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Fundraising reports hint at Brown’s Senate interest, prompt retirement talk for Young and Rell

Update: Well, that didn’t last long: Brown announced yesterday evening that she would not run for Senate, thus nixing her exploratory committee. The point remains that she fundraised more in recent weeks than in any other point of her House career, which not only means she was taking the possibility of a statewide bid very seriously but also suggests that her decision not to run might have to do with her dissatisfaction at the result: $268,000 might be higher than what she usually raises, but it is a third of what Meek reported this quarter.

Original post: Rep. Corinne Brown occupies as safe a district as a Democrat can hope for, and that has allowed her not to worry about fundraising in the past: She raised $27,000 in 2007’s third quarter - the equivalent quarter of the 2008 cycle - and she raised about $63,000 in this year’s second quarter.

Yet, she suddenly picked-up the pace over the past 3 months, raising more than $268,000. That’s quite a noticeable jump: it’s 10 times superior to what she raised between June and September 2007, 3 times what she raised over the second quarter. And as far as I can tell from the FEC website, Brown’s disclosure report this quarter is the longest she has ever filed since public reporting started in the 1990s.

That’s quite a lot of fundraising movement for a congresswoman who is simply preparing a re-election race. So might this be a sign that Brown is serious about running for Senate in 2010? She opened the door to such a bid a few months ago, and she never ruled it out. Do these fundraising figures suggest Kendrick Meek might soon receive serious competition in the Democratic primary?

Retirement speculation for Rell and Young

Governor Jodi Rell and Rep. Bill Young - two Republicans who are facing top-tier challengers. Yet, they are such formidable incumbents that Democrats cannot be sure there’ll even be able to put their seats on the radar screen next year. Unless they retire, that is: The 3rd quarter’s reports suggest that they aren’t putting much thought in their re-election races.

In Florida, Young raised such a low amount - $3,900 - that it’s hard to believe he’s not seriously considering shutting down his political operation. In the second quarter, he had raised $50,155, which was already taken as a sign that he wasn’t running for re-election. Given Young’s senior role on the Appropriations Committee, whose members hardly have to lift the finger to attract donations, raising this little money must have cost him about as much effort as other representatives spent actively fundraising.

Perhaps most tellingly, Young donated $10,000 of his not particularly impressive cash-on-hand to the NRCC. On his FEC’s disclosure form, he wrote this disbursement’s purpose is the “transfer of excess campaign funds.” Now, it’s obviously no surprise for a senior Republican to transfer money to his party’s campaign committee; but in this case, the contribution is more than double Young’s fundraising haul! Another interesting sign: By this point in 2007, Young had raised 5 times as much as he has in 2009 - and he was not facing a competitive race that year.

If he wanted to, Young could easily pick-up the pace, quickly fill his campaign coffers and remind us why few Democrats have dare challenge him for the past four decades. But that’s exactly what is at stake here: Will he want to? After 38 years spent with only rarely having to think about a re-election race, is Young interested in suddenly hitting the campaign trail and working for votes - in a district that went for Obama no less? Needless to say, Democrats are hoping the answer is no.

In Connecticut, Jodi Rell is a rare two-term governor not to have announced retirement. Many others who were not forced out by term limits voluntarily chose not to run for re-election - Pawlenty, Douglas and Doyle. So will she or won’t? The GOP’s prospects of defending this governorship largely rest on that question: If she runs, she is so popular that the odds (and the polls) will favor her no matter who she faces; if she retires, Democrats have to be considered favored.

A look at her 3rd quarter fundraising is enough to suggest that Rell is considering leaving office: She has raised slightly more than $14,000. In the 2nd quarter, she reported receiving about $20,000. And it’s not like she has so much in the bank she does not what to do with it - $82,000 in cash on hand.

It is true that both will be hard for Democrats to defeat, whether or not they have a well-garnished bank account; that puts them in a different situation from an incumbent like Harry Reid, who has little else to take comfort in than his cash-on-hand. That said, both already know they’ll be facing top-tier competition. SoS Susan Bysiewicz and Samford Mayor Daniel Malloy, among others, for Rell; state Senator Charlie Justice for Young. That they are proceeding as if they were running uncontested can’t give Republican strategists much comfort.

Little else to see among other potential retirees

Among other potential Republican retirees are John Shadegg (AZ-03) and Don Young (AK-AL) - both of which raised enough that we can at the very least say they haven’t already decided to call it quits. In Alaska, Young raised about $117,000, nothing to put him at the top of House fundraisers but certainly enough to suggest he is pressing ahead towards 2010. In Arizona, Shadegg raised about $111,000.

On the Democratic side, we have Rep. Bob Etheridge, who is reportedly still considering a Senate run. You might remember that Reps. Joe Sestak and Charlie Melancon’s big 2nd quarter hauls were strong hints that they were preparing statewide bids - and sure enough, both have by now announced they’ll run for Senate. But there is no such sign from Etheridge: The $153,639 he raised doesn’t suggest he is discretely laying the ground works of a Senate campaign, though he does have more than a $1 million stacked up in the bank should he take on Burr.

Senate polls show Specter struggling to stay afloat, find a rare sign of Crist’s vulnerability

3 polls, and little good news for Arlen Specter

In one of the ugliest polls for Arlen Specter since the longtime senator switched parties, Rasmussen’s latest poll of the Democratic primary finds the Senator’s lead down to just four points over Joe Sestak, 46% to 42%. That’s not quite as catastrophic a situation as Specter faced in the Republican primary against Pat Toomey, but it is a brutal deterioration of Specter’s standing: He led by 19% in June.

Specter’s lead is evaporating before Sestak even starts hammering the incumbent and reminding voters of all the reasons that made Specter a Republican for decades. Once ads start airing showing Specter praising George W. Bush, what will remain of his remaining 4%? Specter will need all the help he can get from Barack Obama - and the $8.7 million he now has in the banks will obviously come handy.

A major caveat: A Susquehanna Polling and Research survey released a few days ago finds Specter with a far larger lead (44% to 16%). Obviously, this is nothing for Sestak to celebrate - but neither does it qualify as good news for Specter: As long as he is well under 50%, the huge name recognition differential that separates him from Sestak doesn’t entitle him to get much comfort out of this 28% lead.

Another reason Specter will not want to draw much attention to that Susquehanna poll is that his numbers among the general electorate are atrocious - just as they are atrocious in two other surveys released over the past few days:

  • In Susquehanna, his re-elect is down to a dismal 31%, and he is locked in a dead heat with Pat Toomey (42% to 41%).
  • A poll by GrassrootsPA, a Republican firm, has Specter leading 46% to 43% - which is less good than Sestak’s 43% to 38% lead.
  • Rasmussen, finally, has Toomey leading 45% to 40% against Specter but trailing 38% to 37% against Sestak.

Rasmussen’s general election poll is actually a slight improvement for Specter over the June poll, which found him trailing Toomey by a bizarre 12%. Even holding that as a clear outlier, the picture that emerges out of these three polls is still one of an unpopular incumbent struggling to make it to the general election and in an undoubtedly vulnerable position if he does make it.

And it is quite remarkable that both GrassrootsPA and Rasmussen find Sestak running better in the general election than Specter. I have long said that Democrats would face a huge enthusiasm deficit if they let Specter move on to the general, and that problem has only been aggravated in recent months: Democrats already face a motivational gap, and they really can’t afford to give their base any more reason to be indifferent.

A rare sign that Crist might be growing vulnerable

Most U.S. congressmen who run for Senate are considered to have a good shot at winning, but Rep. Kendrick Meek finds himself the heavy underdog against Charlie Crist. Meek’s solution: Release an internal poll that finds some promising results. While we might not think of a survey that has Crist leading 47% to 31% as particularly good news for Meek, the Democrat is trying to attract our attention to the finding that Meek leads 45% to 43% among voters who know both candidates.

I don’t have room in this post to list all the ways in which this is a meaningless figure. 1. It’s an internal survey. 2. We are talking about a small subsample (just 25% of respondents know Meek) with a big MoE. 3. This subsample is skewed to the left: Voters who know Meek are most likely to be living in Southern Florida (starting with those who live around his district) and thus be far more Democratic than the electorate at large.

To the extent that the poll finds a comforting thought for Meek, it’s nothing new: The name recognition differential between the two contenders is so large that it obviously impacts the results and Meek can close some of the margin just by introducing himself to voters. But we have long known this would not be enough: Meek is running against a quasi-incumbent who is so popular (an approval rating hovering above 60%) that Democrats have had no opening.

This is why the far more interesting Florida survey released this week is an Insider Advantage poll that finds Crist’s approval rating falling all the way down to 47%, with 41% disapproving.

We’ll have to wait to see whether this survey is an outlier. For now, let’s just say it’s a rare - a first? - sign that the economic crisis that has plunged so many of the country’s governors in a dismal political situation might be catching up with Crist. If this trend is confirmed, we might suddenly have a race on our hands: Just as the Culver, Strickland and Ritter are facing far more competitive contests than expected, Crist might find it hard to stay afloat if voters start blaming him for the state’s economic and fiscal woes.

Let’s not forget that, before even moving on to the general election, Crist will have to survive another grueling legislative session and the no doubt brutal attacks of Marco Rubio and his allies.

Another internal poll, this one in Illinois

Mark Kirk has less to prove than Kendrick Meek to the extent that he is already considered one of the NRSC’s best gets, but we have nonetheless seen very little polling from the Illinois Senate race. Kirk’s campaign sought to remedy that by releasing an internal poll that shows him leading Democratic front-runner Alexi Giannoulias 42% to 35%. The poll also tests the primary, finding it to be uncompetitive with no evidence that GOP voters are rejecting the relatively moderate Kirk.

Sure, this is an internal poll but the few public surveys that have been conducted have also found worrisome results for Democrats (a springtime PPP survey had Giannoulias and Kirk tied). A public poll conducted today might not find Giannoulias trailing outside of the MoE, but the fact that Democrats are in real danger of losing Illinois comes as no surprise. This is one of seven seats the GOP has already made highly competitive, and Democrats are in no position to be complacent about any of them.

Don’t count out Marco Rubio just yet

Charlie Crist is so overwhelmingly favored to become Florida’s next Senator that he is not even bothering appointing himself to Mel Martinez’s Senate seat. With two new surveys confirming that he is indeed very popular - Quinnipiac finds his favorability rating is a solid 60% while Rasmussen shows him leading Rep. Kendrick Meek by a solid 48% to 29% - it indeed doesn’t look like Crist has that much to worry about.

That does not mean that we should turn our eyes away from the race, however. For one, Crist cannot be considered a shoo-in as long as he does not consistently break the 50% mark - not to mention that Meek can hope to close some of that differential once he rectifies the enormous name recognition gap that separates him from the governor. Second, Rubio should not be counted out of the Republican primary just yet.

Quinnipiac and Rasmussen tested a match-up between Crist and Rubio: Rasmussen finds the governor ahead 53% to 31%, Quinnipiac 55% to 26%.

It’s hard to describe such results as anything but an overwhelming lead; however, such margins are nothing for Rubio to be ashamed of. The state representative starts with comparatively insignificant name recognition - in the Quinnipiac poll, 69% of Republicans say they have no opinion of Rubio versus only 6% who say the same about Crist - so for him to marshal between a quarter and a third of the GOP electorate before even starting to pummel Crist is most definitely an encouraging sign.

While there is clearly unease about Crist in some circles of Florida Republicans, it has yet to bubble up to the surface. Rubio he has an entire year to tap into that discontent - and if he is really as talented a politician as his backers say he is, he should at least be able to make Crist break a sweat.

As such, this primary bears some resemble to the Specter-Sestak showdown: While the incumbent has obvious problems with his party’s base, polls are finding that he remains popular and give him big primary leads against a far lesser-known opponent. The difference between Pennsylvania and Florida, of course, is that Specter’s relationship with the Democratic Party is much more fragile - not to mention recent - than Crist’s ties to the GOP; that Sestak will have far more obviously damning material to air in the coming months; and that the Pennsylvania representative has shown himself to be a far more apt candidate in the early going than the Florida lawmaker.

Indeed, Rubio has attracted a lot of buzz in conservative circles and has landed endorsements from prominent Republicans - former Governor Mike Huckabee and Senator Jim DeMint, for instance. That’s far more establishment support than Sestak has received for now. Yet, Rubio has had difficulty transforming the right’s thunderous applause into actual campaign momentum - let alone tangible fundraising dollars - and he has had trouble presenting himself as anything but a short-lived obstacle that Crist will sooner or later find a way to dispose of.

Earlier in the summer, Rubio had to fight off persistent rumors that he was about to drop out of the race. Just last week, there was frenzied speculation that Crist was preparing a game of switcheroo in which he appoint Rep. Lincoln Diaz-Balart to fill the remainder of Mel Martinez’s Senate term to allow Rubio to run for a special election in Florida’s 21st district. And at the end of the day, all it takes is a look at the humongous financial disparity between Crist’s fundraising machine and Rubio’s meager second quarter to figure out that Rubio is failing to attract the funds he’ll need to reach out to conservatives in every corner of this expensive state.

Despite all of this, there are two reasons the right will not give up on this primary:

1. They really do not want Crist to get to Congress, as his record suggests he would be far from the type of reliable vote conservatives have come to expect from GOP Senators.

2. In many states Republicans nominating a conservative alternative to the establishment-backed contender would lead to a general election disaster (see Connecticut or Pennsylvania pre-Specter’s switch), but that is not the case in Florida. Sure, Crist would be far more likely to beat the Democratic nominee, but it’s not like Rubio looks like an unelectable extremist whose nomination would sink Florida Republicans. In fact, Rasmussen’s poll shows him leading Kendrick Meek by a substantial margin - 43% to 30!

Put these two reasons together, and you get infuriated conservatives who are refusing to let Crist cruise through the primary when his nomination is in no way necessary for the GOP to defend this seat and as such are not giving up on Rubio’s bid. Here’s the cover of the latest issue of the National Review, as it was unveiled yesterday:


The National Review has long waged a crusade against Crist - for instance warning McCain not to pick the governor as his running-mate last year. But it is still noteworthy that they are giving a Florida state lawmaker cover treatment. That’s just how important this primary has become for the conservative intelligentsia, so expect to see more rallying like this over the coming months. The question at this point is whether this will help Rubio convince rich conservatives to open their wallets - no wealthy donor wants to pick against a winner, and Crist still holds the keys to victories - and whether it will increase grassroots mobilization.

Martinez’s resignation unlikely to have any impact on 2010 cycle

It takes a special kind of elected officer to resign for no reason other than boredom with public service or than the desire to move to the private sector’s greater financial rewards. We discovered just how special in 2007, when Trent Lott resigned just in time to escape restrictions on former congressmen’s lobbying activities that were about to come into effect, as well as last month when Sarah Palin offered an incoherent explanation to justify her abrupt resignation.

The latest politician to pull the plug on his career without finishing his term - and his first one at that! - is Mel Martinez. The Florida Senator had already announced he would not run for re-election. Today, he declared that he would outright quit his job pending his replacement’s appointment. Martinez explained there is “no impending reason” for his resignation, that he wanted to “move on and get on with the rest of my life” and that he would soon enter the private sector.

I find this particularly distasteful. Sure, a politician shouldn’t be in office if he is no longer interested in the job as he’s unlikely to do a good job in the first place, but what does it say about the rest of his career that he just got tired of public service after a few years in the US Senate? The prospect that Martinez, like so many other former lawmakers, will eventually join a lobbying firm that will pay him astronomic fees makes his choice to hurry over to that side of the political world that much more frustrating. Did he run for Senate only to increase his future earning potential?

At least, Martinez’s intentions are less clear than Lott’s were in 2007, so perhaps he will surprise us. But the bottom line is that Senate candidates run for six-year terms; over that time, they build seniority, improve constituent services, learn the issues that matter in different parts of the states and get used to Capitol Hill protocol. Since we know that Martinez’s replacement is virtually certain to be a placeholder, Florida will be left with two years of unnecessarily subpar representation. (Delaware is certainly entitled to the same complaint.)

Martinez’s replacement will be replaced by Republican Governor Charlie Crist, so there will be no change to the balance of the Senate. Nor will it change the outlook of the 2010 race. The only way in which the resignation could change the upcoming Senate race would be if the Republican called to replace him then ran as an incumbent since this would no longer be an open race. But we already know this is not going to happen.

Crist, who will choose Martinez’s successor, is running to replace him so he will not appoint anyone who might get the idea of running for a full term. He could appoint himself, of course, but all reports indicate that he will not appoint himself: Such a move would just open him to criticism that he is manipulating the electoral process - and unnecessary so since he is already the overwhelming favorite to win next year’s race.

(What does it say about how confident the GOP is that Crist will win next year that it looks like no one is suggesting he appoint himself anyway, just to be safe?)

So Crist’s choice is virtually certain to be a placeholder, presumably an older choice who has left politics for long enough that he won’t be interested in anything beyond an 18-month stint. Potential picks include former Governor Bob Martinez, state party Chairman Jim Greer (a close Crist ally) and former Secretary of State Jim Smith.

It will still be interesting to see whether Crist attempts to gain a political edge out of the nomination. One possibility is that he appoints someone who might win him good press among one particular group - presumably Hispanics.  (Martinez’s resignation will deprive the Senate of one of its only minority members.) Crist could also try to strengthen his hold on the state party. (the Bush clan, sometimes at odds with Crist’s camp, still has a plenty of influence.) As long as he is certain that the appointee will not betray him and run, Crist could select a still-ambitious ally to increase his/her profile and position him/her towards a future statewide run of his/her own.

Q2 fundraising reports, part 2: Some retirement hints and daunting hauls

This morning, I looked at the fundraising of U.S. representatives and House candidates this morning; now let’s take a look at statewide races. Once again, I think too much is read into most candidates’ financial situation and not every half-a-million difference will matter come 2010. As such, let’s concentrate on: 1. What fundraising hauls reveal about the 2010 plans of politicians whose final decision we are still awaiting. 2. The races in which a daunting money gap could put pressure on candidates to drop out or scare challengers away.

Retirement watch: Rell could opt out, Bunning’s figures could be lower

Kentucky Senator Jim Bunning will be the subject of insistent retirement rumors as long as the filing deadline has not passed; he himself has said that his decision will depend on his ability to raise funds, and Mitch McConnell has been trying to ensure that does not go well. The Q2 numbers are now in: Bunning raised $302,466 in the second quarter - a slight increase over the first.

Sure, that total is far from impressive since he was significantly outraised by Democrat Jack Conway (>$1 million) and Republican Trey Grayson (>$600,000). Yet, the appropriate question when it comes to Bunning is whether his fundraising haul is weak enough to convince him that seeking re-election is too difficult an endeavor, and I believe he is raising sufficient funds to pursue the race. In fact, what’s strange about Kentucky’s Senate race is not not so much Bunning’s weakness as the sustained pace with which Grayson has been raising money for a race he has yet to jump into.

Despite Grayson’s insistence that he has no intention of challenging Bunning in the GOP primary, it looks like either he is certain that the Senator will retire or he is considering running no matter what. Even if his promise not to run against Bunning are genuine, will Grayson be able to resist if he has millions of dollars piled up by the end of 2009 - especially if his bank account is far bigger than his potential opponent’s? The threat of such a well-funded primary challenger is sure to weigh on Bunning’s mind as he contemplates his next move.

Another incumbent to keep an eye on: Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell, who has not yet said whether she will seek re-election in 2010. She banked only $20,000 and is outpaced by her Democratic rivals. Is she looking to retire? That would obviously be a big blow to the GOP’s hopes of keeping the governorship.

Eye-popping Reid and Crist hauls make it tough for challengers

Harry Reid should have an easy time fundraising since many wealthy donors want favors from the Senate Majority Leader. And he delivered: He reported raising $3 million over the second quarter, pushing his CoH to over $7 million. Now, why this matters is that none of the Republican who are supposedly thinking about a run are showing signs of being interested.

Rep. Dean Heller raised $166,000 in the quarter and has a bit over $260,000 in CoH; he would have made sure to report more had he been seriously thinking about a Senate run. More importantly, former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle raised $35,000 throughout the second quarter; she had said that she would probably not run if she failed to gather $100,000 in contributions so it is possible that Republicans lose their most advanced candidate in this crucial race.

In Florida, meanwhile, Charlie Crist raised an absurd $4.3 million over the past 3 months. Not only is that enough to buy more primary ads than he could dream of but it’s also nearly 13 times more the $340,000 Marco Rubio amassed. Given that he was hoping to attract heavy conservative support, this is a big blow to the former state Speaker’s prospect. Crist are using this discrepancy to pressure Rubio into exiting the race and reports now indicate that the conservative is now indeed considering dropping out - a prime example of how fundraising strength can have more dramatic consequences than unequal spending.

In hard-to-read primaries, money could make bigger difference

There is little with which to easily distinguish Jack Conway and Dan Mongiardo. Both are centrist Kentucky Democrats, both are statewide officials and both have the support of prominent establishment figures. In such hard-to-read primaries in which neither candidate can credibly portray himself as an insurgent and in which voters are unlikely to have that strong an opinion, money differentials can be important: Beyond the importance of reaching out to voters, they could push the establishment towards a certain candidate.

As such, Conway is certainly very happy since he finally found one area on which to create some distance with Mongiardo. Not only is the latter’s fundraising haul at the same level as Bunning’s (gasp!), but Conway has outraised him 4:1 to top the entire field with $1,3 million. That amount is roughly equal to Bunning, Mongiardo and Grayson’s funds combined.

An even greater unbalance is emerging in Ohio. Every two months, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner has had to release a statement insisting that she intends to stay in the Senate race, where her Democratic opponent Lee Fisher has been accumulating more establishment support. The second quarter figures are likely to increase pressure on Brunner to call it quits, since she has banked $207,000 compared to $900,000 for Fisher and $1,7 million for their Republican opponent, Rob Portman.

The trouble is not necessarily that Brunner’s haul is weak as much as the fact that it will be tough for her to wage an insurgent campaign. It’s very much possible to envision a lower-funded candidate win Ohio’s Democratic primary, but that probably requires substantial support from labor groups; yet, many unions are endorsing Fisher. On the other hand, I’m not sure why party leaders are so concerned about pushing Brunner out: Sure, Portman’s cash looks daunting but the primary is held relatively early and the Democratic nominee will have plenty of time to recoup before the general election.

Money is flowing in Texas

Both of the Lone Star State’s Republican gubernatorial candidates raised humongous amounts of money, guaranteeing they have what they need to wage all-out war. Kay Bailey Hutchison brought in $6.7 million; Rick Perry $4.2 million. That some wealthy donors are choosing to donate to both candidate naturally increases the amount of money in circulation; also, consider that donations for state races are not held to the same $2,300 limit as for a federal race. For instance, Perry’s biggest contributor donated $225,000!

Also strange is the fact that Houston Mayor Bill White managed to raise $2 million (almost half-of which are a contribution to himself) for a Senate race that does not exist yet. (White will run for Hutchison’s Senate seat when she resigns.)

Republicans smiling: Ayotte, Crist, McCollum and Christie all ahead in new polls

First look at Ayotte shows promise, but she’s also stuck in high 30s-low 40s range

John Sununu’s withdrawal from the New Hampshire Senate race made it all the more unclear who would emerge as the Republican nominee. That Kelly Ayotte would be the GOP’s best chance at defending Judd Gregg’s seat has become conventional wisdom, but the lack of any data on how voters view their unelected Attorney General made it difficult to figure out how strong she actually could be.

Well, we finally get to take our first look at Ayotte’s strength. The University of New Hampshire poll, conducted before Sununu’s announcement, included Ayotte and finds that she is the only Republican with a lead over probable Democratic nominee Rep. Paul Hodes:

  • She is ahead 39% to 35%. By contrast, Hodes leads 43% to 41% against Sununu, 40% to 38% against former Rep. Charlie Bass and 45% to 25% against businessman Fred Tausch.
  • Ayotte and Hodes have comparable levels of name recognition, but the Republican has a far stronger favorability rating: 47-7 compared to 32-23 for Hodes.

This poll demonstrates that Ayotte would come in the race with great potential. That she performs significantly better than two Republicans who long held federal office is a sign that she might not be encumbered by the party stain that could sink Sununu and Bass’s chances. On the other hand, Ayotte’s image is bound to change if she jumps in the race: While she was first appointed by a Republican, Democratic Governor John Lynch retained her services which helps her enjoy a nonpartisan image that would be hard to maintain as a party’s nominee in such a high-profile race.

Furthermore, what I find fascinating is that Ayotte receives less support than Sununu and only 1% more than Bass; it’s Hodes who is much weaker in a match-up against the Attorney General. As such, this poll does not resolve the most important question facing New Hampshire Republicans: Can they break out of the low 40s? Sununu was stuck in that range through more than 50 polls last year, and this poll offers the GOP no reassurance that Ayotte would be in any position to appeal beyond the party’s narrowing base.

In a related note, Hodes was one of the first Senate candidates nationwide to come public with his second quarter fundraising numbers: He announced having raised $750,000 over the past three months, bringing his 2009 total to over $1 million. That’s just a reminder that Hodes has been enjoying a good head start in raising money, hiring staff and mounting a campaign infrastructure. This is certainly not enough to guarantee him victory, but Republicans might want to recruit a candidate sooner rather than later - especially if that contender isn’t a well-known figure.

Mason Dixon revisits Florida, confirms GOP edge

In May, Mason Dixon gave us the first post-Crist poll. They are now out with a new survey that shows that Charlie Crist remains far ahead while Bill McCollum keeps a slight edge:

  • In the Governor’s race, probable Democratic nominee Alex Sink trails McCollum 41% to 35% (the same margin as in May); in the unlikely case she were to face state Senator Paula Dockery, she is ahead 43% to 18%.
  • In the Senate race, Charlie Crist crushes both Republican Marco Rubio (51% to 23%) and Democrat Kendrick Meek (48% to 26%).
  • You can add to Mason Dixon’s Republican primary numbers a poll conducted for the Club for Growth, which finds Crist ahead of Rubio 51% to 21%.

The gubernatorial race is still marked by a large name recognition difference: 13% do not recognize McCollum, while 39% do not recognize Sink. This is not to say that Sink will necessarily gain an edge as she introduces herself to all voters, only that she’ll have McCollum’s small leads can be accounted to his superior notoriety and it will hard to read much into these polls until the notoriety gap closes. Two troubling signs for Sink, however, are that there are more Republicans who are undecided (25%) than there are Democrats (18%) and that McCollum gets a decent share of the Democratic vote.

As for the Senate race, there isn’t much else for Crist’s opponents to hold on than the fact that he has not quite cleared the 50% threshold, which at least makes it possible that Rubio or Meek could get in a more competitive position if they run a perfect campaign. For one thing, Rubio will need as much support as he can get to ensure that he remains relevant even if polls continue to show him trailing by such massive margins; South Carolina Senator John DeMint’s recent statement that prominent conservatives were preparing to back Rubio is a sign that things could still get interesting.

Christie might be under 50%, but Corzine is still under 40%

Let’s not call this new Farleigh Dickinson poll good news for Jon Corzine, but it’s nonetheless as encouraging a survey as he’s gotten: He trails Chris Christie 45% to 39%, which is the smallest deficit Corzine has faced since April and the first time since Christie secured the Republican nomination that a poll finds him under 50%. The good news stops there, and the fact Corzine has been reduced to celebrating a 6% margin says as much about the hole he is in as it does about any uptick to his chances of survivals.

A challenger crossing 50% is such a show of force that it’s hard to read much into it not occurring; far more significant is the fact that Corzine is still below 40%. The rest of the poll also finds truly dismal numbers for the Governor. His favorability rating stands at 31-54, while Christie’s is a solid 37-25. Perhaps worst is the fact that independents detest Corzine almost as much as Republicans do: It might be easy to overcome a 13-77 rating among GOP voters, but a 17-64 rating among independents? How can that be overcome? After all, it’s not like Democrats are enamored with Corzine either: Christie receives 20% of Democratic support.

Primary watch: Newsom’s generational challenge, Crist as the “Republican Barney Frank”

Newsom weighed down by age and geography

California’s gubernatorial race was shook up last week, as the Democratic primary now looks headed towards a two-way race between Gavin Newsom and Jerry Brown. The first poll not to include Antonio Villaraigosa was just conducted by J Moore Methods, giving us a first look at the field. (The survey was in the field from June 20th to June 23rd, which means that most interviews were conducted before the mayor’s exit; yet the survey tested two-way race.)

Brown leads Newsom by a solid 46% to 26%. Earlier polls also found the Attorney General holding sizable leads against the San Fransisco Mayor, so this result is not a surprise and Newsom is certainly not down enough not to have a good shot at clinching the nomination. Yet, the results suggest that age and geography will play a major role in this primary, in a way that makes Brown the clear front-runner.

Newsom holds a 37% to 26% lead among voters under 39; Brown is up 49-28 among voters who are between 40 and 59; and he crushes his rival 54-20 among voters older than 60. As such, there is already a clear age gap in how voters are thinking about these candidates. Newsom can portray himself as a fresh face all he wants, but that’s not the type of argument that’s likely to endear him to older voters.

Why this matters: Callbuzz notes that the primary electorate’s average age is far higher than that of the general population - most probably over 50. That means that, as long as Brown keeps a sizable advantage among voters who remember him from his eight years in the Governor’s Mansion, it will be very tough for Newsom to get in contention - even if we’re talking about a two-way race.

There’s also a clear geographical split. In the Bay Area, where both men stem from, Newsom has a narrow 41% to 37% lead but the rest of the state belongs to Brown, who is after all a statewide officer: He is ahead by a massive 52% to 16% in Southern California and 52% to 26% in Northern California. In other words, Newsom’s current appeal is almost entirely concentrated in his geographical base.

While this means that Newsom has a lot of room to grow in areas of the state in which he is not that well known, it also provides a clear challenge for the mayor: Given how popular Brown is in the Bay Area, it’s going to be tough for Newsom to get the type of margins he’ll need in his hometown to offset his disadvantage elsewhere in the state.

“The Republican Barney Frank”

Based on polls, there is still no evidence that Marco Rubio can threaten Charlie Crist’s hold on the GOP’s Senate nomination. Yet, it is looking increasingly likely that the conservative contender will have what it takes to force the Governor in an uncomfortable and divisive primary that would distract him away from the general election.

Last month, Mike Huckabee and Jeb Bush’s sons rallied to Rubio’s side, signaling that the primary will be high-profile enough that it will attract attention no matter how competitive the race really is. Since then, Rubio has even scored the support of a sitting U.S. Senator: Jim DeMint might not provide that much help, since he does not represent the Sunshine State, but he helps Rubio make his bid look legitimate and credible.

Now, it looks like the former state Speaker could land the most important endorsement of all. New Club for Growth David Keating is signaling his interest in the Florida Senate race. “We are very concerned about the two major tax increases Charlie Crist recently signed and believe there’s no excuse for his active support of the Obama big-government ’stimulus’ spending bill,” he said.

If the group follows suit and does get involve in the race, Rubio would not only reap the financial benefits but he would also be in a great position message-wise: Since the Club would likely run hard-hitting ads against Crist, Rubio would be able to downplay his own negativity and wash his hands of the attacks since they’ll be aired by an independent group.

It might seem obvious that the Club for Growth would back Rubio, but that is certainly not a given. The group does not get involved in Senate primaries that frequently. Given that Crist looks such a formidable candidate, Club leaders might very well decide that Florida’s primary is not worth divesting funds too - not to mention antagonizing the Republican establishment even more than they already have.

That said, there is no doubt that the conservative intelligentsia would love nothing more than to block Crist’s path to the Senate. Politico points to a new Wall Street Journal editorial that calls Crist the “Republican Barney Frank” (expect that nickname to make its way in next year’s anti-Crist ads):

He continues to perpetuate the myth that Florida property owners can have billions of dollars of subsidized insurance at little expense or risk. It’s this kind of something-for-nothing economics that gave us the debacle of Fannie Mae. With that philosophy, Mr. Crist would feel right at home in Washington.

Update: I’m not sure how I did not think about that, but Panos raises the excellent point that “Republican Barney Frank” might very well refer to something else than fiscal policy. Given how insistent (and increasingly high-profile) the rumors have been, it’s hard to believe The Journal wasn’t at least aware of how this nickname could be interpreted. So is this a sign that conservatives will dare go there, albeit in coded terms? Or is this just a coincidence? What do you guys think?

Good poll results for Republicans in FL, for Democrats in OR and for Sestak in PA

Good results for Florida Republicans

Rasmussen’s first visit to the Sunshine State finds good results for Republicans in both major statewide contests:

  • In the Governor’s race, Bill McCollum tops Alex Sink 42% to 34%. McCollum’s favorability rating (53-26) is also stronger than Sink’s (50-32).
  • In the Senate race, Charlie Crist dominates both of his potential Democratic opponents: He tops Rep. Kendrick Meek 46% to 28% and Corrine Brown 50% to 29%; Rubio does not appear to have been tasted. Both Democrats have mediocre-to-bad favorability ratings: 36-38 for Brown, 37-36 for Meek. Crist’s rating is much stronger, but so is his name recognition: 57 have a favorable view of him, versus 36%.

I believe this is the first poll to find McCollum clearly ahead. But these results’ most surprising feature is that there is no name recognition differential between the two politicians. Earlier polls released by Quinnipiac and Mason Dixon showed that voters were much more familiar with McCollum than they were with Sink. That does suggest that Sink has more room to grow than this poll leaves her.

There is no question that Crist is the overwhelming favorite but Democrats shouldn’t lose all hope as long as the Governor is around or below the 50% mark. In fact, I believe this 18% margin is the closest Meek has ever gotten to Crist. He could at least make the race look more competitive once he increases his name recognition and if he improves his favorability rating: As much as Crist’s stature, Meek’s biggest problem is that many who know him don’t like him. But remember that, as long as Brown does not jump in the race, Meek will have time to improve his image while Crist is distracted by Rubio’s attacks.

Too much is unclear in Oregon’s Governor’s race

Once a swing state, Oregon took a decisively leftward turn in 2008, and that is allowing Democrats to breath easier about next year’s open gubernatorial race, which they have to defend. A new Research 2000 survey confirms that they have the early edge in this contest, but there is still a long way to go:

  • The biggest Democratic names - Rep. Peter DeFazio, Rep. John Kitzhaber and former Secretary of State Bill Bradbury - have very good favorability ratings (+25, +17 and +18, respectively). On the Republican side, former Senator Gordon Smith stands at a poor 39-48, while Rep. Greg Walden’s positive rating (+11%) could make him an attractive contender.
  • In head-to-head match-ups, Kitzhaber leads Smith 46% to 37% and Walden 44% to 38%. DeFazio is ahead 47% to 37% and 45% to 38%. Bradbury doesn’t look as good - 42%-38% and 40%-39% - but his name recognition is also lower. Two lower-profile politicians - Democrat Steve Novick and Republican state Senator Jason Atkinson - trail by larger margins.

Complicating matters is that it is still very unclear what the field will look like - on either side. Of the seven candidates listed by Research 2000, Bradbury is the only one who is already in the race. DeFazio, Kitzhaber and Walden have all expressed an interest, while Smith is considered unlikely to jump in now that he has a lucrative job at a lobbying firm (see Porter, Ron). Nor does Smith look like a particularly attractive candidate, as his poor head-to-head numbers and his negative favorability rating indicate he has not recovered from his failed 2008 re-election bid.

Depending on who ends up running, then, the race could be more or less competitive. On the Republican side, it certainly looks like Walden would be a highly credible candidate - especially if DeFazio and Kitzhaber do not run - but the GOP might not have another candidate to turn to. Gordon Smith’s match-up numbers and his favorability rating suggest he has not recovered from his failed 2008 re-election bid; and however credible a candidate like Jason Atkinson might be, he probably lacks the stature to overcome Oregon’s blue lean.

Specter’s plunge

A new Franklin & Marshall poll of Pennsylvania finds quite a plunge in Arlen Specter’s numbers compared to their previous March survey, which was conducted before the Senator switched parties:

  • Specter’s approval rating has dropped from 52% to 34%; his re-elect from 40% to 28%.
  • This is largely fueled by Republicans deserting Specter - his approval rating drops from 49% to 18% - but the least we can say is that Democrats have not warned to their newest Senator. Not only has Specter’s approval rating among Dems dropped from 57% to 46% but his re-elect marker has barely increased, going from 41% to 43%.
  • In a primary match-up with Joe Sestak, Specter leads 33% to 13%, with 48% undecided.

These numbers are remarkable: Approximately the same share of Democrats wanted to see Specter re-elected when he was still a Republican than they do now that he is a Democrat! In other words, they did not see the Senator as their enemy when he was part of the opposition and they do not see him as a friend now that he has joined their camp. That dynamic might have allowed Specter to win crossover support in his past general elections, but it now suggests that it could be difficult for him to survive the Democratic primary. Sure, it’s surprising to see such a large proportion of undecided voters - other pollsters have pushed respondents more - but keep in mind that a 30-year incumbent can’t have that much room to grow.

Klein, Thornburgh and Williams ruled out statewide runs

Thornburgh leaves Brownback in charge of Kansas

In somewhat of a surprise move, four-term Republican Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh dropped out of Kansas’s gubernatorial race, making Senator Sam Brownback not only the presumptive Republican nominee but also the overwhelming favorite to win the Governor’s Mansion.

Indeed, Brownback won’t have to face too serious an opponent in the general election either: Democrats have been more busy sabotaging themselves than recruiting a viable candidate. State Senator Chris Steineger is now running for the Democratic nomination, but the lawmaker with a strained relationship with his party should not provide much of a challenge for Brownback.

To the extent that Democrats had any hope of retaining this governorship, their only chance was for Republicans to devolve in ideological warfare and damage their general election prospects. (While Brownback is one of the conservative movement’s leading figures, Thornburgh has a more moderate reputation.) With the Senator now sure to coast to the GOP nomination, he should face no trouble uniting the vote of Republican-leaning voters - enough to win a statewide race in Kansas.

For those who have no interest in Kansas politics, don’t forget that Brownback ran for president in 2008. His attempt to emerge as the conservative champion fell flat when Huckabee rose, but he would be in a better position to try again in 2012 or 2016 having executive experience under his belt.

Klein is not interested in challenging Crist

Democratic Rep. Ron Klein has been mentioned as a potential Senate candidate ever since the seat opened up. But given the fact that he was not sounding too enthusiastic before Charlie Crist entered the race, it became very unlikely that he would be interested in running after the Governor’s entrance. Yesterday, Klein finally made it official that he would not be running by announcing that he was endorsing Kendrick Meek’s bid.

With Klein’s exit, the only obstacle to Meek’s nomination is Rep. Corrine Brown, who formed an exploratory committee a few weeks ago. Yet, Meek has been building an unexpectedly formidable campaign since the beginning of the year, collecting prominent endorsements and raising enough money to position himself as the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination. Klein’s support only solidifies Meek’s standing and serves as a reminder that Brown should get in the race very quickly if she wants to mount a credible campaign.

Klein’s decision also has resonance at the House level. FL-22 is a swing district, so an open seat race would have been hotly contested. The DCCC now doesn’t have to worry about the district, though it is still possible that Klein faces a competitive re-election race. (The race is rated potentially competitive in my latest ratings.)

David Williams leaves Bunning alone

Finally, a Republican who isn’t looking to make Jim Bunning’s life miserable! State Senate President David Williams, whose name we first heard when the NRSC’s meeting with Williams prompted Bunning to get enraged, just announced that he would be running for re-election rather than mounting preparations for a Senate run.

Interestingly, Williams also gave the Senator the ultimate political gift: He expressed his belief that Bunning would not retire - something few if any Republicans are willing to do. “I think Jim Bunning is going to continue to run,” he said. I’m sure I don’t have to remind you the general election significance of whether he retires; so will he or won’t he? I’ve long believed the former; yet, the last time we checked in, Bunning looked so cornered by his Republican critics that I found it hard to see how he could survive.

Might Williams’s decision alleviate the pressure? If he feels like he can easily coast to the Republican nomination despite the NRSC’s hostility, how likely would he be to quit? Secretary of State Trey Grayson is positioning himself to run if the Senator retires, but he probably has too many ties to Bunning for him to pull the trigger on a primary challenge - though he certainly has not been holding back from putting pressure on the Senate to retire.

It’s unclear whether Williams ruled out running for Senate if the seat opens up, though I take his comments to mean that he would not run even under such a scenario. That means that a Bunning retirement would make Grayson the clear favorite for the GOP nomination - not that this would mean that much in the grand scheme of things: Kentucky’s primary is early enough

More GOP primaries: Steelman goes after Blunt, Rubio indicts Crist’s governance

For Crist, the dangers of a guerrilla-like primary

Whenever I write about Florida’s Republican primary, I feel the need to preface my comments with a warning that Charlie Crist is the overwhelming favorite to win the race and there is no guarantee that Marco Rubio can even make Crist break a sweat - let alone win the nomination.

Yet, there continue to be hints that the primary could put the Governor a delicate position. A few weeks ago, I pointed out that the involvement of high-profile Republicans (Mike Huckabee had just endorsed Rubio) could create trouble for Crist. Now, a new story serves as a reminder that an intra-party fight leads to headlines that can easily drive down the Governor’s popularity.

Last month, the state legislature passed a bill allowing community colleges to raise a student fee for transportation services. The legislation was approved by a large margin, but Crist vetoed the legislation last Wednesday. This type of news would certainly not be part of this blog’s beat if the bill’s main sponsor (state Senator Steve Oelrich) had not recently endorsed Rubio’s Senate bid.

Said Oelrich: “I sincerely hope the veto was not the product of political expediency or retribution.” He later added: “I’m certain the Governor’s Office would deny all that, but politics being what they are, it’s discouraging sometimes.” While Oelrich was also suggesting that Crist might have been motivated by his opposition to the SunRail commuter rail system, Rubio himself seized on the controversy. In a statement, his spokesperson expressed the campaign’s regret that Oelrich’s endorsement cost him passage of the bill.

There is obviously no way to know what Crist’s motivations were. Even if the veto was motivated by reasons unrelated to the bill’s content, it is not rare and arguably not that controversial for legislation to be sunk in the context of negotiations relating to other issues - in this case allegedly the SunRail commuter rail system. But the point I want to make is that the tensions of the primary (a rare context in which a politician gets ferociously attacked by members of his own party) should lead to the sort of headlines Crist is not accustomed to.

Indeed, this type of coverage is what Crist’s challengers need to generate. Polls testify to the fact Crist is seen as governing in a cleaner way than most politicians - more pragmatist, less partisan. Thus, Rubio and Meek are going to have to find a way to attack him not just on his ideology (too moderate, will say Rubio) but also on what is currently to be his strength: His reputation for good governance.

It won’t be easy to knock Crist off his pedestal, but don’t forget that he will have to go through more legislative sessions, fiscal crises and budgetary woes. More than a year of conservative guerrilla warfare could help make the Governor look like any other politician - petty, ambitious and politically vulnerable.

Without committing, Steelman continues to attack Blunt as insider

With Tom Schweich’s decision not to run in Missouri’s Senate race, all eyes turned to former Treasurer Sarah Steelman. Earlier this year, she had repeatedly suggested that she would challenge Rep. Roy Blunt for the GOP nomination, only to fall silence in recent weeks. Well, Schweich’s withdrawal looks to have spurred Steelman into action.

“Danforth says we need fresh face in DC then turns around and endorses Blunt…Funny the way it is……,” tweeted Steelman yesterday, in a reference to the former Republican Senator and Schweich’s protegee. She also granted an interview to the SEMO Times in order to blast Blunt. Asked for a word that describes the congressman, Steelman responded “Washington.” Clearly taking a stance in the Republicans’ ideological war, Steelman assessed that the GOP had to move to the right to regain its political footing. “The people do not trust us to be conservatives because we were anything but conservative when we were in the majority,” she said.

If she does run, Steelman’s continued willingness to portray the primary race in terms of such clear contrasts should worry Blunt. Not all primary races are fought along neat divides, which are often a recipe for long-lasting wounds. If Blunt survives Steelman’s challenge, he will only do so after months of nasty ads portray him as a quasi-corrupt old-school Washington insider.

Of course, it remains to be seen whether Steelman actually jumps in. At this point of the cycle, her saying that “if I can offer some of that new leadership, I would consider” doesn’t sound enthusiastic enough for us to consider her a likely candidate, though her determination to forcefully attack Blunt is enough of a hint that she is planning a race. The most likely situation is that Steelman wants to run but is trying to assess her chances at defying the establishment; Steelman lost the gubernatorial primary last year, and it’s hard to see her political career survive a second consecutive primary loss. Might she be better off waiting for another opportunity?

Heath Shuler, Bob Smith reiterate old Senate decisions

Earlier this year, Rep. Heath Shuler announced he would not run for Senate in North Carolina while former Senator Bob Smith jumped in Florida’s race. However, recent developments led many to question whether they would stick to their decision.

In North Carolina, Roy Cooper’s unexpected decision not to seek the Democratic nomination led the DSCC to recontact Shuler and the representative opened the door to changing his mind; in Florida, Charlie Crist’s entrance in the Senate made it so difficult for Smith to win the GOP nomination that many doubted he would go for it. Today, both Shuler and Smith reiterated their decision - this time leaving with no room for ambiguity.

Here’s Shuler’s statement:

I am not running for Senate. I am not running for Senate. I am not running for Senate. I have said that a thousand times, and I don’t know why they keep coming up (with the idea). Of course they keep coming up and running polls.

Well, that’s certainly a Shermanesque enough statement for us to take out Shuler’s name from the list of potential contenders… again. Since the DSCC had made Shuler one of its top North Carolina targets, you might think this is a big blow to Democratic prospects - but a number of Democrats are still mentioned as potential candidates: state Senator Dan Blue, former state Senator Cal Cunningham, Rep. Bob Eheridge, Rep. Mike McIntyre, former Treasurer Richard Moore and Secretary of State Elaine Marshall (who expressed her interest this week-end).

Of this list, Shuler and McIntyre are by far the most conservative. Shuler even opposed the stimulus, so he is far enough of his party’s mainstream that he would face problems winning a statewide Democratic primary - and there is no need for Burr’s challenger to be as conservative as Shuler - not to mention that NC-11 could easily revert in GOP hands if Shuler vacated it. The DCCC can now be relieved that they will be favored to hold on to this conservative district.

In Florida, Bob Smith released a YouTube video launching his candidacy - making the state’s Republican primary a 3-way race with Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio. I profiled Smith when he first announced his candidacy, so I will not go in the details again - check that post. One important point is that he is known as very conservative: During a speech on the Senate floor, he once stabbed a pair of scissors on a doll’s neck as a way to denounce abortion. Also important is the eventful saga that saw him briefly leave the GOP to attempt an independent presidential run from 1999 to 2000.

Yet, the state’s political situation has changed dramatically since Smith first made his announcement in early April: Charlie Crist has entered the race to become the overwhelming favorite to win the Republican nomination. It will be hard enough for Marco Rubio to score an upset not to have to worry about Smith. There is no doubt that the former state Speaker is the conservatives’ candidate of choice - Mike Huckabee has already endorsed him - but Smith is a prominent enough candidate that he could split the anti-Crist vote.

To beat Crist, Rubio will need to make his contrast with the Governor as clear as possible and heighten the stakes by making the primary fit in the overall narrative of the GOP’s civil war. Smith’s candidacy could muddy the contest’s ideological water by forcing Rubio to spend as much time differentiating himself from Smith as to creating an opposition with Crist.

I will keep this post relatively short and use the rest of the day to finish my Senate rankings, which will be posted tomorrow morning.

Strong numbers for GOP: Christie and Crist top 50%, McDonnell dominates

New Jersey: Christie tops 50%

New Jersey Democrats were hoping that Chris Christie would emerge bloodied from the GOP primary, but the first (Rasmussen) poll to be released since his victory makes clear that did not happen whatsoever.

  • Christie leads Governor Jon Corzine 51% to 38%. In Rasmussen’s May survey, Christie was ahead by a smaller margin (47% to 38%).
  • Corzine’s approval rating stands at a mediocre 42%, which explains why far more voters trust Christie on economic issues like government spending (50% to 27% who trust Corzine) or taxes (48% to 33%). As expected, Christie’s strongest issue is ethics: 55% of voters trust him more to fight corruption, versus only 28% who respond Corzine.
  • One interesting statistic: 43% of respondents say they expect Christie to win while 41% respond Corzine.

Could that last set of numbers be Corzine’s silver lining? It is often said that New Jersey voters turn back to Democrats once they think about the consequences of electing a Republican. For now, it looks like a fair share of voters have not come around to the fact that Christie is not just a way to signal disapproval but that the Republican is actually favored to win; could some of them come back to the incumbent once they realize the latter?

But that’s as good as the news gets for Corzine in what could be the most catastrophic poll he has seen yet: For an incumbent to be under 40% is a clear enough sign that he is headed towards defeat, but for a challenger to cross 50% is a rare feat and a truly formidable demonstration of strength. It’s not even like Corzine has an obvious strategy to implement: Given that Trenton is in Democratic hands and that Christie is a former prosecutor, process-oriented issues seem to be off the table. And voters aren’t really looking to trust their Governor on economic matters either.

Florida: Crist way ahead but gubernatorial race is open

While many Governors are having problems around the country, Crist is not one of them - as a new Strategic Vision survey confirms his domination in the Senate race. The survey also confirms that the gubernatorial race is a toss-up:

  • In the Senate race, there is no suspense: Crist dominates Marco Rubio 59% to 22% in the Republican primary and Kendrick Meek 59% to 29% in the general election. (There are currently no other candidates.) A general election without Crist would obviously be competitive: Rubio is an inch ahead of Meek, 31% to 30%.
  • In the gubernatorial race, the two presumptive nominees are within the margin of error, with a small edge to Republican Bill McCollum, 41% to 39% for Democrat Alex Sink. If state Senator Paula Dockery runs and wins the GOP nomination, she would start with a 6% deficit against Sink - 40% to 34%.

These numbers are very similar to those of the Mason Dixon poll released mid-May - and the lessons are the same as well. Crist is in as dominant a position as he could hope for, there is no question that he is the overwhelming favorite to win the race and the fact that he is well above 50% (almost at 60%!) means that Floridans have no qualms about voting for him. But the point remains that his name recognition advantage is so huge that we won’t know whether the race can get more competitive until Rubio and Meek air ads and introduce themselves to voters.

In the gubernatorial race, we now have to wait as neither party is likely to do much until they think voters might be willing to pay any attention. But Sink might have more to accomplish in the early going: She has lower name recognition, so it will be interesting to see whether she can improve her numbers as she close the notoriety gap.

Virginia: McDonnell leads fall gubernatorial election

There are a number of surveys going around of Virginia’s Democratic primary, which is something I will talk about in an upcoming post. For the purposes of this entry, let me cite two new surveys of the general election:

  • SUSA finds presumptive Republican nominee Bob McDonnell lead Terry McAuliffe 47% to 40% and he is ahead of Moran 48% to 37%. Against Creigh Deeds, however, his edge is only 44% to 43%.
  • Research 2000 has McDonnell ahead with no exception: leads Moran 43% to 35%, Deeds 46% to 34% and McAuliffe by 46% to 33%.

Bizarrely, this is not the first time SUSA and R2000 are finding differing results for Deeds - and the SUSA numbers should certainly give Democrats news. The bottom line is that McDonnell starts with the upper-hand but an other campaign will start on Wednesday: With their nominee selected, Democrats will start the work of introducing him to the general electorate. (As a statewide official, McDonnell is a more familiar figure and all 3 Democrats - especially Deeds and Moran - have to catch up notoriety-wise.) I find it hard to believe that McAuliffe would be the party’s best bet to erase McDonnell’s advantage.

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