Senate: Tight NH race, Burr (and Obama!) uptick in NC
New Hampshire and North Carolina are hosting 2 of the 6 most competitive Senate races of the cycle, and two new polls give us a clearer picture:
- In New Hampshire, Research 2000 finds Republican Attorney General Kelly Ayotte ahead 39% to 38% against Democratic Rep. Paul Hodes. Against former Rep. Charlie Bass, Hodes leads 43% to 38%. Ayotte’s favorability rating (36-13) is higher than Bass’s (31-23) or Hodes’s (34-21).
- In North Carolina, PPP has Richard Burr’s approval rating improve from a net negative to 36-29. Against former state Senator Cal Cunningham, he is ahead 40% to 31%; against attorney Kenneth Lewis, 42% to 31%.
NH: Given that the NRSC was afraid it could fail to recruit any credible candidate, it is remarkable that they found a contender that has led the first two surveys she was included in. (Research 2000’s results are very similar to those of UNH, which found Ayotte leading Hodes 39% to 35%). However - and this is very important - Ayotte has yet to prove that she can appeal beyond the GOP’s shrinking base: In 2008, John McCain and John Sununu failed to extricate themselves out of the low 40s, and I’ll reserve judgment on Ayotte’s strength until she can finally break that barrier.
NC: We have known that the DSCC missed its clearest shot at the seat ever since Roy Cooper announced he would not run. The question now is whether other Democrats can beat Burr, and the bottom line is that the incumbent is well under 50% and that he leads by double-digits when matched-up with a former state legislator with low name recognition - a sign of vulnerability. On the other hand, it will not be easy for Democrats to oust Burr, whose approval rating is positive: Not every second-tier candidate can turn out to be as successful as Kay Hagan.
At least, Democrats don’t have to worry that the state’s 2008 results were just an anomaly: PPP also tested a potential 2012 match-up between Obama and Palin and found the president ahead 49% to 42%. In 2008, only once did Obama lead McCain by as large a margin. Take that as much as a sign of North Carolina’s leftward trend as of Palin’s glaring 2012 weakness.
Primaries: They might be favored by CW, but Hutchison and Gillibrand trail again
Rasmussen released polls of two of the country’s most contested primaries:
- In New York, Rep. Carolyn Maloney leads Senator Kirsten Gillibrand 33% to 27% in the senatorial primary. (The poll also tested the state’s gubernatorial primary, which confirmed Andrew Cuomo’s huge lead over David Paterson, 61% to 27%).
- In Texas, Governor Rick Perry leads Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison 46% to 36% in the gubernatorial primary.
This marks the 4th straight survey that has Maloney ahead, this 6% lead being the largest yet. Given that conventional wisdom generally holds Gillibrand favored, this is an important trend. Particularly welcome news for Maloney is that her lead is not due to name recognition: Voters know Gillibrand better than they know her, suggesting that the Senator will not gain simply by introducing herself (something we also noticed in the recent Marist survey).
The poll also contains good news for Gillibrand: Her favorability rating, which stands at 49-25, is solid and stronger than Maloney’s (42-24) so it’s not that Democrats dislike their newest Senator. Both Maloney and Gillibrand’s ratings pale in comparison to Andrew Cuomo’s, which stands at a massive 78-15. How can Paterson (and his 49-50 rating) beat that?
Hutchison’s allies were quick to dismiss last week’s University of Texas poll showing the Senator trailing Rick Perry in the GOP’s gubernatorial primary, 38% to 26%; yet, Rasmussen now finds a similar margin. Since we once thought Hutchison would easily win this race, her inability to break out of such low levels must be distressing to her campaign - and it leads to an obvious question: It was long certain that she would resign from her Senate seat before Election Day, but will she really do so now that her primary prospects look no better than even?
2009 races: GOP retains advantage
Two new polls of Virginia and New Jersey’s gubernatorial elections show Republicans ahead in both states:
- In Virginia, Bill McDonnell is ahead 44% to 41% in a Rasmussen survey; in the poll taken immediately following Creigh Deeds’s primary victory, the Democrat was ahead 47% to 41%.
- In New Jersey, Jon Corzine trails 45% t0 37% in a Monmouth University poll, with independent Chris Daggett drawing 4%; Monmouth’s previous poll was taken in April, so the trendline isn’t that relevant (Corzine trailed 39% to 35%).
Any poll that has Christie under 50% comes as a relief to Corzine’s campaign, especially after Quinnipiac’s newest delivery; yet, it’s now been months that Corzine has shown no upward momentum. In Virginia, Rasmussen joins other pollsters in finding that Deeds’s post-primary bonce has faded (Rasmussen’s June poll marked Deeds’s first general election lead ever). This is not surprising. What’s truly important is that he remains competitive rather than fall back to the big deficits he was facing until his primary victory - and he appears to be succeeding in that.