Archive for the 'IN-Gov' Category

Down-ballot polling: Hagan closes strong, Georgia heading to runoff, GOP set to pick up PA-11

The gigantic amount of presidential polling that has been released today leads me to do something I haven’t done for a while: devote a separate post to congressional polling. There is a large number of competitive Senate and House races, and they have tended to be overshadowed by the presidential race, so we might as well give them more room tonight.

At the Senate level, most of the attention tomorrow should be devoted to those races that look the most unpredictable, starting with Minnesota where there is no consensus as to which candidate has the lead. Al Franken and Norm Coleman have come out ahead in a number of surveys over the past few days, and the main disagreement between different outlets appears to be over the Barkley factor. Some surveys find Barkley drawing disproportionately from Democrats (for instance today’s SUSA poll), while others find him playing less of a spoiler effect, in which case Franken does much better.

In Georgia, meanwhile, three new polls suggest that the Senate race is likely to head into a runoff. Chambliss comes narrowly ahead in all three but there are very few undecided left for him to get over 50%. Furthermore, we know that at least SUSA predicts African-Americans to make up the same share of the electorate as they did four years ago (26%, up from 25%); given that African-Americans make up 35% of early voters (which are likely to be more than half of all voters), it would mean that tomorrow’s voters are overwhelmingly white for the racial breakdown to be at the 2004 level.

In the two races that are rated lean take-over in my latest ratings, Kay Hagan and Mark Begich confirm that they have the lead; Hagan especially appears to have pulled ahead even more in the final days, possibly because of the controversy over Dole’s Godless ad.

At the House level, both parties get good news: Democrats are looking good in AK-AL and their incumbents in NH-01 and IN-09 are heading into Election Day in a better position than most would have predicted a few months ago. Furthermore, VA-05, a district that has only recently been added to the list of competitive districts, looks ripe for a pick-up.

On the other hand, the GOP is poised to pick up PA-11, as Rep. Kanjorski is finishing in as week a position as he started. And SUSA’s dual polls from Minnesota bring good news to Republicans, as Erik Paulsen is not only alive but slightly ahead in MN-03 while Rep. Bachmann has stopped the bleeding.

  • Minnesota, Senate race: Coleman leads 44% to 39% in a SUSA poll, with 15% going to Barkley; Coleman led by 2% two weeks ago. Barkley draws 15% of Democrats and only 8% of Republicans.
  • North Carolina, Senate: Kay Hagan leads 51% to 44% in a PPP poll, expanding her lead and coming ahead by 15% among those who have already voted. Hagan leads 50% to 43% in a SUSA poll; she led by 1% two weeks ago.
  • Georgia, Senate: Saxby Chambliss leads 48% to 46% with 4% for Buckley in a PPP poll. Chambliss leads 48% to 44% in a SUSA poll, with 5% for Buckley; SUSA predicts blacks will make up 26% of the electorate; the two candidates are tied if we recalculate it with blacks making up 31% of the electorate (they made up 35% of early voters). Chambliss also leads 48% to 44% in a Strategic Vision poll.
  • New Hampshire, Senate: Jeanne Shaheen leads 48% to 42% in UNH’s final poll conducted Friday through Sunday.
  • North Carolina, Governor: Bev Perdue leads 49% to 48% in a PPP poll.
  • Washington, Governor: Christine Gregoire leads 50% to 48% in a University of Washington poll and in Strategic Vision.
  • Safe(r) seats: Mark Warner leads 62% to 36% in a PPP poll of Virginia’s Senate race. Jay Nixon leads 54% to 39% in a SUSA poll of Missouri’s gubernatorial race. Mitch Daniels leads 60% to 37% in a PPP poll of Indiana’s gubernatorial race.
  • In MN-06, Michelle Bachmann leads 46% to 45% in SUSA, a margin that is well within the MoE; it’s a slight improvement for Bachmann over Tinklenberg’s 47% to 44% lead 10 days ago.
  • In MN-03, GOP candidate Erik Paulsen leads 46% to 41% in SUSA after seizing a 1% lead a few days ago and trailing by 3% last month.
  • In PA-11, Republican challenger Lou Barletta leads 51% to 45% against Rep. Kanjorski in a new SUSA poll.
  • In VA-05, GOP Rep. Goode only leads 50% to 47% in the latest SUSA poll; he led by 13% a month ago and by 34% in August.
  • In NH-01, Rep. Shea-Porter leads 46% to 41% in UNH’s final poll conducted Friday through Sunday. Rep. Hodes leads 52% to 31% in NH-02.

I imagine a few more congressional polls might be released by mid-day tomorrow, but that will probably not change the fact that we have not seen any independent polling from a huge number of House races that are currently listed as vulnerable on my House ratings. And in some districts in which polling was released, we might not have gotten numbers in more than a month or two (say AL-02 or CO-04, for instance). This means that the results in a number of House races will be largely unpredictable and we should expect some big surprises - just as in 2006.

Final gubernatorial ratings: Two races left to watch

Gubernatorial races were never going to be the hottest item of the 2008 cycle, but for a while we at least had four highly competitive races to follow. No longer: Democrat Jay Nixon and Republican Mitch Daniels have gained a decisive edge in Missouri and Indiana and they should coast in their respective governor’s mansion with ease.

That leaves us with two toss-up gubernatorial races - but what toss-ups they are! In North Carolina, Beverly Perdue and Pat McCrory are locked in one of the most unpredictable races in the country; Perdue has not been able to benefit from Barack Obama and Kay Hagan’s coattails, leading to a startling situation in which North Carolina Democrats seem less likely to hold the governor’s mansion than to win the presidential and senatorial races! What has happened to the Tar Heel State?

In Washington, the rematch between Christine Gregoire and Dino Rossi is proving to be just as acrimonious as the bruising recounts that settled their first contests. In fact, given that Democrats seem unlikely to lose a Senate seat and that no other Democratic Governor is vulnerable, Gregoire is the most endangered Democratic incumbent to hold statewide office in the country. That she has been unable to put the race away in this pro-Democratic environment is a testament to how weak a position she is in electorally. In a neutral environment, Rossi would likely be ahead, but Obama’s coattails could be too much for the Republican to overcome.

While I might still make changes to House ratings and will certainly update my Senate rankings before Tuesday, this will be the final gubernatorial ratings for 2008… That’s how close we are to Election Day!

The full ratings are available here. Below are descriptions of the three races whose rating I am changing: Missouri, Indiana and Vermont.


Indiana, lean Republican to likely Republican
: Governor Mitch Daniels has been on the Democrats’ target list for years and rightly so: his unpopularity was a crucial factor in the GOP’s collapse in 2006 (when three of their House incumbents lost). The one obstacle to a Daniels loss was the state’s heavily conservative lean and the fact that he would benefit from the GOP’s presidential coattails. Who could have predicted that the exact opposite would happen? Democrats are unexpectedly competitive at the federal level and they have been unable to translate that into gains at the gubernatorial level. (A similar situation is unfolding in North Carolina.)

Former representative Jill Long Thompson has not had the money to compete with Daniels, she had to go off the air for a while in the fall and close campaign offices, meaning that she has no organization but Obama’s to rely on in the state’s more conservative regions. And the very same polls that have Obama and McCain in a dead heat show Daniels leading by wide margins. An upset is still possible - particularly if Democratic turnout is much higher than expected - but Daniels is far stronger than anyone could have expected a few months ago.

Missouri, lean Democratic to likely Democratic: Attorney General Jay Nixon was always expected to win this race, but the ease with which he is stream-rolling Republican congressman Kenny Hulshof is remarkable given that Missouri is certainly no easy state for Democrats to win in. Nixon’s lead in polls typically exceeds 15%, and Hulshof’s best efforts to dismiss him as too far to the left have not made a dent in polls.

Vermont, safe to likely Republican: In this three-way race in which independent candidate Anthony Pollina could very well come ahead of Democratic nominee Gay Symington, Republican Governor Jim Douglas is guaranteed to finish first. Yet, a quirk in state law complicates the situation: If no candidate crosses 50%, the election will be thrown into the legislature, controlled by Democrats. The legislature is likely to follow the will of voters and elect whichever candidate comes out on top (as they did in 2002), but nothing prevents them from seating Symington.

Poll watch: McCain ahead in VA, trails in NC; the Udalls, McConnell lead; Perdue, Hayes in trouble

The McCain campaign is predictably trying to spin its way out of the difficult position the Michigan pull out put it in, and it is worth examining their arguments for a moment. The first argument is that McCain’s Michigan investment was only meant to force Obama to spend money. CNN quotes a McCain aide talking about how there was “always a shred of hope” they would be able to win Michigan. Let us say it again: Michigan was at the very top of McCain’s priorities, and at the very top of Obama’s vulnerabilities. Michigan was not a “shred of hope” but a crucial battleground state in which McCain polled very strongly through the spring and summer.

Their second argument is Obama who is on the defensive: “If we win FL, MO, NC, VA, IN and OH — all states Republicans have won for decades — that puts us at 260 electoral votes.” I am unsure how this is meant to show that McCain is still in the game. Most polls released over the past 2 weeks show Obama is running at worst even in each of these states. McCain has not had a lead outside of the MoE in any of these six states for at least 10 days, and in some cases since mid-September, and even if he sweeps each of them he will still not be at 270 electoral votes?

That said, after the meltdown McCain endured in yesterday’s polling, he is showing signs of life in some of today’s polls that should reassure the GOP that the election is certainly not lost. And none of this is to deny that McCain remains within striking distance or that Obama has not been able to gain a consistent edge in red states other than Iowa and New Mexico - only that the past 10 days have been very rough on McCain.

A Mason Dixon poll finds McCain clinging to a lead in Virginia and remaining within the margin of error in Colorado, a state polls released last week suggested was quickly slipping away for the Republican. But today’s polls also show Obama confirming that he has a decisive edge in Michigan, Iowa and New Mexico, posting a comfortable lead in Ohio and coming only 1% behind McCain in Indiana. Perhaps most importantly, Obama leads in yet another North Carolina survey, confirming that PPP and Rasmussen’s surveys taken last week cannot be dismissed and that the state has indeed shifted in the Democrat’s direction.

On to the full roundup of today’s polls:

  • The tracking polls continue to favor Obama, who moves to his biggest lead ever in Rasmussen (51% to 44%). He is ahead 48% to 43% in Gallup, 47% to 42% in Diego Hotline and 51% to 40% in Research 2000.
  • Obama leads 50% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of North Carolina. Last week’s Rasmussen poll from North Carolina was the first in which Obama had the lead; he has expanded it by 1% since then.
  • McCain leads 48% to 45% in a Mason Dixon poll of Virginia. The candidates are one point apart in the crucial Hamptons Road region, while Obama leads by 20% in Northern Virginia.
  • Obama leads 52% to 44% in a SUSA poll of New Mexico.
  • Obama leads 49% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll of New Mexico. He trailed by 2% last month.
  • Obama leads 51% to 41% in a PPP poll of Michigan. He led by 1% in a poll taken just after the GOP convention. Palin’s favorability has fallen since then.
  • Obama leads 49% to 43% in a Democracy Corps (a Dem firm) poll of Ohio.
  • McCain leads 52% to 44% in a Rasmussen poll of Montana. That is an improvement for Obama over the previous Rasmussen survey, but he remains far from his summer strength in the state (he led McCain in a July poll).
  • Obama leads 44% to 43% in a poll of Colorado released by little-known pollster Ciruli Associates.

Meanwhile, in down-the-ballot poll:

  • Pat McCrory pulls ahead in a Rasmussen poll of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race, 50% to 46%. He trailed by 6% in August.
  • Mitch McConnell leads 51% to 42% in a Rasmussen poll of Kentucky’s Senate race. That’s an improvement for Lunsford over the previous Rasmussen survey, but a relief for McConnell given that SUSA and Mason Dixon found much tighter races recently.
  • Mitch Daniels only leads 47% to 46% against Jill Long Thompson in a Research 2000 poll of Indiana’s gubernatorial race.
  • Tom Udall leads 58% to 39% in a SUSA poll of New Mexico’s Senate race. In a Rasmussen poll, Udall leads 54% to 39%. In both polls, Udall widens the gap.
  • Mark Udall leads 47% to 40% in a poll of Colorado’s Senate race released by little-known pollster Ciruli Associates.
  • In NC-08, a DCCC poll finds Larry Kissell with a large 54% to 43% lead against Rep. Hayes. The poll also finds Obama leading by 12% in a district Bush carried by 9%, too large a swing to have full confidence in the survey.
  • The Hayes campaign quickly released a recent internal poll of their own. It shows the Republicans leading Kissell 46% to 43%. In an August poll, Hayes led by 10%, and these are not favorable numbers for an incumbent either.
  • In AL-03, Rep. Rogers leads Democrat Segall 45% to 36% in an independent poll taken by Capital Survey Research Center. In an August poll, Rogers led 55% to 32%, so this is quite a bump for the challenger.
  • In ID-01, an internal poll for the Minnick campaign finds him leading Rep. Sali 43% to 38%. The question here is whether a Democrat can go from the high 40s in a heavily Republican district.
  • In TX-10, an internal poll for the Doherty campaign finds GOP Rep. McCaul leading 43% to 38%, putting him in a very vulnerable position.
  • Johanns leads 52% to 38% in a Rasmussen poll of Nebraska’s Senate race.

House: A lot of internal polls to go through today - and as always take them with a grain of salt. That said, the same situation applies in NC-08 that we saw in NV-03 a few days ago. When an incumbent feels compelled to release a poll taken by his own campaign that shows him leading by only 3% with trend lines helping his opponent, there is no doubt that he is highly vulnerable. The DCCC has already spent more than half-a-million dollars in this district, and put together the two internal polls leave no doubt that the race is at best a toss-up and that Kissell might gain an advantage by relying on Obama’s organizational strength.

As for ID-01, TX-10 and AL-03, there are all heavily Republican districts, and while it is possible that Democrats have some success in a few such districts, the challenge for Democrats is to get undecided voters to break their way. In ID-01, Sali is disrespected enough by his party’s establishment that Democrats can take advantage of local conditions.

Governor: After PPP’s polling release a few days ago, this is the second poll in a row to find McCrory and Obama gaining in the same sample, a sure sign that Beverly Perdue is actually in trouble. The Lieutenant Governor was seen as a slight favorite to win this open seat, but McCrory’s strategy of hitting her on reform-related issues appears to be working. North Carolina has become truly fascinating to follow, as different races are going in opposite directions and ticket-splitting will be a crucial factor here.

Senate: Republicans will be relieved that McConnell’s numbers have not collapsed in yet another poll. Sure, Lunsford is within single-digits but McConnell remains above 50% and the numbers are not as terrible as those in SUSA, Mason Dixon and the unreleased private poll Stuart Rothenberg evoked. That said, the race is definitely on our radar screen now, and it will be interesting to see whether the DSCC moves in. Colorado and New Mexico’s races have been static for month: Tom Udall put it away a while ago in New Mexico, while most polls find Mark Udall ahead in Colorado, but not by enough for Democrats to feel confident.

Poll watch: Six red states within the MoE, Perdue and Chambliss in trouble

[Updated with new Insider Advantage polls] We’re now exactly five weeks from Election Day, and we seem to be getting fewer polls every day - especially compared to the constant deluge of surveys we were treated to two weeks ago and last week. At least, we are getting our daily tracking polls which now appear to have stabilized in the mid-to-high single digit range - and that is significant given that today’s release marked the first which were entirely taken after the first presidential debate. Rasmussen, Diego Hotline and Gallup all find a 6% margin today in Obama’s favor, while Obama jumps to a 10% lead in Research 2000.

If such numbers hold over the next few weeks, state-by-state discussions would be somewhat moot, as many red states would naturally fall in Obama’s lap if he were to win the election anywhere near a 7% margin… but it nevertheless continues to be remarkable that Obama has not gained as much in the most disputed red states as he seems to have gained at the national level (he does appear to have pulled ahead in PA and MI in the aftermath of the financial crisis), leaving a lot of uncertainty in the election.

That said, Obama has undoubtedly made gains in a number of red states over the past 10 days, and while these gains are not enough to move any of them to his column, Obama has also erased any edge McCain had in states like Ohio, Virginia and Florida (as today’s polls once again confirm).

So the situation remains the same: If Obama defends the roughly four endangered blue states, he needs to pick up one more red state (though Nevada would not be enough if he loses New Hampshire). And the day’s polls confirm that he has plenty to choose from: Numbers in Florida, Ohio, Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina and Nevada are all within the margin of error - though a second Virginia poll shows Obama jumping to a comfortable lead, and the three Florida and Ohio polls show Obama improving! On to the day full roundup:

  • Obama leads 49% to 46% in a PPP poll of Florida (polling history) thanks to Obama’s 15% lead among the 64% of respondents who say that the economy is their top issue. McCain led by 5% three weeks ago. Since then, Palin’s favorability rating has gone south.
  • McCain leads 49% to 46% in an ARG poll of Virginia.
  • Obama leads 49% to 41% in the latest Morning Call tracking poll of Pennsylvania (polling history) . Obama has increased his lead by 1% every day since Friday, when he led by 4%.
  • McCain leads 49% to 46% in an ARG poll of North Carolina (polling history) - McCain’s first lead in four polls (who would have ever thought we’d say that), though within the margin of error.
  • McCain leads 52% to 44% in a SUSA poll of Georgia (polling history). And though this subgroup has a huge margin of error, Obama gets more than 60% among the 10% of respondents who say they have already voted.

Meanwhile, in down-ballot surveys:

  • Saxby Chambliss’s lead has collapsed to within the margin of error in SUSA’s latest release from Georgia’s Senate race (polling history). He is now ahead 46% to 44% (down from 17% two weeks ago), with 5% for libertarian Allen Buckley.
  • Pat McCrory leads Bev Perdue 44% to 41% in a PPP poll of North Carolina’s gubernatorial race (polling history). This is his first lead in a PPP survey. This is significant because the same survey showed Obama and Hagan gaining.
  • Mitch Daniels keeps a decisive edge in Indiana’s gubernatorial race in the latest SUSA polling, 53% to 37%.
  • A University of Connecticut poll has Rep. Simmons Courtney crushing his GOP challenger Sullivan 55% to 27% in CT-02. This is a district the GOP once had high hopes for.

Shall we make it… eleven? This is the second poll in a row after the DSCC-sponsored survey released yesterday that has Chambliss’ lead within the margin of error. More importantly, this is an independent poll that pushed undecideds, and the trend lines echoes what we are seeing in Kentucky’s Senate race - apparently confirming my post from last night. The GOP looks like it might soon find itself in the same situation as 2006, where seemingly safe Republicans find themselves in a fight, though it is difficult to view Chambliss as fully endangered until the DSCC gets involved.

That said, getting just one of these two races (KY, GA) anywhere near the top tier would already be an amazing achievement for Democrats. In this context, Susan Collins’ ability to weather the storm is truly remarkable: Who could have predicted a year ago that Tom Allen would never get within 7% (and I believe only Rasmussen found that tight a race) while Lunsford and Martin would be within the margin of error?

Beverly Perdue, on the other hand, looks like she is not doing very well. For her to fall under in the same poll that has Obama and Hagan surging is a sign that something is not going well for Democrats in this race, and that McCrory’s reform message might be functioning. Similarly, the situation is not rozy for Democrats in Indiana’s gubernatorial race, which once looked promising but now seems to be increasingly safe for the incumbent.

Gubernatorial rankings: Fate of two Dem-held seats could depend on Obama’s coattails

Gubernatorial races have never been a focus this year since only four seats are in any sense competitive - and of these four two have grown less interesting over the past few months. In Missouri, Attorney General Jay Nixon has been in a strong position for months, but Republicans were hoping that Rep. Kenny Hulshof’s primary victory would give him enough of a bounce to make this race more suspenseful; that does not appear to have happened. In Indiana, incumbent Governor Mitch Daniels has solidified his position since the spring, and the financial difficulties of Democratic challenger Jill Long Thompson are forcing her to rely on Obama’s ground game to pull an upset.

That only leaves two highly competitive races, both of which are currently held by Democrats. In North Carolina, Beverly Perdue and Pat McCrory continue to pounce each other but neither appears to be getting an edge; in Washington, Governor Gregoire looks very vulnerable in a rematch of her controversial 2004 match-up, as the assumption that she would have had time to entrench herself does not appear to have played out. What is interesting is that the fundamentals in both states should favor Democrats. Washington leans blue - especially in such a Democratic year. And not only does North Carolina typically vote Democratic in state-level races, but Barack Obama’s stunning competitiveness reduces Perdue’s need to convince voters to split their vote. In both Washington and North Carolina, therefore, Barack Obama’s coattails could be enough to carry Gregoire and Perdue across the finish line, but any last minute show of strength by John McCain could improve the GOP brand and allow Rossi and McCrory to upset historical trends.

Lean take-over (1 R)

1. Missouri (Open; Previous rating: 1)

Rep. Kenny Hulshof prevailed in a very heated Republican primary back in August, and that is likely to be his only victory of the 2008 cycle. Attorney General Jay Nixon has been campaigning for the gubernatorial position for nearly four years now, and he is being further boosted by this year’s Democratic environment. Nixon has led throughout the contest, and he is comfortably ahead in the most recent polls. One added bonus for Nixon is that Barack Obama is showing no sign of giving up on the Show Me State so that he will be able to rely on Obama’s turnout machine to boost his own totals; that was not the case for Claire McCaskill in 2004.

Toss-up (2 D)

2. North Carolina (Open; Previous rating: 2)

Who knew that North Carolina’s top three statewide races would all be rated toss-ups - the only state in the country that is in such a position. Just as Republicans John McCain and Elizabeth Dole were expected to have an edge in the presidential and senatorial races, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Beverly Perdue (or Bev Perdue, as ballots will be marked) looked favor to keep the governorship in Democratic hands. But Charlotte Mayor Pat McCrory is proving to be a strong candidate for Republicans.

McCrory is pounding Perdue on ethical issues, seeking to make an issue of the Democrats’ hold on state government and corruption scandals that have erupted over the years. While Perdue has never been involved in any, she has been working in state government for decades and McCrory is hoping to take advantage of that by directly referencing the “culture of corruption” and hitting Perdue as part of the “power elite.” Meanwhile, and in a telling sign that North Carolina is not as reliably conservative as some might expect, Perdue is not hesitating to duplicate the strategic blueprint Democrats have been using in bluer parts of the country. She is hitting McCrory for his support of Bush’s agenda and for benefiting from Bush’s help - and she is also invoking social issues by running ads against McCrory hitting him on stem cells. Those spots have led to some of the toughest exchanges of the race, and McCrory accused Perdue of exploiting the sick for political purposes.

The latest polls are showing a dead heat, with a number of surveys finding McCrory holding an edge. But the only surveys that have found McCrory leading outside of the margin of error have also shown McCain leading comfortably, suggesting that McCrory’s fate is dependent on a strong result at the top of the ticket - and the fact that Obama has a far superior ground game and has registered thousands of new Democratic-leaning voters could make the difference in Perdue’s favor if the election remains close.

3. Washington (Gov. Gregoire; Previous rating: 4)

This is the first time that I am rating this race a toss-up. It seemed likely that Christine Gregoire would be able to rely on the advantage of incumbency in a blue state in a Democratic year to take a decisive advantage over Dino Rossi. Instead, the contest looks just as tight as it did four years ago - so tight, in fact, that SUSA’s surveys have found the margin to be within the MoE for seven polls in a row. Other pollsters also find a dead heat.

All of this points to the simple fact that Gregoire remains eminently vulnerable, and that she was not able to fully legitimize herself after her controversial 2004 victory on a second recount. Her fate largely depends on the national environment on Election Day, as a Democratic breeze would likely be enough to push her across the finish line. Rossi needs the GOP brand to improve a bit, and he is fully aware that the biggest obstacle to his election is his party label. That is why he has gotten to be listed on the ballot as “GOP party” rather than as “Republican.” Democrats sued against Rossi’s maneuver, but a judge just ruled in Rossi’s favor.

Lean retention (1 R)

4. Indiana (Gov. Daniels: Previous rating: 3)

You can’t blame Democrats for having high hopes for toppling Mitch Daniels. The incumbent was so unpopular two years ago that he contributed to the state GOP’s catastrophic results in the 2006 midterms. And polls throughout the spring showed Daniels locked in a dead heat against the two Democrats who were vying to oppose him. But it looks like the May 6th primary was the high point of Jill Long Thompson’s campaign. She is now in a difficult position financially and she was recently forced to close some offices and cancel TV advertising for at least an entire week of September. And Daniels has opened a decisive lead in the polls of the past few months, usually above the 50% vulnerability threshold. Long Thompson is still not out of contention, but her fate appears to be largely dependent on that of Barack Obama, and she will need to ride Obama’s organization and ground game to reach voters she would not be able to organize herself.

Full rankings of all 11 races here.

Poll watch: Obama leads in IA, PA, MI while IN remains very tight; Dems lead in AK-AL and CO-04

Another day of strong polling results for Obama - this time at the state level. SUSA confirms that the Illinois Senator can feel more confident about Iowa than about many Kerry states, Marist finds larger leads than we have seen lately for Obama in the crucial states of Michigan and Pennsylvania (two states that are quasi-must wins for Obama) and two surveys from Indiana find the race within the margin of error. Who knew the Hoosier State would be polled so much?

What is fascinating about the Marist polls is that the surveys were taken over the week-end (thus before the financial crisis exploded) in Ohio and Pennsylvania, and at the beginning of this week in Michigan. The share of voters who say that they are most concerned about the economy is far greater in the Michigan poll (51%), which explains why Obama has such a large lead and confirms that the dominance of economic issues this week is helping fuel Obama’s comeback. Here’s the full roundup of today’s polls:

  • First, the trackings, where the movement is less uniform than it was yesterday: Obama gains one in Research 2000 (leads 49% to 42%) and in Gallup (leads 49% to 44%). Rasmussen doesn’t move (tied at 48%) and McCain gains 3% in Diego Hotline (but still trails 45% to 44%).
  • Obama leads 47% to 45% in a Marist poll of Ohio. The two are tied among registered voters. Those who say that the economy is the most important issue for them vote Obama by 14%. Obama gets 90% of Democrats. This poll was taken Thursday through Sunday.
  • Obama leads 49% to 44% in a Marist poll of Pennsylvania. The margin is 3% among registered voters. Obama gets 87% of Democrats and leads among independents. This poll was taken Thursday through Sunday.
  • Obama leads 52% to 43% in a Marist poll of Michigan. The margin is the same among registered voters. Obama gets 92% of Democrats, leads by 14% among those who say the economy is the most pressing issue. This poll was taken Tuesday and Wednesday, after the Wall Street collapse.
  • McCain leads 49% to 47% in a Rasmussen poll of Indiana. He led by 6% in August.
  • McCain leads 47% to 44% in an ARG poll of Indiana.
  • Obama leads 54% to 43% in a SUSA poll of Iowa. He gets 89% of Democrats and leads by 11% among independents. Among voters who are sure of their vote, he leads by 15%.
  • McCain leads 53% to 42% in an ARG poll of North Dakota.
  • Obama leads 50% to 44% in an ARG poll of Washington.
  • McCain leads Obama 64% to 31% in a SUSA poll of Alabama.
  • McCain leads 61% to 34% in an ARG poll of Oklahoma.

There is good news for McCain as well in this batch of surveys, most notably his strong margin in North Dakota (a state Obama has been contesting). A Rasmussen poll last week had found McCain jumping to a strong lead there after struggling through the summer. Republicans will also be satisfied to see that Obama is struggling in yet another poll from Washington - confirming that the Northwestern state is far less safe than people thought a few weeks ago.

Meanwhile, in down-ballot:

  • Betsy Markey leads Rep. Marilyn Musgrave 47% to 38% in a Grove Insight poll for Emily’s List of CO-04.
  • Andy Harris and Frank Kratovil are tied at 36% in a DCCC poll of MD-01.
  • Mark Begich leads Ted Stevens 50% to 44% in a Research 2000 poll of Alaska’s Senate race.
  • Susan Collins leads 55% to 42% in a Rasmussen poll of Maine’s Senate race.
  • Mitch Daniels leads Long Thompson 56% to 40% in a Rasmussen poll of Indiana’s gubernatorial race.
  • Daniels leads Long Thompson 46% to 42% in a Selzer poll of that same race.
  • Dino Rossi inches ahead 48% to 47% against Gregoire in a Strategic Vision poll of Washington’s gubernatorial race.
  • Lautenberg leads 49% to 42% in a Rasmussen poll of New Jersey’s Senate race.
  • Chambliss leads 52% to 33% in an internal poll conducted for his campaign in Georgia’s Senate race.
  • Inhofe leads 55% to 39% in a Rasmussen poll of Oklahoma’s Senate race.

The House races bring some excellent news for Democrats. Musgrave and Young are among the most vulnerable Republican incumbents, and those are not isolated polls. The CO-04 survey, for instance, confirms what SUSA found a few weeks ago. Democrats have been trying to kick Musgrave out for a few cycles, and it looks like this could be their year. As for MD-01, it has a very high percentage of undecideds, and in a heavily conservative district they are more likely to vote Republican. But it remains remarkable that Democrats are competitive in a district the GOP should be safe in.

As for the Senate races, Democrats will be satisfied that Begich is holding on to a lead, though the race is undoutedly much tighter than they would like it to be. There isn’t much else for the DSCC to get excited about here. Tom Allen, Bruce Lunsford, Jim Inhofe and Jim Martin are making little to no inroads in their respective Senate races, making it increasingly unlikely that Democrats will be able to contest more than the 9 races they have already put in play.

Poll watch: First signs of a McCain bounce, a third tracking poll (!), Indiana is competitive

The two week stretch of fast-paced game-changing events is finally over, and we now have to wait to see the state of the race as of the end of the veepstakes/convention cycle. Will there be much difference from where the race was as of August 22nd? Will Obama’s gain among Clinton supporters and McCain’s among evangelicals cancel out? Did undecided voters, independents move at all? Did Palin’s pick open the door for McCain among women?

In the wake up yesterday’s CBS poll showing McCain gaining 8% in three days, today’s trackings show an uptick for McCain (see below), but we will of course have to wait a few more days to see the convention’s full impact and look at the internals of major national polls to see (1) whether McCain improved his image and (2) whether Obama’s improvements from last week survived the RNC convention. Also, pollsters will now go back in the field to bring us more state-level presidential and Senate surveys. We have not been getting a lot of those lately.

Let’s look at the day’s presidential numbers:

  • The two tracking polls are starting to detect signs of a McCain bounce. In Rasmussen, Obama’s 5% lead shrank to 2%, 48% to 46%. In Gallup, Obama’s lead also shrinks by 3%, and he is now up 48% to 44%. A third of this tracking was conducted after the Palin speech, none was conducted after McCain’s. (You can also check this interesting attempt at guessing the individual night numbers.)
  • And we now have a third tracking poll! Diego-Hotline just released its first wave, taken over the same period and finding Obama leading 46% to 40%. (The previous Hotline survey, released a few days ago had Obama leading by 9%. but it was not part of the tracking series so I am not sure whether the methodology is the same and trendlines can be used.) Obama’s favorability rating is at 58%, McCain’s at 52%, Palin’s 43% and Biden’s 42%. Other interesting findings: Energy is the only issue voters are unsure who would handle best (Obama 43, McCain 41). More voters think Palin is prepared (46) than unprepared (45) and only 41% of women think she is “prepared.” This tracking will not
  • In Indiana, a Howey-Gauge poll conducted after the Democratic convention and the Palin pick has a tight race, with McCain leading within the margin of error, 45% to 43%.
  • In Alaska, the new Ivan Moore poll confirms that McCain has secured the three electoral votes thanks to Palin. He led by 3% two weeks ago; now, the GOP ticket dominates, 54% to 35%.

We will be closely monitoring how numbers in red state evolve post-Palin, as it is in states with a strong Republican base that McCain’s gains among conservatives could be the most useful. That said, Obama continues to air ads in Obama and McCain has still not moved in - and given that he is now restricted to public financing he is unlikely to invest there unless he really has to. This is the third poll in the past two weeks that show a tight race in Indiana.

Down-the-ballot:

  • In the Indiana gubernatorial race, that Howey-Gauge survey has Governor Daniels leading Long-Thompson 53% to 35%.
  • I already posted Ivan Moore’s Senate numbers from Alaska, which had Begichup 49% to 46%. The survey also tested possible match-ups in AK-AL. Berkowitz led Rep. Young 54% to 37%, but Parnell led Berkowitz 49% to 38% (the margin was only 4% three weeks ago).

This is the clearest exposition yet of the stakes of Alaska’s Republican primary. What is extraordinary is that the primary already took place… ten days ago! The margin was less than 200 votes, with thousands of absentee ballots left to be counted. The Anchorage Daily News (a very useful paper these days) says that the results might be released tonight, so we will soon know whether AK-AL should be considered likely take-over or lean retention.

If Parnell prevails, it would be a big disappointment for Democrats - as is Indiana’s gubernatorial race. This is a seat Dems have eyed for two years, and spring polls suggested the general election would be etremely tight. But Daniels’s approval ratings has been recovering and he has opened a solid lead in most polls released over the summer. At least, Democrats can be relieved that Daniels’s victory will not also cost them a Senate seat, since Barack Obama did not tap Evan Bayh.

McCain leads in two national polls, in Ohio and Missouri; Obama stays strong in Iowa and NE-02

Polls are coming in at a quick pace in this pre-convention week and they are continue to show McCain erasing whatever advantage Obama had built nationally and in key battleground states. One poll can be statistical noise, and trend lines within the margin of error certainly don’t lend themselves to any grand conclusion. But the tightening that we have been observing over the past few weeks is being confirmed with this wave of pre-convention polls. Two national polls released this morning are only the second and third non-tracking national surveys that have found McCain ahead by any margin since early May:

  • A new Reuters/Zogby poll finds a 12% swing towards John McCain, who goes from a 7% deficit to a 45% to 40% lead. This is the biggest non-tracking lead for the Republican since a… Zogby poll released in early March. This is swing comparable to that of the LA Times poll yesterday.

While Obama did lead in yesterday’s Quinnipiac and LA Times polls, he did lose ground in both - by 10% in the LA Times survey, a swing comparable to Zogby’s numbers. Yesterday, I provided some perspective as to how seriously we should take this tightening given that we are on the eve of the national conventions and the VP picks, and explained that these numbers should be heartening to Republicans but should not lead Democrats to panic at all - you can refer back to that analysis, as it is only confirmed by these numbers.

As for state polling, McCain also got some good numbers yesterday in states like FL, NC and MN and the polling data is consistent enough that these are no longer isolated trends. While most state polling has remained stable, John McCain has scored clear gains in recent polls in important states like Colorado and in Minnesota. Today’s surveys continue painting a worrisome picture for Obama, who collapses in Missouri:

  • In Ohio (polling history), Rasmussen finds McCain ahead, but his margin is down since last month. He leads 45% to 41% (48% to 43% with leaners). Last month, McCain was ahead by 6% and 10% - though that was somewhat of an outlier. The worrisome news for Obama: his favorability rating is now negative, with 48% holding a favorable opinion (60% for McCain!) and 51% an unfavorable one.
  • In Missouri (polling history), PPP shows Obama collapsing to a double-digit lead, 50% to 40%. Obama trailed by only 3% last month.
  • In Arizona, a University of Arizona survey finds McCain leading 40% to 30%, with 28% undecided.
  • In Nebraska’s Omaha-based second district, a poll conducted for a House candidate finds John McCain leading 46% to 42% - a surprisingly tight margin. Don’t forget that the winner of the district will be awarded an electoral vote.

In July, PPP and Rasmussen had found strangely big (and diverging) leads (PPP had Obama up 8%, Rasmussen had McCain leading by 10%). They are now both showing a tightening: In the August surveys, PPP has a race tied and Rasmussen has a 4% race. Ohio is as tight as ever - not that we didn’t already know that. The Missouri numbers are particularly worrisome for Obama. McCain has been considerably outspending him in the Show Me State and McCain has opened a clear lead in a number of polls now in a state that has leaned red in the past few elections but that looked promising to Democrats a few months ago.

The day’s other state polls, by contrast, are rather good news for Obama. Iowa, a state won by Bush in 2004, looks like a surer bet for Obama than many of the 2004 Kerry states. It is also one of the states in which McCain is outspending Obama the most (by $700,000) and it is reassuring that the Democrat is keeping a comfortable lead. As for Arizona, the last two polls had McCain leading by double-digits - and the last thing McCain needs is to have to think about his home-state.

As for NE-02, Democrats have had their sights on this lone electoral vote for a while now, and they are helped by a simple geographical factor: This Omaha-based district is in the media market of Western Iowa, so voters there see the candidates’ ads without the campaigns’ making an actual decision to invest in Nebraska. And do not dismiss the importance of one electoral vote, because that’s all Obama needs to add to Iowa and Colorado to get to 269 EVs, throw the election to the House and most probably get to the White House.

Tuesday polls: Obama ahead in PA, stable in NC; GOP leading in MI-07, NM-01

No state polls had been released for a few days, but after yesterday’s orgy of national surveys it’s back to business as usual in presidential polling: the tracking polls and state results of varying interest:

  • For the second day in a row, both tracking poll showed Obama’s national bounce fading. After a high on Saturday-Sunday, it’s back to usual for Rasmussen (47-46 Obama) and Gallup (47-41).
  • In North Carolina, PPP’s latest polling finds a tight race, with McCain holding on within the margin of error, 47% to 44%. He was ahead 45% to 41% last months. Obama gets 82% of the black vote, McCain 57% of the white vote (versus 34% for Obama).
  • In Pennsylvania, Obama is ahead 49% to 40% in Strategic Vision’s poll of the state since April. This is the first non-Rasmussen poll of the state in weeks. The previous Strategic Vision poll found McCain ahead by 8% here - but it was taken back in April…
  • In Washington, Strategic Vision confirms Obama’s advantage as the Democrat leads 48% to 37%.

As I have regretted many times, Pennsylvania polling has been rare but the few results we have gotten find Obama ahead more or less comfortably. As Michigan has usurped Pennsylvania’s status of most endangered Democratic big state, Republicans are not likely to put quite as much emphasis on PA as they did four years ago and Obama should be helped by the Democratic registration gains in the state. However, this is one state in which a weak showing for Obama among working class voters could cost him dearly.

As for North Carolina, the race has been stable for weeks, as nearly every poll that is released shows a McCain advantage between 3% and 5% (Civitas, SUSA and Rasmussen). I refer you back to my recent analysis of the risk and rewards of Obama’s red state strategy, as this poll confirms what we have been seeing for a while: Despite spending in the state whereas McCain is not, Obama is not progressing further - a relief for the GOP. However, Republicans were hoping that the state would go back to its GOP roots as the general election progressed, but that is clearly not happening. McCain will have to invest in North Carolina sooner or later and divest resources from elsewhere; if he doesn’t, it would put Obama in an ideal position to take away those 15 electoral votes.

In down-the-ballot races, one independent and four internal polls to report today:

  • PPP’s poll from North Carolina’s Senate race finds Elizabeth Dole slipping back under 50% and leading Kay Hagan 49% to 40%. Last month, after her first big wave of advertising, Dole led by 14%.
  • In Indiana, the Daniels campaign released an internal poll finding the incumbent Governor crushing his Democratic opponent 53% to 35%.
  • In MI-07, a race Democrats are targeting, GOP incumbent Walberg released an internal poll taken this month finding him ahead 47% to 31% - under 50% but a decent margin for a targeted incumbent.
  • His Democratic opponent quickly fired back with a poll finding him trailing by only 3%, 40% to 37% - certainly very dangerous waters for an incumbent. However, the poll was taken in May so it is not necessarily a good response to the Republican’s internal poll.
  • Another exchange of internal polls in NM-01. A few weeks ago, Democrat Martin Heinrich released a poll that found him to be ahead within the margin of error by 3%. Today, the campaign of Darren White released its own survey, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, showing the Republican leading 47% to 41%.

It will be difficult to know where the Dole-Hagan match-up is heading knowing all the massive spending that will go on in this race starting in September, as the DSCC has reserved $6 million worth of money - an investment the NRSC will be hard pressed to meet. Until then, polls give us a good idea of Dole’s vulnerability: She has been hovering around the double-digit and 50% thresholds for weeks now, not strong enough to be considered safe but not weak for the race to be a sure opportunity.

The Indiana gubernatorial race, meanwhile, could potentially become part of the Senate battle. If Obama picks Evan Bayh as his running-mate, the winner of this gubernatorial election will get to pick Bayh’s replacement. Some independent polls have found a tighter race than this internal poll, but Long Thompson does appear to have fallen behind since the May 6th primary. I moved the race to “lean retention” in my latest gubernatorial ratings.

Tuesday polls: Stunning toss-up in Indiana, as Obama leads in MI and CO’s Udall continues to inch ahead (Updated with new LA Times poll!)

A temporary move over to this blogspot address as Blogger is screwing up (as happens way too often). No need to refresh bookmarks, though this means that internal links are broken for now.

Update: Well, well, well, that Newsweek poll has company! A new LA Times/Bloomberg poll finds a 12% lead for Obama, 49% to 37%. In a four-way race including Bob Barr and Ralph Nader, Obama is ahead 48% to 33%. The key, once again, is the poll’s partisan breakdown: 39% of voters identify themselves as Democrats versus only 22% as Republicans. That is simply too big a difference for McCain to hope to survive.

Original post: After yesterday’s wave of good poll news for Obama that showed the Democrat gaining in swing states like New Hampshire and in traditionally red state like Alaska, today’s shocker comes in the form of a SUSA poll from Indiana — not the first state you think of when you wonder where the next exciting presidential poll will come from:

  • In a state in which George Bush crushed Al Gore and John Kerry, SUSA finds a toss-up race, with Obama edging out McCain 48% to 47%.
  • No surprise as to the reason: There is a 16% swing from the partisan breakdown of 2004. That year, 46% of voters were Republicans and 32% were Democrats. In this poll, 38% of respondents identify themselves as Democrats and 36% as Republicans.

It is increasingly evident how big an obstacle to McCain’s election this shift in partisan breakdown, about which I have written numerous times before, has become. It is what explains Obama’s 15% lead i a recent Newsweek poll, and what also accounts for Obama’s gains in a number of red states like Indiana. Keep in mind that the Illinois Senator has chosen to run his first ad of the general election in this state which should not be dismissed: While it doesn’t cost him that much to run ads in similarly red Montana and Nebraska, Indiana does have an expensive media market (Indianapolis) and the Obama campaign has to be at least somewhat confident that they can tighten the race here and force McCain to play defense.

The day’s second good news for Obama comes from Michigan:

  • PPP finds Obama to be ahead 47% to 38%, with 78% of Democrats supporting him versus 74% of Republicans supporting McCain.

This will not come as a surprise to regular readers of this blog who know that I tend to view Michigan as more dangerous for Obama than Pennsylvania, but this is the biggest lead Obama has ever posted in a Michigan poll. The state is likely to remain competitive to the end, just as it did in the past two elections, but it would be a huge boost to Obama if the state at least comes back to its Democratic leanings. We will have to wait for confirmation from other polls to see whether PPP marks Michigan’s return to its more traditional role of a lean-blue state or whether it overstates Obama’s support.

The third and last presidential poll of the day comes from New Mexico:

  • Obama narrowly leads McCain 49% to 46% in the latest SUSA poll, based on a 54% gender gap and the support of 63% of Hispanics. The two were tied at 44% last month.

Yesterday’s Rasmussen poll of the race found an 8% lead for Obama, in what is one of two Gore states to have switched over to Bush in 2004. Polls here remain tight, though Democrats are hoping that claiming an early edge New Mexico and Iowa will put them within striking distance of the White House (6 evs) before contesting more difficult red states. The fact remains that while Obama is putting states like Indiana and Alaska in play he has not been able to open a consistent and clear lead in states that ought to swing to his side more easily if he has a national advantage. And that’s what keeps this race so suspenseful.

Finally, four down-the-ballot polls:

  • In Colorado’s senatorial race, Democrat Tom Udall has opened a 9% lead (46-37) against Republican Bob Schaffer according to an internal poll released by the DSCC.
  • In Indiana’s gubernatorial race, Gov. Daniels leads Democratic challenger Long Thompson 50% to 45% (in the SUSA poll).
  • In Nebraska’s senatorial race, former Gov. Mike Johanns crushes Scott kleeb 60% to 33% in Rasmussen’s latest poll. He ld 55% to 40% last month. Johanns’s favorability rating stands at 63%, versus 50% for Kleeb.
  • Finally, PPP accompanied its presidential poll with the uninteresting finding that Carl Levin is leading 54% to 32% in his uninteresting match-up against Republican Jack Hoogendyck.

Long Thompson was unexplicably trailing big in the last 2 polls of the race, though this survey is a return to what we have seen most of the year: Mitch Daniels is a vulnerable incumbent though he has somewhat recovered in the past year, making this race unpredictable. As for the Nebraska race, it remains the Democrat’s big disappointment of the year as Bob Kerrey’s running would have made this one of the hottest pick-up opportunities of the year rather than a blowout which Kleeb has little chance of tightening. In fact, the Democrat himself probably views this as a resume-boosting name ID-enhancing run.

As for the Colorado poll, it is an internal survey but this is the second poll after Rasmussen’s that shows Udall extending his lead a bit. Democrats have long been hoping that Udall will repeat the gubernatorial scenario of Gov. Ritter in 2006, when the Democrat unexpectedly opened a huge lead in what was expected to be a close open seat race and he never looked back. The environment is still as bad for the GOP and the state has only trended more blue in the past two years but Udall has been unable to inch ahead of Schaffer. If these latest polls are confirmed, however, it will be a very positive development for Democrats.

Tuesday polls: Why is Washington polled more frequently than OH and FL? (Updated with… 2nd poll from WA!)

A few surveys were released over the past day but it is worth noting that we have still not gotten a comprehensive set of state polls since Barack Obama clinched the nomination. The most recent polls from FL, OH and PA, for instance, all date back to mid-May. Yet, the trickle of surveys from second-tier races continues. We at least got a new poll from Michigan, which is shaping to be one of the most premier battleground states this year:

  • In Michigan, Rasmussen finds Obama with his first lead since early February — though it remains within the margin of error, 45% to 42%. Last month, McCain edged Obama by 1%, a finding confirmed by many other Michigan surveys. Obama also has a slightly lower favorability rating than his rival.
  • In New York, Quinnipiac finds Obama to be leading 50% to 36%. This remains perhaps tighter than Democrats would like to see in the Empire State, but it is a slight progression for Obama and a significant improvement among white voters.
  • In Washington, which has long been one of Obama’s strongest states, SUSA shows him crushing McCain 56% to 39%.
  • He gets 89% of registered Democrats (!) and the margin of his lead is entirely due to the shift of the partisan breakdown (40% Dem-28% GOP versus 36-33 in the 2004 exit polls).
  • Update: Well, it seems I chose the headline of this entry appropriately as we got a second poll from Washington this afternoon. This one (released by Rasmussen) shows Obama leading McCain 53% to 35%, a larger margin than SUSA’s poll (and up from 11% last month), confirming that the state’s 10 electoral votes are more solidly in the blue column than they were in 2000 and 2004.
  • In Georgia, finally, a new Rasmussen poll finds McCain leading by a substantial though certainly not overwhelming margin, 51% to 41%.

Michigan is shaping up as one of the blue states that Obama is the most endangered in and the biggest along with Pennsylvania. Obama’s hope to have a second path to the White House that would accomodate losing Ohio and Florida, a path that wins the Southwest and perhaps Virginia, would only be valid if he can hold on to the 38 electoral votes that come in PA and MI, and up to today it is the latter states that has looked more troubling for the Illinois Senator. Democrats hope that Obama will regain his footing as the conversation turns to the economy and we will be monitoring Michigan numbers very closely.

That Obama has a stronger lead in Washington than he does in New York State confirms the Illinois Senator’s strength in the West. This is often coupled with a relative weakness in states East of the Mississippi (starting with the Appalachia region) but as long as Obama holds on in the Northeast and strongly contests Ohio there is a lot of potential for him in Western states. Georgia, meanwhile, is an interesting state as it is part of the “second-tier” of Southern states (along with SC and MS) that some Democrats believe will get competitive once Obama conducts a massive registration drive and drives up black turnout. The numbers are not there right now for Obama to pull this off, and we will know whether he can make those states competitive as much from registration data as from surveys.

Meanwhile, four down-the-ballot polls find no surprises — though some of these findings are important:

  • In New Jersey, Senator Lautenberg is ahead 48% to 39% against former Rep. Zimmer in a new Quinnipiac poll. Independents favor the challenger by 8%.
  • Washington’s gubernatorial race is still a toss-up, with Christine Gregoire edging Dino Rossi 50% to 47% in SUSA’s latest poll.
  • Update: A second poll of this match-up was released by Rasmussen and finds Gregoire ahead by 7%, 50% to 43%. That’s actually an improvement for the Republican.
  • Indiana’s gubernatorial race also favors the incumbent as a Benenson internal poll taken for the Long Thompson campaign finds the challenger trailing Gov. Daniels 46% to 39%. This is the second poll of the race in three days. The previous one found Daniels ahead by 16%.
  • In Georgia, Saxby Chambliss looks safe as he beats his 3 Democratic challengers by margins ranging from 15% to 23% in a Rasmussen poll.

The New Jersey Senate race looks like it might remain tight for a few months, and winning the Democratic primary has not given Lautenberg a bounce. This is the second poll in a week that finds him up single-digits. In fact, it might have highlighted the problem of his age. But Democrats should feel no panic and Republicans should develop no hope about a New Jersey race until early October. If there is any lesson we learned in 2004 and 2006, it is that New Jersey likes to tease Republicans. Yet, the second poll finding a competitive race is certainly an unexpected and positive development for the NRSC.

There is no better confirmation of the tightness of the Gregoire-Rossi rematch than the fact that, in the same sample, Barack Obama leads by 17% while Christine Gregoire struggles to stay ahead. Polls taken since 2004 have shown that this race will go down to the wire and that Washington Republicans have not forgotten the shady recounts of 2004.

As for Georgia, it looks like Senator Ensign, the chairman of the NRSC, will get his wish and Chambliss will be part of his “firewall” to salvage 41 seats. Of course, Georgia was never really on the Democrats’ target list and the DSCC would love nothing more than or Ensign to cultivate this 15% margin rather than protect more endangered seats.

Non-Senate down-ballot: Who will beat Don Young first?

In my most recent House ratings, I described the disastrous state of the New York Republican Party and its inability to truly contest the three seats Democrats picked up in 2006 and that were supposed to be at the top of the Republican wish-list. I confess that I had not paid enough attention to NY-20, where the GOP believes it has found a strong candidate to take on Rep. Kirsten Gillibrand in a district Bush won by 8% in 2004. They are running former state Secretary of State Sandy Treadwell who has the advantage of being very wealthy and thus having the means to self-fund his candidacy.

Gillibrand is one of the House’s best fund-raisers (perhaps even the freshman Democrat who has raised the most) and thus Treadwell’s wealth will not allow him to swamp her with his spending, but it will come in handy to keep tabs on her own spending and keep the race competitive. In fact, Treadwell is already running ads, months before his party’s primary. This is early for a House challenger to go up on air, and Treadwell is clearly intending to send the message that he ought to be taken seriously and that he will have the resources necessary to compete — whether or not the NRCC has any funds left to come to his rescue.

Also today, we got three House polls about two districts:

  • In AK-AL, Democrat Ethan Berkowitz beats incumbent Don Young 58% to 38%! But Young also trails in his party’s primary against Lieutenant Governor Steve Parnell, 37% to 34%. In a Berkowitz-Parnell match-up, the Republican leads 43% to 38%.
  • In KY-03, a SUSA poll shows that Rep. Yarmuth trounces former GOP Rep. Northup (whom he narrowly defeated in 2006) 57% to 40%!
  • In response, the Northup campaign released an internal poll also taken early June that shows the Democrat leading 51% to 43%.

It looks certain that Young will no longer represent Alaska come January 2009. The only question seems to be who will beat him first? If Republicans keep him as their candidate, Democrats will surely capture the seat. There have been other polls that have shown Young trailing Berkowitz by double-digits. But if Parnell, backed by the Club for Growth, manages to become his party’s nominee, he will have transformed this lean takeover seat into a much better deal for Republicans. It is rare for the Club for Growth to be in a position to help the party by toppling an incumbent (remember PA-Sen in 2004 and RI-Sen in 2006), and it will be interesting to see how they deal with that.

Yet, it does look like Alaska voters have gone sour on the GOP generally, as the latest Senate poll shows Stevens struggling and we have seen a few surveys with Obama surprisingly close to John McCain. Don’t forget that the corruption scandal that is sinking Young and Stevens has also endangered many other Anchorage GOP lawmakers and, while Parnell is not associated to the investigation, there were plenty of examples in 2006 of “cleaner” Republicans being tarnished by the mere association with the corrupt incumbent (see OH-18, for instance).

As for KY-03, there is a reason the Northup campaign did not release its internal poll until SUSA found even worse numbers. Republicans believe that Yarmuth’s victory in 2006 was an accident, despite the fact that this is the only Kentucky district to have voted for John Kerry over George Bush. Northup’s decision to run for her old seat was seen as a major victory for Republicans, as the moderate former representative has the name recognition and profile necessary to take back this district. Yet, the fact that she cannot hold Yarmuth under 50% despite the fact that her own name recognition is probably as good (if not better) than her rivals has to be worrisome for her campaign.

Finally, two gubernatorial polls bring good news for both parties:

  • In Missouri, Rasmussen finds that Democratic Attorney General is increasing his lead over his two Republican opponents, leading Rep. Kenny Hulshof and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman by 20% and 22% respectively.

Both seats are currently held by Republicans, and both are heavily contested. This is in fact the first poll released since Long Thompson won the Democratic primary (by the thinnest of margins) and it contradict the previous surveys that found a toss-up race with the incumbent greatly endangered. We will have to see other surveys to know whether this one can be classified as an outlier or whether the election is swinging towards Daniels.

As for Missouri, it is not surprising to see Nixon ahead. After all, the Democrat is well-known statewide and who has been campaigning for this position since 2004. But the huge margin by which he is now leading in numerous polls testifies to Missouri’s swing towards the Democratic Party and is reminiscent of other unexpectedly easy wins that Democrats enjoyed in open seat races in 2006 (Minnesota’s senatorial race between Klochubar and Kennedy and Colorado’s gubernatorial race). Nixon’s increasingly comfortable lead is a very good sign for Barack Obama’s chances in the Show Me State.



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