One of the most interesting things to watch in the last few months of Campaign 2010 is whether Democrats can pick up any currently Republican held Senate seats. Two of their best opportunities to do that are in Missouri and North Carolina and those races have a common thread- the Republican candidate leads but may also run into trouble down the stretch answering for an unpopular vote on the bailout.
Our Missouri poll for Daily Kos released today found Roy Blunt leading Robin Carnahan by 7 points. But it also found that 61% of voters in the state were less likely to support a candidate who had voted for the bailout to only 26% who said that would have a positive impact on their vote.
It was a similar story on our most recent North Carolina poll. Richard Burr led Elaine Marshall by a couple points but at the same time 58% of voters said they were less likely to vote for someone who had supported the bailout to only 25% who said more likely.
The big question now is whether Democrats can take advantage of these unpopular votes. There are three main places I can see it helping:
-The Undecideds. In the Missouri race 74% of undecideds said a candidate supporting the bailout would have a negative impact on their vote to only 6% positive. It's a similar story in North Carolina where 57% of the undecideds say less likely to only 20% more likely. If Blunt and Burr can be turned into the bailout candidates in those races it may help bring the folks who haven't made up their minds yet into the Democratic column.
-Make Republicans Depressed. The most interesting thing about the bailout numbers in Missouri and North Carolina is the voters who react most negatively to it are the ones supporting Blunt and Burr who supported it in Congress. Among Blunt voters 88% are less likely to vote for someone who voted for the bailout to 5% more likely and among Burr voters it's 85% less likely and 7% more likely. I don't know how many of those voters can be converted into the Democratic column but relentless attack on the issue could leave GOP voters unhappy with their candidates and staying home, which might help with the Democrats' enthusiasm gap issues.
-Flip Independents. One of Robin Carnahan and Elaine Marshall's common problems is a deficit with independents. Carnahan trails Blunt by 5 with them while Marshall is down 19. But those same voters react extremely negatively to the bailout- 19/66 in North Carolina and 25/61 in Missouri. If Carnahan and Marshall can convince independent voters, who are madder at the system than anyone, that they are the alternatives to business as usual in Washington it could go a long way.
Missouri and North Carolina are going to be very tough races for Democrats. But they do have a good issue to work with.