Friday, February 26, 2010

Responding to Lewis

The Kenneth Lewis campaign for Senate sent out a press release today accusing of us writing biased commentary against his campaign because we did a poll for Elaine Marshall more than three months ago and because my boss made a contribution to Cal Cunningham. This is about the millionth time we've been accused of bias for something or other in our history, it's just as baseless as all the other accusations, and I think our track record backs that up.

They specifically cited this post I wrote yesterday where I said I thought Cunningham and Marshall would break away from the Democratic primary field.

I do think that and I'm happy to say why. So far Marshall has raised $304,864 and spent 31% of it, leaving $211,113 on hand. Cunningham has raised $320,058 and spent only 5% of it, leaving $303,175 on hand. The Lewis campaign has actually raised the most at $327,047 but has already spent 66% of it, leaving only $116,456 on hand.

Spending two thirds of your money, without any of it having gone toward media or anything that would boost your name recognition on a broad basis, is the sign of an undisciplined campaign. It's the sign of a campaign that's spending way too much money on consultants and staff. If you've spent 2/3rds of your money by the end of January and are only polling at 5%, seven points behind a candidate who started out with similarly nonexistent name recognition and has spent no money, that's a very bad sign for your campaign.

Maybe all the money Lewis has blown through will have some positive impact that remains to be seen. Maybe he'll be able to recoup all the money he's already spent and remain financially competitive with the other candidates. But what I see is someone who's spent most of his money and is 24 points behind, and that's why I think he's unlikely to win, not because I'm biased.

Lewis makes the fourth statewide candidate in the last two cycles in North Carolina to blast us and accuse us of bias, joining Richard Moore, Bob Orr, and Elizabeth Dole. Moore, Orr, and Dole all lost badly. Blasting pollsters is the sign of a campaign in bad shape. Maybe Lewis will end up being a major factor in this race, and if he is we'll be writing about it. But for now I'm just calling it the way I see it with my goal being what it always is- to deliver accurate analysis of North Carolina politics.

Final NC Filing Wrap

Both Democrats and Republicans in the state can genuinely spin that they're happy with how candidate filing went. Democrats, particularly on the House side, can boast that they minimized retirements, recruited good candidates where there were retirements, and will be able to play offense even in this tough political climate with credible challengers for a number of Republican seats. Republican can take credit for significantly reducing the number of seats where Democrats are running unopposed and getting candidates who came close to winning in the strong Democratic year of 2008 to give it another shot in a better environment for the party.

Here's a full rundown-

On the House side:

-The good news for House Democrats is that they only had two incumbents in really tough districts retire- Ray Warren and Bob England. Given the political climate that's a small number of defections and much better than the party is seeing at the national level. House Democrats also did a good job on recruitment- Walter Church Jr. is running to reclaim the seat his dad lost to Hugh Blackwell, Ann Newman is running for the open seat created by Jim Gulley's retirement, and the party also drew serious challengers to Sarah Stevens, Nelson Dollar, David Lewis, Paul Stam, and Tim Moore who represent the top tier of vulnerable Republicans.

-The good news for House Republicans is that they got candidates in numerous districts where they didn't field anyone in 2008, including some that are not overwhelmingly Democratic. They have candidates running this time against Bill Owens, for Russell Tucker's open seat, against Arthur Williams, William Brisson, Douglas Yongue, Nelson Cole, and Ray Rapp. Those folks all went unopposed last time and they all represent districts that have shown a willingness to vote Republican at least at the Presidential level. Whether the GOP can covert those federal level Republican votes to state level Republican votes remains to be seen.

Republicans also set up rematches in 4 of the 6 closest races they lost in 2008. Norman Sanderson will again take on Alice Graham Underhill, Stephen LaRoque's back for another try against Van Braxton, Rayne Brown will take another shot at Hugh Holliman, and Tim Moffitt will again face Jane Whilden.

-For Senate Democrats the good news is that while they did see a number of retirements in competitive districts, they also got highly credible candidates to run as replacements. The toughest Democratic hold is likely to be David Hoyle's seat, where Gaston County School Board chair Annette Carter is running. The next tier is the seats of Julia Boseman and RC Soles- former UNCW Chancellor Jim Leutze and former House leader David Redwine are running in those districts. And in the third tier of districts where Democratic retirements could give Republicans a chance- the seats of Tony Rand and Charlie Albertson- former House member Margaret Dickson and District Attorney Dewey Hudson are running. Those last two would likely only go Republican if this year's election was a wave of much greater than 1994 proportions.

-On the Senate Republican side, they have the same candidate running this time in the five districts where they came closest to winning but came up short in 2008. Louis Pate and Rick Gunn have clear primary fields as they try to upend Don Davis and Tony Foriest respectively. Bettie Fennell will try against at RC Soles' seat but faces Bill Rabon in the primary, Michael Lee is giving Julia Boseman's seat another try but will first have to get by Thom Goolsby, and Kathy Harrington has another chance at David Hoyle's seat if she can escape from a crowded primary with four candidates. All of these districts have pretty significant black populations and turnout patterns could be better for GOP prospects without Barack Obama on the ballot.

In the other three best Republican pickup opportunities- the seats of Steve Goss, Joe Sam Queen, and John Snow- there are 2, 3, and 2 candidates respectively seeking the GOP nomination.

It is going to be an unusually spirited election for a midterm in North Carolina this year.

Good numbers for Romney

Mitt Romney is the early preference, by a small margin, among Republican voters in both Texas and New Mexico to be their 2012 nominee for President.

In Texas he gets 32% with Mike Huckabee right behind at 29%, and Sarah Palin further back at 23%. In New Mexico he receives 33% to 32% for Palin and 18% for Huckabee.

The internals of these polls suggests a path to the nomination for Romney: stay competitive among conservative voters while holding a large lead with moderates. In Texas the three are bunched up among conservatives with Huckabee leading at 32% to 30% for Romney and 27% for Palin. But Romney's blowing the other two out of the water with moderates, getting 40% to 22% for Huckabee and 13% for Palin.

It's a similar story in New Mexico. Palin leads Romney 34-31 with conservatives, but Romney has the overall advantage thanks to a 37-29 advantage with moderates.

In each state Romney is particularly strong with senior citizens, who tend to comprise a large portion of the Republican primary electorate. He has an 11 point lead over Huckabee with them in Texas and 13 point lead over Palin with them in New Mexico.

One of the more interesting things about Palin's numbers is that she performs worse with women than men in both states. In New Mexico she gets 33% from men and 31% from women, while in Texas she gets 26% from men and 21% from women. It doesn't appear she'd be able to count on a boost from Republican women in a hypothetical White House bid.

Obviously it's incredibly early and things will change a lot between now and 2012, but it's a good sign for Romney to have even this small early advantage in a couple of states that are a long way from home.

Full results here

Elon Numbers on Burr

Richard Burr's campaign would like to have you believe that his bad poll numbers are just a construct of liberal biased PPP. They even went and got a story written about it in Politico last summer.

I guess they're going to have to bash the highly nonpartisan Elon Poll now too. It finds today that only 24% of North Carolinians think that Burr deserves reelection, while 51% think it's time to give someone else a chance. Those are pretty devastating numbers.

I still think it's possible that this is going to be not exclusively an anti-Democratic year so much as an anti-incumbent year. That will still make for a tough cycle for Democrats since they account for most of the incumbents, but it also means you could see someone like Burr lose for reelection even as his party gains overall.

Obama's decline in the battleground states

In our national polling Barack Obama is running six points behind his 2008 performance right now. He beat John McCain by seven points and his approval rating is a net +1.

Our state by state polling though is finding that in states with a competitive 2010 race- defined as one where we've polled a Senate or Gubernatorial race in single digits since November- there's been a much larger decline in Obama's popularity. Across those eight states his approval has dropped by an average of 12 points.

The biggest decline in Obama's approval has been in Nevada where he won by 12 points in 2008 but where we now find him at a -8 spread. Harry Reid's troubles may have as much to do with Obama as they do with him. The other two states where Obama's seen the biggest decline have significant Hispanic populations as well- New Mexico where he's dropped by 18 points and Texas where he's dropped by 17 points.

If Obama's popularity has fallen at a faster rate in the 2010 battleground states it's obviously going to be harder for Democrats to win in them this fall.

Here's the full data:


Obama 08 Margin

Obama Approval






New Mexico
























South Carolina




Thursday, February 25, 2010

New Mexico/Texas GOP Preview

Tomorrow we're going to have 2012 Republican primary numbers for Texas and New Mexico.

Here are some clues:

-The same candidate leads (by a small margin) in both states.

-In each state there is someone who comes in a close second and someone who comes in a more distant third. But it's a different candidate in each state.

Have fun guessing and we'll have the numbers tomorrow!

NC Filing Roundup

Quick update on North Carolina filing:

-I know what legislative primary I'll be most interested in on election night- former House Speaker Richard Morgan is challenging incumbent Harris Blake for the State Senate. I have a hard time seeing Morgan winning that one but it should be interesting to watch.

-It's been a very good couple of days for House Democratic recruitment. They got candidates in three of the races where the GOP candidate won by the smallest margin in 2008. Robin Anderson will challenge Nelson Dollar, Debra McHenry is taking on Paul Stam, and John Eaker will face Pearl Burris-Floyd. They also got a candidate- Mary Accor- who will challenge Tim Moore in the most Democratic leaning district currently held by a Republican. Moore was unopposed two years ago.

-The US Senate primaries on both sides have gotten more crowded, with Ann Worthy getting in on the Democratic side and Larry Linney for the Republicans.

-Heath Shuler has drawn a primary challenger in Aixa Wilson. That now makes 7 of 13 North Carolina House members facing an election in May.

Tomorrow's the last day!

GOP trouble on I-85

In 2004 Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina all replaced retiring Democratic Senators with Republicans. Now those three states look like they might provide the best opportunities for Democratic offense in 2010.

Richard Burr's approval issues have been well documented for months because North Carolina is a heavily polled state- his approval is in the mid 30s and if the 2008 Senate race is any guide he could be in trouble once the Democrats get a nominee and that person builds up their name recognition.

South Carolina is one of the least polled states in the country so Jim DeMint's standing hasn't received much attention, but his numbers aren't a whole lot better than Burr's. When we did a statewide poll in December his approval was at 44/29. A Winthrop poll today finds him at a similar 43/28. Those are pretty tepid numbers and the high level of 'no opinions' about DeMint in his home state suggests that perhaps he has been too focused on being a national figure and not enough about being visible in South Carolina.

We actually found in December that 41% of voters in the state thought DeMint was most focused on being a national leader in the conservative movement while only 29% believed his top priority was advocating for the state.

Georgia gets polled more than South Carolina but the surveys there have been heavily focused on the Governor's race and the in state pollster that had shown solid numbers for Johnny Isakson was Strategic Vision sooooo I wouldn't exactly take those to the bank. I've thought Isakson might be more vulnerable than the conventional wisdom going all the way back to November of 2008 when we found his approval at just a 30/25 spread with 44% of voters holding no opinion.

Rasmussen had a new poll out yesterday showing Isakson under 50% on the generic ballot. Given that 57% of Georgians disapprove of Barack Obama it seems like Isakson should be in a much better position.

Of course Democrats are missing one key ingredient if they're going to make a race of it in Georgia and South Carolina- candidates. But there's still time, and as Jim Martin showed in Georgia two years ago you can enter the race late and make it pretty competitive.

Certainly if the political climate in November is the same as it is now Democrats would have little chance in either of these states but it's possible that things will be different by the fall. I'll be interested to see how (or if) these races develop and we'll have Georgia numbers next week to give a clearer idea of just how endangered Isakson is.

On the Civitas Poll

Civitas has new numbers out on the North Carolina Senate primary that find 77% of voters are undecided, quite a contrast from the 51% we found undecided when we polled the state a month ago.

There's a pretty simple explanation though- they're polling general election voters on the primary. In my opinion that's a pointless exercise. In 2002, the last time a Democratic Senate contest was the main draw, primary turnout was equal to 45% of general election turnout. In 1998, primary turnout was equal to 40% of general election turnout. That means more than half of the people Civitas is polling on the primary are unlikely to vote in it. That drives down the current level of support for all three candidates while also driving up the undecideds.

Let's assume that the 55% of people Civitas is polling who aren't going to vote in the primary are all undecided. If you take Elaine Marshall's 14%, Kenneth Lewis' 5%, and Cal Cunningham's 4% and divided them by 45%, you get Marshall at 31%, Lewis at 11%, and Cunningham at 9%. Those numbers are almost identical to what we found a week ago.

I think Civitas' polling is generally methodologically sound (question wording is a different issue,) but if they want to release numbers on the primary I think they should poll primary voters. Elaine Marshall has a lead in the high teens right now, and Cal Cunningham has more support than the Civitas poll is showing as well.

The Crowded Republican Fields

The GOP has an incredible number of candidates for Congress this year in North Carolina. In 2008 a total of 19 Republican candidates ran for the House. There are already 43 this year with another day of filing left to go.

Many of these folks have signed up to run because they're angry about wasteful government spending but in an ironic twist of fate the crowded candidate fields in several districts could necessitate expensive, but low turnout runoff elections all over the state in June.

Unless the Democratic Senate primary ends up in a runoff- and I don't think it will because I believe Elaine Marshall and Cal Cunningham will end up leaving the rest of the field in the dust, allowing one of them to get to 40%- there won't be a statewide election on June 22nd. But there will be in a number of counties, and that will likely be driven by how many of these Republican Congressional races fail to see a candidate get 40% in May.

There are already six Republican primaries with 4 candidates or more. There are 6 running in the 11th (Heath Shuler), 5 in the 8th (Larry Kissell), and 4 in the 1st (G.K. Butterfield), 4th (David Price), 6th (Howard Coble), and 13th (Brad Miller.) Those are the races most likely to end up in runoffs, but it's also possible in the districts where there are three Republican candidates so far which are the 2nd (Bob Etheridge), 7th (Mike McIntyre), and 10th (Patrick McHenry).

If I was a Republican trying to break out from the pack and get some attention in one of these races I would challenge all the other candidates not to request a runoff whatever the results of the May primary are. It would show a personal commitment to fiscal conservatism by avoiding the public cost of holding a low turnout runoff election.

The New Mexico House Races

Harry Teague is New Mexico's most popular Congressman but he is nevertheless also the one most likely to lose this year.

Teague's approval rating is a positive 41/36 spread, followed by Martin Heinrich at 40/38, and Ben Ray Lujan at a negative 31/40.

The conservative nature of Teague's district makes it a difficult fight for reelection, particularly against a strong candidate in his predecessor Steve Pearce. Pearce leads Teague 43-41 at this point. Pearce wins over more Democrats (18%) than Teague does Republicans (14%) and also has a 51-41 advantage with independents.

One of the numbers that best speaks to Teague's popularity is that his approval among independents is divided 41/41 while Barack Obama's is simultaneously a negative 33/57 spread. That's an indication voters are separating out their feelings about Teague from Obama to some extent, a good sign for him in this district. But it's still going to be a tough road to reelection.

Heinrich is in pretty solid shape, leading Jon Barela 45-36. He actually trails 44-31 with independents, but picks up basically the same share of the Democratic vote (73%) that Barela does of the Republican vote (74%). In a district with a heavy Democratic lean that's enough for the early lead.

It's too early to completely write Barela off though, as he has only 28% name recognition at this point. It's conceivable that his standing could improve as he becomes better known, especially if this is a district national Republicans decide they want to invest in.

Despite his negative approval numbers Lujan leads both of his Republican opponents by decent margins. It's 42-36 over Tom Mullins and 40-32 over Adam Kokesh. Lujan's approval is in negative territory because Republicans are much more united against him (71%) than Democrats are in their support for him (47%). Independents also disapprove of him by a 22/42 margin, similar to Obama's 35/54 disapproval in the district.

This is an overwhelmingly Democratic district and in most circumstances Lujan would have nothing to worry about in spite of his personal unpopularity. But the district did go Republican for a short time in the late 90s under strange circumstances- and given what happened in Massachusetts last month this election year may qualify as 'strange circumstances' as well. Lujan can't take anything for granted.

Kokesh has drawn a lot of attention from the Tea Party folks, but Mullins appears the more likely Republican nominee for now. 17% of GOP voters have a favorable opinion of him to 4% for Kokesh. With the vast majority of voters having no opinion about either of them that's certainly subject to change between now and the primary.

Between the Governor's race and the potential for some close House races, it looks to be another interesting year in New Mexico politics.

Full results here

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Freshmen Dems

One of the things about our New Mexico poll that I found most interesting was Tom Udall's solid 48/36 approval spread. That puts him with Mark Warner (53/31 in our last poll) and Jeanne Shaheen (48/39 favorability in the last UNH poll) as the freshmen Democratic Senators with the best numbers. What do the three have in common? They all had statewide elected experience before winning their Senate seats.

For most of the Senators who didn't- Kay Hagan, Jeff Merkley, Mark Begich, and Mark Udall- the numbers are a lot less pretty. Last month we found Begich at a 35/51 approval spread and Hagan at 29/42. Our most recent poll on Udall's approval, late last summer, found him at 39/38. Survey USA had Merkley at 37/49 this month.

Not really falling into either category is Al Franken- he has unusually high positives and unusually high negatives for a freshman Senator at 50/47 in Rasmussen's last Minnesota poll. That probably reflects his celebrity status.

The new Senators who voters have known for a long time seem to be weathering this political climate but the relatively unknown ones who rode the wave in are being defined right now more by the unpopularity of their party than anything else. Of course the good news for them is that they have a long time to fix it.

Looking at the swing voters

Our national poll last week found that 37% of voters were definitely planning to go Republican this year and 34% were definitely planning to support Democrats- that leaves 29% of the electorate up for grabs- who are those swing voters?

The voters who will determine the balance of control for the next Congress are a pretty Democratic leaning group- 62% voted for Barack Obama last year while 36% voted for John McCain. They only approve of Obama by a 52/37 margin though. The fact that his disapproval and the support McCain received from them is basically the same indicates that Obama hasn't really lost any of these voters yet. But the drop from 62% who voted for him to 52% who now approve of him does suggest a lot of them haven't really decided whether they think he's a good President or not.

They're pretty divided on their feelings about health care with 45% opposed to Obama's plan and 41% in support. That suggests the issue is pretty much a wash with these voters- some are more likely to vote Democratic if the party makes progress on it but others will be turned off. There's little such division when it comes to repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell though- 64% of the swing voters supporting letting gays serve openly in the military with only 31% opposed.

Although this has little immediate relevance the divide between how these voters see Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee vs. Sarah Palin is pretty remarkable. Romney has a positive 39/24 favorability spread and Huckabee's is 32/22. But Palin's is 27/57! Republican candidates are going to be a lot better off coming across as Romney like than Palinesque this fall.

The overall takeaway from this look at swing voters? They are a Democratic leaning lot but the party needs to accomplish something in Congress between now and November if they're going to seal the deal. Otherwise they're open to voting Republican, but not if the GOP's candidates are too extreme.

NC Filing Update

Here are some of the news pieces from the last three days of filing:

-Incumbents G.K. Butterfield, Walter Jones, and Virginia Foxx each drew primary challenges in the forms of Chad Larkins, Robert Cavanaugh, and Keith Gardner. Howard Coble now has 3 with the entrances of Billy Yow and Cathy Brewer Hinson and Patrick McHenry has 2 now that Scott Keadle has filed. Larry Kissell has one as well, making it 6 out of 13 incumbents facing an election in May for renomination. I don't think any of them are at serious risk of losing but it's interesting there are so many.

-There's been little in the way of developments on the Senate side. The biggest news is probably Marc Basnight drawing a challenger in Hood Richardson, but Richardson ran in 2006 and didn't even win the primary. I'm sure there's no seat the GOP would rather win than this one, and I'm pretty equally sure they have no chance so it would be nice if they dropped a lot of money here and diverted it from districts where it might make a bigger impact.

-On the House side the biggest news has been the retirement of Russell Tucker, whose seat should be competitive in an open seat situation. His timing was good for Democrats though, as Republicans didn't have a candidate yet and may have trouble rounding a good one up on such short notice. Tucker's retirement is also a reminder that House Democrats have done a pretty good job of warding off departures in competitive districts- the only one before him was Ray Warren.

Republicans did continue their trend of improving on their 2008 candidate recruitment. Sam Edwards will challenge Ray Rapp, who was unopposed last time in his marginally Democratic district. As I've said repeatedly I don't know how good any of these Republican challengers are, and most of the Democrats they're challenging have a very good electoral track record, but having a body is an important first step to an upset.

Cullie Tarleton, who won narrowly in both 2006 and 2008, finally got a challenger in Jonathan Jordan. That will probably continue to be one of the GOP's top pick up opportunities. Finally, another five incumbents have drawn primary challengers- Earl Jones, Nick Mackey, and Elmer Floyd on the Democratic side and Frank Iler and Pat McElraft for the Republicans.

Two more days!

Denish favored in Gov. race

In some sense New Mexico is seeing the same sort of bad turn for the Democrats that's occurring in other Mountain West states like Colorado and Nevada. Barack Obama's approval rating is in negative territory at 45/48, even though he won the state by a large margin in 2008. And Bill Richardson has become one of the least popular Governors in the country at a 28/63 spread.

Where New Mexico departs from its regional counterparts is that it still looks favored to vote Democratic in its most significant statewide race this year. Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish leads her top Republican opponent, Pete Domenici Jr., by a 45-40 margin and has leads of 14-18 points over the rest of the GOP field.

Denish is by far the best known of the candidates running, with 41% of voters in the state holding a positive opinion of her to just 34% who see her negatively. Domenici is the only one of the Republicans who more than half of the state has an opinion about, although it's possible people could just be conflating him with his father. Only 29-37% of the electorate has an opinion about any of the other GOP contenders.

Independents are turning toward the GOP in New Mexico, reflecting the trends we are seeing on the national level. Denish trails with them in 4 of 5 potential contests, including a 15 point deficit against Domenici. There are still a lot more Democrats than Republicans in the state though and Denish's solid popularity with her own party's voters makes her the early front runner.

Full results here

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Richardson's Fall

We're going to have our New Mexico poll results out starting tomorrow- perhaps the most interesting thing we found is that Bill Richardson has become one of the least popular Governors in the country, with 63% of voters in the state disapproving of him to only 28% approving. He's even in negative territory among Democrats at a 42/47 spread. How much is all of that affecting Democratic prospects for keeping the Governor's office? We'll tell you tomorrow.

Richardson's loss of popularity continues a trend of the 2008 Democratic also rans either going into the administration or having their political careers go downhill. Joe Biden is Vice President, Hillary Clinton is Secretary of State, and Tom Vilsack is Secretary of Agriculture. They're all doing fine. But Chris Dodd and Evan Bayh both had to retire once their prospects for reelection dimmed, these kinds of numbers suggest Richardson's days as an elected official in New Mexico are over for good (not that there's a clear opening any time in the future anyway with the state having 2 Democratic Senators), and John Edwards, well no explanation needed. Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel have largely returned to the obscurity they came from.

It's possible with the exception of Kucinich that none of the Democrats who ran unsuccessfully for the nomination in 2008 will win an election ever again.

Paul at home

This is no great surprise but the Texas poll we put out today confirmed that Ron Paul's standing within the Republican Party has a lot more to do with the volume of his support than its breadth.

Only 38% of primary voters in his home state have a favorable opinion of Paul while 30% view him unfavorably. 32% said they had no opinion of Paul.

The poll also found that only 8% of Texas Republicans think of themselves as libertarians.

With those kinds of numbers at home it's further indication that Ron Paul's victory in the straw poll at CPAC was confirmation that...he knows how to get his people to vote in meaningless polls. And not much more than that...

Burr's Sloppy Start

I was kind of amazed to see Richard Burr declare upon filing that he had nothing to worry about in the primary because it is 'impossible for any candidate to get to the right of me.'

Although this is not the angle either of his primary opponents is working, his vulnerability within the Republican Party is actually on the moderate wing. While only 13% of conservative Republicans disapprove of him 28% of moderate ones do.

Those conservative Republicans who don't like him still support Burr by a 49-3 margin over a generic Democratic opponent. But the moderate ones who don't like him say they'll go Democratic by a 47-30 margin...and they probably won't be won over by his declarations that he's as far right as possible.

Burr's in a solid position right now because he trails by only 14 points among moderates, where Elizabeth Dole lost by 31 with them a year ago. This kind of rhetoric isn't particularly smart if he wants to do well with the 56% of North Carolina voters who aren't conservatives.

It may be that in this political climate Burr can do whatever he wants and still get reelected. But failing to show up for a vote on the jobs bill the day he filed and making grand declarations about how far to the right he leans aren't terribly savvy things to do to kick off your campaign, especially when your approval is in the mid-30s to begin with.

Easley Poll Illustration

Easley numbers plummet

It's no secret that North Carolina doesn't like any of its politicians right now- neither the Governor nor either Senator can muster an approval rating greater than 35%. But they're doing a whole lot better than some of the state's former elected officials. A month after we found only 15% of voters in the state with a positive opinion of John Edwards we now find that Mike Easley's not doing much better, with just 16% of voters holding a favorable view of him.

Easley's numbers aren't quite as bad as Edwards- just 59% of North Carolinians have an unfavorable opinion of him compared to 72% for the former Senator and Presidential candidate. There are a lot more voters who are ambivalent toward Easley.

Nevertheless it's quite a drop for Easley, who was easily the state's most popular politician during most of his time as Governor. When PPP last looked at his approval in November of 2007 he was at a 51/32 approval rating, markedly better than any of the state's current officials can claim.

Easley's numbers are at their worst level in the Triangle, despite its being the most Democratic area of the state. He has a 12/71 spread, which may be a product of the controversies surrounding him since he left office getting more attention there than in other parts of the state. It should be noted though that there isn't a particularly great partisan divide in attitudes toward Easley to begin with- only 22% of Democrats view him positively along with 16% of independents and 9% of Republicans.

It seems safe to say North Carolina won't be seeing any of the political comebacks some former officials are making in other states any time soon.

Full results here

Perry still favored

Debra Medina is fading in the Texas Republican race for Governor, and it continues to look like the contest is headed for a runoff where Rick Perry will be a strong favorite over Kay Bailey Hutchison.

Perry leads with 40% to 31% for Hutchison and 20% for Medina. Compared to PPP's look at the race two weeks ago Perry has gained a point, Hutchison has gone up three, and Medina's standing has declined by four.

Unless Perry wins the remaining undecideds by an overwhelming margin and/or peels off more of Medina's support it looks like he won't get to the 50% needed for an outright victory next week. But he leads Hutchison 52-35 in a potential runoff thanks in large part to Medina's supporters, who say Perry is their second choice by a 52-24 margin.

It's been a rough couple of weeks for Medina's standing. Her favorability spread in the previous poll was 40/9 for a +31 net positive. Now she's at 36/30 for a net positive of just +6. A 25 point drop on your numbers in the span of just two weeks is pretty unusual.

Fair or not the issue of whether Medina is a 'truther'- someone who thinks the federal government was involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks- seems to be hurting her. 21% of primary voters think she subscribes to that theory while another 29% are unsure. Among that half of the electorate Medina is getting just 7% with 51% going to Perry and 30% to Hutchison. Medina actually leads with the half that does not think she is a truther, with 33% to 32% for Hutchison and 29% for Perry.

Although it now appears Hutchison will safely avoid the embarrassment of a third place finish her weak standing with conservative voters continues to make it unlikely that she will fare well in a primary electorate dominated by them. She actually has a negative approval rating- 43/45 with them- and trails Perry 45-24. She has a dominant 51-26 lead with moderates, but they account for just a quarter of likely voters.

Hutchison's struggles are not necessarily a product of voters disliking her so much as their wishing she would just stay in the Senate. 37% say that's the office they would like her serving in compared to 31% who wish she was out of elected office and 24% who would like her as Governor.

As for Perry his 50/41 approval spread within the GOP primary electorate is pretty mediocre but barring some major change of events he should win nomination for another term. That will set up what will likely be his closest race for Governor yet against Houston Mayor Bill White, who's cruising to the Democratic nomination with a 59-12 lead over his main challenger.

Full results here

Monday, February 22, 2010

Texas Poll Preview

Two interesting things from tomorrow's Texas poll:

-Debra Medina actually leads the race with people who think she's not a truther- with 33% to 32% for Kay Bailey Hutchison and 29% for Rick Perry. But with voters who think she is a truther, or that she might be, she gets only 7% to 51% for Perry and 30% for Hutchison. What portion of the electorate do each of those groups comprise? We'll tell you tomorrow.

-In yet another sign that there may really be no difference between the 'Tea Party' and the Republican Party, 74% of GOP primary voters there say they 'support the goals of the Tea Party movement.' It's basically the whole party sans the moderates...if centrist Republicans split off and did their own thing that might really shake up American politics. More and more though it looks like the 'Tea Party' movement is nothing more than a group of GOP voters who gave themselves a special name.

GOP mandate?

North Carolina voters are continuing to lean slightly toward the GOP for this year's elections, with the party leading 44-41 on the generic ballot for both Congress and the legislature this month.

Republican gains in North Carolina are likely this year but the party shouldn't take it as too much of a mandate. The same poll found that only 32% of North Carolinians have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party with 48% viewing it negatively. That makes the GOP roughly as popular as Bev Perdue with the state's voters.

The Democratic Party is actually slightly more popular, with 38% of voters viewing it favorably to 51% with a negative view. The Republicans are winning right now though because people who don't like either party say they'll vote for the GOP by a margin of 24-26 points. That's indicative of a 'throw out the bums' mentality- when you don't like either party you'll vote for the one out of power.

The dim view North Carolinians have of both parties means this fall's elections will be more about repudiation than mandates- the results may reflect which party voters dislike the most to a greater extent than the one they like the most.


Thanks for the nominations on where we should poll this week, here are the finalists:

-Colorado. Same rationale as last week- I have no reason to doubt the numbers Rasmussen has had from Colorado but it's better to have multiple pollsters looking at a state, particularly one with competitive races for both Governor and the Senate.

-Georgia. I'm not convinced this is going to be an anti-incumbent year- I think it's mostly going to be an anti-Democratic year. But if it is this is one of the Senate races where Democrats could have a better opportunity...if they got a serious candidate. (We'd look at Governor too.)

-Maryland. Maryland probably gets less polling per capita than any other state in the country...there may or may not be anything to see here but with races for Governor and the Senate this year it's worth a look.

-MO-4 (Ike Skelton.) Skelton's been around forever but his district certainly tilts Republican...and it would be interesting to see how Roy Blunt's doing relative to John McCain's performance in the district.

-NJ-3 (John Adler.) We haven't looked at Democratic levels of vulnerability in any northern districts yet and a couple of you suggested this one so why not...

-OK-2 (Dan Boren.) Boren, despite the strongly conservative nature of his district, isn't even on the Cook Political Report's list of 113 competitive House seats for this year...should he be?

-OR-5 (Kurt Schrader.) This district, maybe more than any other we've polled yet, is one where I feel like if the GOP wins they're taking back the House.

-Washington. Rasmussen and Survey USA both had some bad numbers for Patty Murray here last week...could Washington be the GOP's 51st seat for next year?

We'll definitely poll whatever finishes first, we may do a second as well, but we won't do two House districts- if a House district finished first and we were going to do two we'd do the highest ranked state.

Vote away!

Voters tuned out

The 'pre-campaign' for the 2012 Republican Presidential nominee has had such a small impact on average voters that fewer people have an opinion about Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney than did last April.

When we started our monthly 2012 polling 76% of voters had an opinion about Huckabee. Now only 61% do. 75% had one about Romney. Now just 65% do. For Palin the change has been less dramatic- 91% did last spring and now 88% do.

It's a good reminder that only the most avid of politics watchers are paying much attention to all the jockeying going on right now. For what it's worth Romney seems to have had the best ten months: he's gone from a +5 favorability spread to a +9 one. Huckabee's shifted from +8 to +9 and Palin's dropped from -7 to -10.

And while this is pretty obvious it still merits saying- the fact that the GOP folks are all polling closer to Obama while there's been minimal change in their own numbers is just confirmation that the movement has little to do with them and everything to do with perceptions of the President.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Taking suggestions on where to poll next weekend...

Coming next week we'll have polls from Texas (early indications are that Medina is fading) and New Mexico.

Where should we poll next weekend? We're open to suggestions on states and Congressional districts. Usual criteria applies- we're not real interested in doing anything that there's a saturation of polling on, there has to be a 2010 Senate/Gubernatorial race for the statewide ones (sorry, Montana), and we're trying to do a variety of stuff (not going to do another Virginia Congressional district at this time.)

Fire away!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Week 2 Filing Roundup

Missed a few days of filing round ups, here's what's happening:

-There really are an incredible number of Republicans lining up to run for North Carolina's House seats now. Heath Shuler, G.K. Butterfield, David Price, and Larry Kissell all now have four opponents duking it out in the GOP primary to face them. Brad Miller and Mike McIntyre each have a pair so far. Bob Etheridge has only one but more are expected against both him and Miller. We're probably bound for some runoffs with these crowded candidate fields. And the primary challenges aren't exclusive to races where there's a Democratic incumbent- Howard Coble already has a pair for renomination and Patrick McHenry has one with another on the way.

-Not much action on the Senate side. The most notable thing is the filing of a GOP candidate against A.B. Swindell who is in a leaning but not overwhelmingly Democratic district and went unopposed two years ago. He'll face Donnie Weaver. And continuing the eager Republicans narrative, there are now two vying for the right to face Steve Goss this fall and three looking to be the party nominee against Joe Sam Queen.

-On the House side the two most interesting pieces of information both come from the Mountains. Tim Moffitt has filed for a rematch against Jane Whilden, who defeated him 52-48 two years ago. And Republican Mark Crawford is running against the winner of the Bruce Goforth-Patsy Keever primary. That general election shouldn't be competitive but sometimes weird things can happen if there are hard feelings after a spirited primary.

One more week!

Obama's Approval Decline

Barack Obama peaked in our national polling at a 55/38 spread last May. Now he's at 48/47. What's most interesting to note about that shift in his numbers is that it has come completely among white people. In May his approval with racial minorities was a 73/17 spread and now it's an almost identical 77/17. But with whites he's fallen from slightly positive ground at 48/45 to strongly negative territory at 37/58.

That is part of the problem for Democrats this year in the midterm election. While white voters were only 74% of the electorate in 2008, they made up 79% of it in 2006 the last time there wasn't a Presidential contest on the ballot. So before taking anything else into account the party is at a disadvantage simply because of the likely demographics of the electorate.

It's important not to jump to too many conclusions about 2012 based on what happens this fall though- just because a whiter electorate helps contribute to Republican victories this year doesn't mean all those nonwhite voters won't be back to the polls to reelect Obama in 2012. But Obama probably does need to get his numbers with whites turned around if he's going to get reelected.


We've seen a lot of national polling recently showing support for allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military but we wondered- would that hold true even in a military heavy, historically conservative southern state like North Carolina?

The answer is yes. 50% of North Carolinians support repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' compared to 40% who are opposed to it. Most notably 59% of independents favor letting gays serve openly even as they simultaneously express majority disapproval of Barack Obama. This is not nearly the party line issue that something like health care is- while just 5% of Republicans support the President's agenda on that 26% of them are for scrapping DADT.

Public opinion on gays in the military reflects the growing progressivism of North Carolina's population. Rural voters are strongly opposed to it but their proportion of the electorate is declining while suburbia's share rises, and suburban voters strongly favor allowing gays to serve openly. Republicans will probably have a good year in the state this time around but that doesn't change the fact that the state is moving gradually away from some of its more conservative attitudes.

Full results here

GOP Ideology

I constantly see Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney getting accused of being RINO's. So I was pretty surprised on our most recent 2012 poll to see there are more Republicans who think that Sarah Palin's too conservative than there are who think either Huckabee or Romney is too liberal.

The difference isn't big- 12% of GOP voters think Palin's too conservative while 10% think Huckabee's too liberal and 9% think Romney is.

I think those numbers show that- at least at this point- sentiment that Huckabee or Romney is not ideologically fit to be the Republican standard bearer is largely confined to hyper partisans on the internet.

Those Republicans who think Palin's too conservative pose a big problem for her electability prospects. They say they'd vote for Barack Obama 72-13 over Palin and that's a big part of why she loses more of the overall Republican vote- 14%- than either Huckabee (11%) or Romney (10%) does.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Huck leads GOP in NC

I promised we were going to have a new wrinkle on our state polls this week and here it is: we'll start looking at Huckabee-Palin-Romney on each of them. It doesn't mean a ton at this point but I know you junkies want it so we're going to deliver.

In North Carolina 33% of Republicans say their preference would be Mike Huckabee to 27% for Sarah Palin and 25% for Mitt Romney.

I think the main story is how closely bunched together the three of them are. There's been some speculation that Romney might write off the South but this is a pretty solid standing for him here. Huckabee leads, as he did in our NC polling before John McCain wrapped up the nomination in 2008, but not by an overwhelming margin.

Huckabee leads among both moderates and conservatives with Romney finishing second among the former and Palin as the runner up with the latter. What I found most striking in the crosstabs was the rural/suburban divide in Palin's performance. In rural areas she leads with 38% to 31% for Huckabee and only 16% for Romney. But in suburbia Palin's a distant third with 18% to 37% for Huckabee and 31% for Romney. That would seem to confirm the conventional wisdom that Palin will do better in states, like Alaska, with low population density.

Again, wayyyyy too early, but it'll be interesting to see how much state by state variation on this there is across the country.

Full results here

North Carolina Primaries

Elaine Marshall is the early leader for the Democratic Senate nomination in North Carolina. She's at 29% to 12% for Cal Cunningham, 5% for Kenneth Lewis, and 2% for Marcus Williams. Of course the big leader at this stage is 'undecided' with 51%.

You have to see these numbers as good news for both Marshall and Cunningham. It's always good to have a 17 point lead, as the Secretary of State does. And for Cunningham it's good to be polling in double digits without really having spent any money yet.

They're not good news for Lewis- the last financial reports showed that while he's raised the most money of the Democratic candidates he has the least remaining. That's because he's spent more so far than Marshall and Cunningham combined. And he doesn't have much to show for it, as he's polling closer to Williams than he is to Cunningham.

There really aren't any battle lines forming yet on ideological or demographic lines in this race. Marshall's lead is pretty steady across all groups- she has a double digit advantage with liberals, moderates, conservatives, urban, suburban, and rural voters, men, women, Democrats, independents, whites, and blacks. The only group we track she doesn't have the lead with is voters under 30, where Cunningham has the advantage right now. It's also important to note that with black voters, perhaps the key to a Lewis victory in the primary, he's currently running third with 8% behind Marshall's 28% and Cunningham's 14%.

On the Republican side Richard Burr is polling at a surprisingly weak 55% to 10% for Brad Jones and 3% for Eddie Burks. 31% of voters are undecided.

As I've said before I don't think Burr is at any risk of losing the primary but these numbers are just further confirmation of his weak incumbent status. Incumbent Senators aren't supposed to poll at 55% against opponents with no name recognition and no money.

Full results here

Obama leads GOP hopefuls

As bad as things are for Democrats right now voters still prefer Barack Obama to any of the leading Republicans in the country.

After trailing in one of the hypothetical match ups on our monthly 2012 poll for the first timein January, Obama is back ahead of all the potential 2012 hopefuls. He's up 45-43 on Mitt Romney, 46-43 on Mike Huckabee, 50-43 on Sarah Palin, and 46-28 on John Thune.

For Romney this is his first time flying solo as the closest Republican to Obama. In the previous ten polls Huckabee was the closest nine times and the tenth was a tie between Huckabee and Romney. The former Massachusetts Governor fares the best of the GOP contenders among independents, leading Obama 43-38.

Huckabee falls back behind Obama after leading by a point a month ago. He's the most well liked (maybe least disliked is a better term) of the Republican field among Democrats at a 16/40 spread.

Palin continues to be the weakest of the leading trio of Republicans. Where Romney and Huckabee hold small leads with independents she trails by 10 points. She also loses 14% of the Republican vote to Obama compared to only 10% for Romney and 11% for Huckabee.

Thune is, not surprisingly, little known. Only 16% of respondents offered an opinion of him, far less even than Tim Pawlenty who 36% of voters on our December poll claimed to have a take on. He trails by more than the rest mostly because 37% of Republicans say they would be undecided if he was the nominee.

As for Obama, his approval rating is back in positive territory for the first time in our polling since early December at 48/47. That's largely thanks to 48% approval from independents, up from 43% in mid-January.

Full results here

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Palin's Qualifications

I was a little skeptical last week of the Washington Post poll showing that 71% of Americans, including a majority of Republicans, didn't think Sarah Palin was qualified to be President. So we asked it over the weekend and found that 59% of Americans- but only 30% of Republicans- don't think Palin is qualified. That sounds a little more right to me- it was mostly the GOP numbers that I doubted.

Here's what's interesting though- matched up against Barack Obama, Sarah Palin gets 22% from people who don't think she's qualified to be President!

I guess there's easy spin for both sides on that number. From my perspective it's astounding that such a significant portion of Americans are willing to vote for someone they don't think is qualified- this is the White House, not American Idol. But I guess Republicans could make the argument that Obama's just so bad that any Republican would be better than him, whether they consider that Republican to be qualified or not.

We'll have our monthly 2012 poll, including the full numbers on Palin's being qualified or not, tomorrow.

Same ol' on NC Senate

Richard Burr has mediocre approval numbers but leads all of his anonymous Democratic opponents. Sound familiar? Not much is changing in the North Carolina Senate race on a month to month basis, and it's unlikely that much will until the Democratic candidates start running tv ads.

NC voters are evenly divided on Burr this time around with 35% approving of him and 35% unhappy with his performance. He leads Elaine Marshall 43-33, Cal Cunningham 44-32, and Kenneth Lewis 44-31.

Those early leads over the Democrats have a lot to do with how anonymous each of them is. Even Marshall has only 29% name recognition, and Kenneth Lewis and Cal Cunningham are even more obscure at this juncture with 17% and 15% of voters with an opinion about each of them respectively.

Marshall and Cunningham actually both lead Burr with those few voters that know who they are, suggesting a race that could become more competitive once Democrats have a nominee. That's exactly what happened in 2008 when Kay Hagan went from trailing by double digits in the polls over the winter to toss up status by May after she had introduced herself to voters during her primary campaign.

Of course 2010 is a completely different animal than 2008. Voters may be even angrier at the Democrats now than they were at the Republicans then. And Barack Obama won't be at the top of the ticket to drive turnout from key Democratic constituencies. Those factors both work to Burr's advantage.

But Burr has still only defined himself positively with a third of the voters, and with Louisiana Senator David Vitter now posting 20+ point leads against his Democratic opponent in some polling there's not much doubt Burr is the most vulnerable Republican incumbent running for reelection this year. That virtually ensures there will be a lot of outside money spent to aid the eventual Democratic nominee just as there was last time around.

Burr could lose this race but he could also keep his current double digit lead all the way through November- it's really hard to say at this point how it's going to shake out.

Full results here

The Democratic Agenda

The vast majority of opposition to health care and allowing gays to serve openly in the military is coming from people who already say there's no chance they'll vote Democratic this fall. That's an indication of minimal fallout for Congressional Democrats by acting on these issues.

37% of Americans say they will definitely not vote Democratic for Congress this year. 34% say they definitely will and that leaves roughly 30% of the country up for grabs.

Right now 50% of voters say they oppose President Obama's health care plan to just 39% in support. Digging a little deeper on those numbers though 64% of respondents planning or open to voting Democratic this fall support it with only 22% opposed. The overall numbers are negative only because of 94/1 opposition among folks who have said there is no way they'll vote Democratic this fall.

It's a similar story when it comes to the prospect of repealing 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.' Over 54% of voters support it with 37% opposed. But among the voters Democrats need to make happy- the ones planning to or considering voting for them this year- there is 72/24 support for letting gays and lesbians serve openly in the military. The total numbers are brought down only because of 59/25 opposition with folks who will never vote for them anyway.

Congressional Democrats really need to decide if they're going to let their agenda be dictated by voters who won't support them no matter what they do. These numbers provide pretty clear evidence that most of the voters opposed to health care and repeal of DADT will not consider voting Democratic even if the party decides not to move on those issues.

Full results here

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

NC Senate Poll Preview

I must admit I get a little bored with our monthly North Carolina Senate poll because it's the same month after month after month. Richard Burr's approval rating is always cruddy and he always hold leads of around 10 points over his Democratic opponents who have no name recognition.

We'll have those numbers- same old story- tomorrow. But I delved a little deeper this month and discovered some interesting things under the toplines of the polls that I hadn't noticed before:

1) Most of the voters with no opinion about Burr are Democrats, which could mean that his approval numbers are even worse than they look. This month Burr's approval came down as a 35/35 split. Among those ambivalent toward him 50% are Democrats and just 32% are Republicans. The group voted for Barack Obama by a 51-43 margin in 2008. So once the DSCC helps those voters to get to know Burr a little better his disapproval could see a hike.

2) Among voters who actually have an opinion of Cal Cunningham or Elaine Marshall- whether it's positive or not- they lead Burr. Cunningham is up 46-44 and Marshall is up 49-40. There's a caveat with those numbers- people with an opinion of Cunningham voted Obama 49-47 and folks with ones of Marshall supported the President 52-45. So these people are a little more Democratic than the population at large- but not overwhelmingly so. The numbers are an indication that this race could get a whole lot closer once the eventual nominee starts catching up in name recognition.

I still have a hard time seeing Democrats picking up any Senate seats this year but contrary to the conventional wisdom North Carolina may actually be a better pick up opportunity than some of the open seats. Running a Washington outsider against a Senate incumbent may be the formula that lets Dems pull off some upsets in this political climate.

NC Day 6 Filing Roundup

As candidate filing in North Carolina continues to roll along we aren't so much seeing new themes develop as existing ones confirmed:

-Bill Owens is the latest representative in a Democratic but not overwhelmingly so district to draw a Republican challenge after going unopposed in 2008. He'll face John Woodard Jr. The whole state is cranky right now but the northeastern part seems to be the crankiest and it will be interesting to see what impact that has on Owens as well as Don Davis, Marian McLawhorn, and Alice Graham Underhill among others.

-We have three more primary challenges to incumbents, although two of them are to appointed incumbents. Darren Jackson, appointed to fill out Linda Coleman's term, will face former Knightdale Mayor Jeanne Milliken Bonds. And on the Senate side Michael Walters, finishing David Weinstein's term, will face Benjamin Clark. Clark ran against Weinstein two years ago and got a very respectable 39% of the vote in the primary against the long time incumbent. Also on the Senate side Ed Jones has drawn a challenger from Tee Ferguson.

-I was amused yesterday that two Republican challengers to G.K. Butterfield had filed, but now there are three! John Carter joins the mix. It would be a great use of taxpayer money (in a not at all kind of way) if there ended up being a runoff for the right to max out at 35% of the vote against Butterfield in the fall.

Independents and Moderates

One of the media mistakes that drives me the most nuts is when 'moderates' are conflated with 'independents.' This is most commonly a foible of TV news.

Democrats are in trouble with independents right now. They are not, however, in trouble with moderates.

Independents as a group of voters are somewhat conservative leaning. Our last national poll found that 56% of independents were moderates but that among the rest 33% were conservatives to just 11% liberals. Overall independents were planning to vote Republican for Congress this year by a 40-27 margin. But break that out a little further and while conservative independents are tending toward the GOP by a 68-7 margin moderate independents are tied up at 33. And among all moderates- since moderates continue to identify more as Democrats than Republicans- Democrats lead 46-31 on the generic ballot.

It's a similar story when it comes to moderates and independents and Barack Obama's approval rating. Independents are split 48/48 on Obama. But moderates approve of him by a 62/34 margin.

Independents and moderates are not the same thing- get it right media!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Some positives for Perdue

Bev Perdue's poll numbers are still pretty bad, but after almost a year of nothing but bad news they're beginning to show some positive signs.

30% of voters in the state express approval of the job she's doing with 47% disapproving. Here are the positives:

-47% is the lowest percentage of North Carolinians disapproving of Perdue since last April when it was 40%. From May to December of 2008 a majority of the state's voters gave Perdue bad marks in all but one month, but now both PPP surveys in 2010 have shown her disapproval back below 50%.

-Perdue's 29% approval rating with independents is the best it's been since that April poll and her 17% with Republicans is the strongest it's been since last March. Those numbers with Republicans and independents are about par for the course for a Democrat in this tough political climate.

Her overall numbers are still pretty bad because voters within her own party continue to be unenthusiastic about her. Just 41% of Democrats like the job she's doing with 37% disapproving. She's particularly struggling with black voters who were critical to her victory in the primary two years ago- 42% of them disapprove of Perdue to just 37% giving her good marks.

The last time Perdue's approval rating was in positive territory she was at a 61/22 spread with Democrats, so those are the kinds of numbers she needs with her base to get her overall approval back to a healthy level.

This much seems clear for Perdue though: the bleeding has stopped. Fewer North Carolinians think she's doing a bad job now. What she hasn't done yet is convince enough that she's doing a good job. A lot of voters have moved from the disapprove column to the ambivalent one. Perdue still has a lot of work to do but things don't look nearly as dire for her as they did last summer. And that makes her a rare Democratic politician whose position is improving this winter.

Full results here

NC Day 5 Filing Roundup

The pace of filing is beginning to slow a little bit but there are still some new developments to talk about:

-You can file this one under 'the political climate's not that bad!' Two Republicans- Jerry Grimes and Ashley Woolard- have lined up to run against G.K. Butterfield. Good luck getting 40% folks...

-Larry Kissell and Howard Coble both picked up primary challenges in the forms of Nancy Shakir and James Taylor respectively. I've never heard of either of these folks so can't imagine they're going to have much money. The only primary an incumbent Congressman's involved in in North Carolina that really looks interesting is Patrick McHenry's.

-Republicans continue to have some success in getting candidates in slightly Democratic leaning districts where they didn't run anyone two years ago. New senator Margaret Dickson will face Wesley Meredith in Tony Rand's old Senate seat while Douglas Yongue faces Gaston Pridgen on the House side. These are districts that would only go to the GOP in an incredible landslide, but as I've been saying, it's good to have the candidates so you can take advantage of the landslide...

Closed Primaries in SC?

I was pretty interested to see over the weekend that the South Carolina Republican Party, at the behest of the 'Tea Party' crowd, plans to file a lawsuit to close its primaries.

At least in Texas a closed primary would really hurt the prospects of the Tea Party associated candidate. Among Republicans in that race Rick Perry leads with 43% to 27% for Kay Bailey Hutchison and just 18% for Medina. But among the Democrats and independents planning to vote in the open primary Medina is in first with 39% to 29% for Hutchison and 25% for Perry.

It's true those folks aren't as conservative as the Republicans planning to vote in the primary. 58% of the Democrats/independents identify themselves as such compared to 82% of the Republicans. But the 'Tea Party' movement is as much anti-establishment as it is ideological and those independents are considerably more likely to support a candidate who doesn't fit the usual mold.

The South Carolina 'Tea Party' folks aren't necessarily representative of their movement's overall sentiment on these issues- other chapters have pushed for open primaries and I have little doubt the lack of them will hurt Rand Paul's prospects in Kentucky. Perhaps this just underscores the fact that there isn't really any united 'Tea Party' platform or agenda, just an assortment of conservative leaning groups using that moniker that may or may not really have the same goals.

Thoughts on Bayh

I can't believe I'm saying this but I really think Republicans have a chance to win back the Senate this fall now.

Let's be realistic- there was a Rasmussen view of Indiana that showed Evan Bayh down to Mike Pence and barely up on John Hostettler and a Research 2000 view that showed him safe for reelection. If the latter was the real state of things I don't think Bayh would be dropping out this late in the game. I have to think he knew he had a really tough fight on his hands and he didn't have the stomach for it, just like what happened with his decision not to run for President in 2008.

So I think the GOP will be favored in Indiana however the candidate field shakes out this week, and I think the GOP is favored in Arkansas, Nevada, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and North Dakota as well. Win all those and you have a 52-48 Democratic Senate. Beyond that you have Illinois looking like a toss up and then California and New York looking like they definitely have the potential to become highly competitive based on the incumbents' lack of popularity and Washington and Wisconsin as maybe the longest shots for the GOP but possible with an A list candidate.

And really, if it's a 50-50 situation does anyone trust Joe Lieberman not to throw his hat with the Republicans? Three months ago I would have said Republicans have about a 5% chance of taking back the Senate. Now I'd put it more in the one in three chance range, and rising by the week. And who knows when the bad news for Democrats will stop pouring in...

And the choices are...

Here are the choices for where we poll this week:

-California. We haven't gone there yet this cycle and the polling has been a little contradictory, particularly on the question of how much trouble Barbara Boxer is or is not in.

-Colorado. I believe Rasmussen that Michael Bennet is down a good bit to Jane Norton and that the Governor's race is a toss up with perhaps a small lean toward John Hickenlooper but it's one of those deals where it's good to have looks from multiple pollsters.

-New Mexico. As I've said before I'm interested to see if the political climate has the Governor's race here up in the air. And although I'm not going to promise this, because New Mexico has only 3 Congressional districts we might be able to do a small sample poll (300-400 probably) within each of those as long as we're doing the statewide one.

-Ohio. Same thing as Colorado really- I believe that Republicans are ahead in the races for both Senate and Governor but we haven't looked at it since June and another set of eyes is never a bad thing.

-Vermont. The Governor's race here seems to be one of the better offensive opportunities for Democrats this year but to my knowledge there's been no polling on it.

-Washington. If Republicans were going to somehow do the impossible and take the Senate this fall Patty Murray's seat is one they might need to win- we'd look at whether Dino Rossi or Dave Reichert could do anything there.

Voting is open until Thursday morning.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Taking suggestions

Next week we have our monthly 2012 Presidential poll, as well as our look at what's going on in North Carolina. Starting with the NC poll we're going to have a new wrinkle I think we'll be including on all of our statewide polls from here on out that I know all you political junkies will be very happy about- stay tuned!

For next weekend we'll take a second look at the Texas primary- Debra Medina's success is what makes it interesting and as long as she's a continued threat to Kay Bailey Hutchison we'll probably do one the weekend before the election as well.

What other statewide poll should we do next weekend? Usual criteria- don't want to repeat something we've done in the last few months, don't want to do something there are a million polls out there on. Think outside the box- and have a good weekend!

North Carolina Day 4 Filing Roundup

Some closing thoughts on this first week of filing in North Carolina:

-A Brad Jones of Lake Toxaway has filed for the Republican Senate nomination, giving Richard Burr a second primary challenge. Can't find anything about him on the internet. Kind of random.

-In another sign that Democrats are not giving up on offense even in this tough political climate Barabara Garrity-Blake filed to run against Jean Preston for the state Senate. Garrity-Blake ran for the House in 2008, losing to Pat McElraft 57-43. This Senate district is a good deal less Republican than the House district and was held by Democrats until the 2006 election. It's a good sign for Democrats that they're still getting quality candidates in some tougher districts like this one and David Rouzer's.

-The other thing we've seen a lot of this week that I haven't commented on yet is primary challenges to incumbent legislators. Clark Jenkins, Don East, and Andrew Brock have all drawn them on the Senate side while Pat McElraft, Dewey Hill, Rosa Gill, Ronnie Sutton, Winkie Wilkins, Alma Adams, Earline Parmon, Harold Brubaker, Jeff Barnhart, Beverly Earle, Bruce Goforth, and Phil Haire have them on the House side. I know what's driving some of these primary contests- others I do not- if anyone wants to impart some local knowledge in the comments that would be much appreciated.

We'll have more analysis over the course of next week.

Tea Party Thoughts

So far the most prominent 'Tea Party' candidates getting some traction in their respective GOP primaries don't look like general election liabilities. In Florida's averages show Charlie Crist up 46-34 on Kendrick Meek and Marco Rubio actually winning by a slightly better 45-32 margin. In Kentucky an average of PPP and Rasmussen's most recent polls has Rand Paul up 45-38 on Jack Conway and 45-37 on Dan Mongiardo to Trey Grayson's leads of 42-37 and 47-35 over them. And our Texas poll this week found Debra Medina leading Bill White by six points, pretty much the same as Kay Bailey Hutchison and Rick Perry.

Now it should certainly be noted that voters don't really know Rubio, Paul, and Medina yet and it's possible that they could prove to be problem nominees for the GOP. At the same time Republican voters are so fired up right now and independents are so disenchanted with Democrats that I wouldn't write off the possibility of Republicans winning no matter who their nominee is in a lot of races this year, even in states/districts that are normally competitive. Simply put I'm not sure having 'Tea Party' nominees is going to be a big problem for the GOP.

What could be a big issue for Republicans though- as our Virginia 5 poll showed- is having tea party candidates who run as independents to the right of the GOP nominee. We found such a candidate pulling 19% of the vote, holding Robert Hurt to 27% and letting Tom Perriello win easily with 44%.

Here's the big question: should Democrats be giving financial assistance to these 'Tea Party' candidates to get on the ballot as independents? It may seem like an odd concept but Republicans certainly did it with Ralph Nader and that paid off for them. There are going to be a lot of races decided by 4 points or less this fall and right wing independents pulling 5% could get some Democrats reelected this year even if they can only pull 48% of the vote. I'd love to see a Democratic group formed that raises money to do mail and media for Tea Party candidates portraying them as the only 'real conservative' in the race- unconventional means might be necessary to save some seats this year.

VA-5 Primary Poll

The Republican primary to take on Tom Perriello this fall is pretty wide open, although poll numbers do confirm the conventional wisdom that Robert Hurt is the front runner.

Hurt's polling at 22% to 12% for Ken Boyd. The rest of the candidates are getting 2-4% and you could probably argue that the real leader right now is undecided at 51%.

These numbers could change a lot between now and June. Our first poll of the Democratic primary for Governor last February found Brian Moran and Terry McAuliffe at 18% with Creigh Deeds behind at 11%. Moran and McAuliffe didn't do all that much better than their February poll standing when June came around while Deeds ended up at 50%.

Hurt and Boyd have greater name recognition than the other candidates as the ones who have prior experience in elected office but once the money starts flowing on paid media things could look pretty different.

Two other observations from the numbers:

1) The 51% undecided is just more confirmation that this nomination is probably Virgil Goode's for the taking if he changes his mind and decides he wants to run as a Republican this year.

2) The ideological battle that's broken out among Republican activists, particularly as it pertains to Robert Hurt, doesn't seem to be having much in the way of broad implications at this point. Hurt leads with both moderates and conservatives.

Full results here

Hutchison's New Ad

Very interesting that Kay Bailey Hutchison leads off her newest tv ad by posing the question 'Maybe you like us both. Why me?'

That confronts a big problem for her that we found on our poll of the race this week- people who like them both are leaning overwhelmingly toward Perry, 61-15. Those folks account for 26% of the primary electorate. Take them out of the picture and Hutchison actually leads 32-30.

Perry's big lead with that group seems to suggest a segment of GOP voters who wish both Perry and Hutchison would stay right where they are. A Hutchison loss in this primary would certainly be a big blow politically but it would be a stretch to say it means she'll have trouble getting reelected to the Senate in 2012- it may just be that voters like her as a Senator and not as a Governor, particularly when there's a sitting Governor who they like well enough.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Campaign Committee Chair Curse?

Is there a campaign committee curse on politician approval ratings?

The Texas numbers we put out today showed NRSC chair John Cornyn with a super mediocre 32/30 approval spread, with 37% of voters having no opinion about him. Is all of his traveling around the country making his constituents forget who he is?

We found an even more negative picture for DSCC chair Bob Menendez the last time we polled on him in October- 34% approval to 45% disapproval.

Their predecessors from the 2006 and 2008 election cycles aren't doing too hot either- Elizabeth Dole was defeated in 2008 after serving in 2006 and John Ensign has seen his political stock crumble because of his personal foibles after doing the NRSC gig in 2008. And Chuck Schumer's in the best shape of the bunch but even he's seeing his lowest approval ratings in years right now.

One thing seems likely- Menendez in 2012 and Cornyn in 2014 may have to put their primary focus on their own prospects for reelection and ditch the national stuff.

North Carolina Day 3 Filing Roundup

One of the themes emerging through three days of filing across the state is that we can expect a lot of pretty spirited GOP Congressional primaries where, to put it bluntly, some of the candidates will provide amusement by trying to out crazy each other.

-In the 4th District (David Price) we already have Frank Roche, George Hutchins, and 2008 nominee BJ Lawson filed. Frequent candidate Greg Dority, who lives nowhere near the district, has also said he intends to run. Lawson was a 'Tea Party' candidate in 2008 before the label became widely used and had a surprisingly well funded campaign given what little hope of a victory there was for him. He should be seen as the favorite in the primary.

-In the 11th District (Heath Shuler) Jake Howard and Ed Krause have already put their names in on the Republican side and they're expected to be joined, at the least, by Hendersonville Mayor Greg Newman and businessman Jeff Miller. In 2008 a crowded Republican primary generated the nuttiest candidate possible in Asheville City Councilman Carl Mumpower and the up shot of that was an easy Shuler victory in the fall.

-In the 8th District (Larry Kissell) Tim D'Annunzio, who has already generated the wrong kind of national media attention by letting himself get hot and bothered by anonymous blog commenters, is in the race and should be joined by at least four other candidates.

There are expected to be competitive GOP contests in several other districts as well but we'll talk about those more as the filings come in. One person, interestingly, who doesn't seem to be facing a well funded primary challenger is Walter Jones. He came out ahead after a spirited contest two years ago against an opponent who attacked him for not sufficiently toeing the party line, and given this 'Tea Party' climate I'm surprised not to see him facing something similar this time around.

GOP would likely hold onto Hutchison seat

The national Democratic brand is not very good in Texas. And that means even in the increasingly unlikely circumstance that there's a special election to fill Kay Bailey Hutchison's seat in the Senate, Republicans should be at a pretty strong advantage.

61% of voters in the state disapprove of Barack Obama to 33% who like the job he's doing. He's still pretty popular with Democrats- 75% approve- but only 4% of Republicans give him good marks and independents are aligned against him by a 70/19 margin. Those are the worst numbers on Obama PPP has found with them in any state.

Obama's actually a lot more popular than Congressional Democrats- 66% of Texans disapprove of them to only 24% happy with their performance.

What it all adds up to is voters saying by a 53-38 margin that they would choose a Republican over a Democrat to replace Hutchison in the Senate. That's due largely to a 55-22 GOP advantage with independents. Candidates matter and if there does end up being an election John Sharp may prove to be superior to the 'generic Democrat' but in this political climate I don't know that Texas is somewhere Dems are going to be able to play effective offense.

Full results here

Virginia 5 Poll

The race in Virginia's 5th Congressional District looks like a tossup for now but an entry by Virgil Goode could shake up the race significantly.

Democratic incumbent Tom Perriello is tied with Republican front runner Robert Hurt at 44% each. Voters are pretty divided on Perriello's performance so far with 42% expressing approval of him to 46% who disapprove. Hurt is pretty much a blank slate to voters in the district with 70% having no opinion of him.

That makes Hurt the 'name' Republican compared to the others running though. 75% are ambivalent toward Ken Boyd, 82% are toward Jim McKelvey and Laurence Verga, and 83% have no opinion about Michael McPadden. Perriello leads the lesser known Republicans by margins ranging from 4 to 10 points.

The race's complexion could be changed in an instant if Virgil Goode decides to try to reclaim his old seat. Despite his defeat in 2008 58% of voters have a favorable opinion of him to only 29% who see him negatively, making him by far the most popular politician in the district. Goode has hinted he may run as an independent if the eventual Republican nominee is not sufficiently conservative. Goode and Perriello tie at 41% with Robert Hurt getting only 12% in such a scenario.

Last summer Goode said he wouldn't run as a Republican but if he changes his mind the nomination is probably his for the taking. 84% of GOP voters have a favorable opinion of him- among the candidates actually running none is higher than 20%.

If Goode stays out the prospect of a more conservative 'Tea Party' style candidate running as an alternative in the general election to the moderate Hurt could be a boon to Perriello's reelection prospects. Under that scenario Perriello gets 44% to 27% for Hurt and 19% for the generic 'Tea Party' candidate.

Perriello's in a decent position given the district's overall attitude toward national Democrats- 57% disapprove of the Democrats in Congress, 52% are against the Democratic health care bill, and 50% disapprove of Barack Obama. Notably, while 50% of voters in the district think Congressional Democrats are too liberal only 42% say the same of Perriello, indicating that he has been able to disassociate himself at least a little from the overall negative perceptions of his party.

Perriello will have a tough time getting reelected but he's in a better position than many of his colleagues. What Goode decides to do could end up being the decisive factor in this race.

Full results here

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Obama's impact on the midterms

Democratic Congressional candidates this fall are only going to go as far as Barack Obama's popularity will take them.

On our last national poll Republicans led 80-3 on the generic Congressional ballot with voters who disapprove of Obama. Simply put if you disapprove of Obama there is almost no chance you're voting Democratic this year.

At the same time if you like Obama there's almost no chance you're voting Republican this year- Democrats lead 78-7 on the generic ballot with folks who do approve of Obama.

This may all seem like a no brainer but the data shows just how strong the trend is. For all the machinations that will take place in close Senate and House races across the country this year, how the voters feel about the candidates themselves may take a backseat in deciding the outcome to how they feel about Obama.
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