculation that he’s open to retiring? Or is it a last-ditch effort to see if he can rally support from party officials? While we’ll only know the answer to this question in the next few months, the fact is that there’s still little evidence that national Democrats are trying to push the senator out. Joe Biden just hosted a fundraiser for his re-election race. Compare that with the treatment Jim Bunning received earlier this year.
Rand Paul seizes commanding leads in Kentucky Senate race
Democratic candidates in other open Senate seats have been able to resist the worsening environment, but Kentucky is too conservative for the shifting political winds not to have had a major impact: While in April PPP found the general election to be a toss-up, the two Republican candidates have substantially improved their performances to grab decisive leads. SoS Tray Grayson leads 40% to 33% against AG Jack Conway (he trailed by 4% in April) and 44% to 35% against LG Dan Mongiardo; Rand Paul leads both Democrats 42% to 36%, a stronger showing than what earlier polls have found.
Picking-up this seat hasn’t looked easy for Democrats ever since Jim Bunning announced he’d retire, and it does look like the party’s nominee will have to swim against the national and state tide. (In the Democratic primary, Conway leads 37% to 33%, which makes this the first public poll to have the Attorney General ahead.)
But PPP’s most stunning finding is that Rand Paul has grabbed a big lead against establishment favorite Grayson in the GOP primary: 44% to 25%. Other surveys have found Paul to be unexpectedly strong, but never to this extent. It’s hard not to see this as good news for Democrats: While Paul has outside of the MoE leads, he’s a far riskier proposition for Republicans than Grayson. An untested candidate (it showed this week), Paul could give Democrats the openings they need to make the race about him whereas Grayson could run the type of quite campaign that allows him to win on the sole basis of the national environment. (Another arguable reason for Democrats to root for Paul: Even if he wins the general election, he’d give the GOP leadership far more headaches than the presumably reliable Grayson would.)
Dorgan at the mercy of Hoeven’s entry
Senator Byron Dorgan has reason to be nervous: Not only is there continuing buzz that Governor John Hoeven might challenge him come January, but polls showing Hoeven would start as the clear frontrunner are piling on. We’d had Zogby (+19% for Hoeven) and Public Opinion Strategies (+17% for Hoeven), we now get Rasmussen’s first foray in North Dakota, which is the best yet for the Republican: He leads by a stunning 22%, 58% to 36%. Dorgan’s vulnerability entirely stems from Hoeven’s strength: While it pales in comparison to Hoeven’s 82% favorability rating, Dorgan’s 62% rating is very strong. Also, he leads the GOP’s 2008 House nominee (Duane Sand) 52% to 37%. In short, Hoeven’s decision is up there with Beau Biden’s as the biggest shoe left drop in the 2010 cycle.
Michigan’s governorship still looks out of Cherry’s reach
Many polls this year have shown that Lieutenant Governor John Cherry is in no position to win Michigan’s governorship, and Rasmussen confirms how large a deficit he starts with: Posting a mediocre favorability rating (39-35) whereas all his Republican rivals enjoy far stronger numbers, Cherry trails Attorney General Mike Cox 39% to 34%, Rep. Pete Hoekstra 46% to 32% and Sheriff Mike Bouchard 42% to 32%. In particular weighed down by Jennifer Granholm’s dismal approval rating (32-66), Cherry can’t even point to a name recognition differential to explain his large deficits.