Ohio: Strickland is popular, Democrats lead Senate race
The latest Senate polling has been encouraging for Republicans, but the DSCC can take comfort in a new Quinnipiac survey of the Ohio Senate race: Whoever the two parties nominate, Democrats would start with the upper-hand.
- In the Democratic primary, there is no front-runner - and a huge number of undecided: Lieutenant Governor Lee Fisher receives 20%, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner gets 16% and state Rep. Tyrone Yates gets 4%.
- In the Republican primary, former Rep. Rob Portman leads state Auditor Mark Taylor 29% to 8%; strangely, Taylor gets the same level of support as auto dealer Tom Ganley.
- In the general election, Fisher crushes Portman 42% to 31% and Taylor 41% to 39%. Brunner leads Portman 40% to 32% and Taylor 38% to 29%.
The good news for Democrats: Both Brunner and Fisher look to be in a strong position to win the general election, and it does not look (for now) that the DSCC has to worry about one candidate being less electable than the other. Furthermore, these numbers are similar to those Quinnipiac found in February and March, which indicates that the Democrats’ advantage is not an outlier and that Republicans have made no success in changing the political environment.
But there is also some hope for the GOP, as far more Republicans are undecided than Democrats. That is partly explained by a differential in name recognition: Voters are more likely to be familiar with Brunner and Fisher (both of whom hold statewide office) than with Portman, who should shore up his support among Republican voters once he introduces himself.
Finally, a note about the Democratic primary numbers: While much of the establishment has lined up behind Fisher, ll polls have shown Brunner within the margin of error. A competitive race should not worry Democrats, as Ohio’s primary is early enough to leave the winner time to prepare the general election.
Quinnipiac also tests the gubernatorial race, finding strong numbers for Governor Ted Strickland:
- 57% of voters approve of his performance, compared to 29%.
- Against former Rep. Kasich, Strickland triumphs 51% to 32%. (Back in March, Strickland was ahead of Kasich 51% to 31%.) He also leads by double-digits against former Senator Mike DeWine, 48% to 36%.
- In a hypothetical Republican primary, DeWine is narrowly ahead, 35% to 23%.
These are very solid numbers for the Ohio Governor. A recent poll found that voters are not enthusiastic about his handling of the economy, but the financial crisis has not made a dent in his numbers - unlike so many other Governors. Whether he can keep that up all the way to the fall of 2010 remains to be seen, but he can afford to lose a lot of supporters before looking endangered. The only sign of worry in this poll is that he dips below 50% against DeWine, but we are talking about a former Senator - hardly your typical challenger. (Also, DeWine looks somewhat unlikely to run.)
Pennsylvania: Specter controls Democratic primary
Research 2000 offered us a comprehensive look at the Pennsylvania Senate race. Unfortunately, their survey was conducted before Tom Ridge announced he would not run, and the pollster did not have time to replace the former Governor with another moderate Republican.
Let’s start with the Democratic primary, as the numbers are not encouraging for those who are hoping to see the Senator defeated:
- Specter crushes both of his potential Democratic opponents: 56% to 11% against Joe Sestak, 60% to 5% against Joe Torsella.
- 37% of Democrats say they will definitely vote for Specter, while 16% say they will definitely vote for someone else. (23% say they are open to someone else.) Those numbers are not as strong for Specter, but they certainly don’t suggest a wave of discontented Democrats angry at being represented by a center-right Senator.
One big qualifier: Most Democrats have no idea who Torsella or Sestak are. While only 10% have no opinion of Specter (those who do like him 54% to 36%), 56% have no opinion of Sestak and 85% have none of Torsella. On the other hand, the fact that few people know them does not explain away the fact that the Senator is well above 50%. For now, a majority Democrats are comfortable at the idea of voting for Specger
Between 24% and 28% of Democrats said they would be less likely to vote for Specter if he voted against against Obama’s budget, against EFCA or against health care reform, but between 45% and 47% say it would have “no effect” on their vote (6% to 7% say it would make them more likely). Is Specter so entrenched that nothing he does will anger his constituents?
Obviously, a lot could change in the next year and it is worth remembering that primaries tend to be far much volatile than general elections as voters generally don’t think ill of incumbents of their own party. (Kos reminds us that Lieberman led Lamont 65% to 19% in a Quinnipiac poll of the primary just four months before the election.) Furthermore, Specter just switched over to the Democratic Party, so he was enjoying a wave of good will among his new party’s base when the poll was taken.
The rest of the poll also offers valuable information:
- In a Republican primary match-up, Toomey leads Ridge 41% to 33%.
- In the general election, Pat Toomey trails all match-ups: 55% to 31% against Arlen Specter (independents back the incumbent 61% to 23%), 37% to 32% against Sestak (34% of Democrats are undecided, compared to 24% of Republicans) and 35% to 33% against Joe Torsella (37% of Democrats are undecided, compared to 23% of Republicans).
- Ridge is far stronger: He is behind Specter 45% to 44% (they are tied among independents), but he crushes Sestak 50% to 36% and Joe Torsella 52% to 32%.
Toomey enjoys strong name recognition: only 23% of respondents have no opinion of him. That is very important to keep in mind when looking at his general election numbers: 86% of respondents have no idea who Joe Torsella is, while 77% know of Pat Toomey. Yet, Torsella is ahead and handily wins the vote of independents. What better illustration of the fact that Toomey would face very tough odds in the general election?
Unfortunately for the NRSC, these numbers also suggest that Toomey would be very hard to beat in a primary: 66% of Republicans have a favorable opinion of him, versus 13% who have an unfavorable one! If Ridge is trailing Toomey, what chance does someone like Gerlach have? (Note that another poll released on Monday had Ridge crushing Toomey by 40%.)
But the poll’s most striking finding is how formidable a candidate Ridge would have been in the general election: Boosted by a strong favorabilty rating, he would have ensured that the race is a toss-up against whomever Democrats nominate. His decision not to run was arguably the biggest recruitment blow the NRSC has received so far this year.