Friday, April 30, 2010

What we having coming next week

We're conducting our final North Carolina primary poll over the weekend, and since I know people will be waiting in eager anticipation we're going to go ahead and release the results after we finish doing interviews at 9 PM Sunday night. Expect them to be up by 11 PM or so.

We're also going to try something new and do a live blog of the election results across North Carolina on Tuesday night. If you were reading us the night of the Presidential election in 2008 you know we were far ahead of any mainstream media outlet in explaining why Barack Obama was going to win the state even though he trailed in the returns for much of the night (Cumberland and Buncombe Counties were the last ones out and we knew they'd go heavily for him, which no one else seemed to have a handle on.) There probably won't be anything that dramatic this election night but we'll be breaking down the Senate race, Congressional races, and legislative races across the state as the night progresses.

The other state we'll be polling this weekend is Kentucky We're interested in whether Rand Paul is holding onto his large lead in the primary, and whether Trey Grayson's attacks are softening him up at all for the general election. We're also trying to delve into what the GOP primary there says about the way Republicans feel about their party, and what it all means to the Tea Party movement.

So that's what's on deck!

Kyl, Ensign looking weakest

In 2008 Democrats took advantage of their emerging strength in the Mountain West to pick up Senate seats in Colorado and New Mexico. In 2012 they'll have a good chance to do it in a couple more- Arizona and Nevada.

Jon Kyl and John Ensign look the weakest in our polling of the Senate Republicans up for reelection in the next cycle. Kyl's approval rating on our Arizona poll this week was 35%, with 39% of voters disapproving of him. Ensign's numbers when we polled Nevada in January were even worse with 44% of voters giving him bad marks to only 38% approving of him. If that's where their numbers are in the middle of a year that's shaping up well for Republicans it's not a positive sign for where they'll be once things inevitably start heading back in the right direction for Democrats sometime over the next two and a half years.

Democrats are having a tough year in the Mountain West this time, with the loss of a Senate seat in Nevada likely and losses of a Senate seat in Colorado and Governor's offices in New Mexico and Colorado certainly possible. But the long term trends in the region are still very much in favor of the Democratic Party, and if things are a little more back to normal by the Presidential election Democrats will have a good chance of continuing to pick off its Senate seats.

Brewer favored unless Arpaio runs

Six months ago it looked like Jan Brewer would have a very difficult time winning nomination to a full term as Governor of Arizona. Now in the wake of signing a controversial immigration measure popular with conservatives she looks like a strong favorite.

Brewer leads the Republican pack with 38% to 19% for Buz Mills, 16% for Dean Martin, and 3% for John Munger. Her approval rating with primary voters stands at a positive 52/30 spread, a 34 point improvement on the margin since September when it was a negative 28/40. The improvement in her standing with conservatives has been particularly dramatic, going up 52 points from 30/42 in the fall to now 60/20.

38% in the primary still isn't a particularly impressive standing for a sitting Governor but she is being helped quite a bit by the fact that she has so many opponents, effectively splitting the still sizable anti-Brewer vote.

Brewer's opponents are pretty much an unknown to likely primary voters, and they could pick up more support once they are able to more broadly introduce themselves to the electorate. 61% have no opinion about Mills, 63% are ambivalent toward Martin, and Munger is really anonymous with 86% of voters expressing no feelings toward him one way or the other.

One thing that could confound Brewer's hopes for renomination is if Joe Arpaio decided to make a last second entry into the race. He is by far the most Republican in the state with primary voters. 70% of them view him favorably to only 22% with a negative opinion, and he leads Brewer 33-25 as a prospective candidate.

For now though Brewer has improved her position significantly so far in 2010, and has to be seen as a very strong favorite for renomination.

Full results here

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A runoff in North Carolina?

Is there going to be a runoff in the North Carolina Democratic Senate primary? It's certainly possible but if I was a betting man I'd put my money against it.

When we polled the Senate primary seven weeks ago Elaine Marshall and Cal Cunningham were combining for 36% with the rest of the candidates combining for 17%. When we polled it this week Marshall and Cunningham were combining for 49% with the rest of the candidates still combining for the identical 17%. All of the movement in the race over the last seven weeks has been toward the two front runners, which is no surprise given their considerable advantage in resources.

Given that trend I expect the vast, vast majority of the 34% of voters who remain undecided to move toward Marshall or Cunningham and that should be enough to put one of them over the 40% mark if only by a small amount.

If the undecideds broke in proportion to their current preferences on this week's poll Marshall would just barely cross the runoff threshold at 40% with Cunningham getting 34%. But that calculation assumes that the four second tier candidates would combine to receive a quarter of the vote from the remaining undecideds. Given that those voters will be seeing a lot of Cunningham and Marshall on tv this week and none of the rest of the candidates it seems more likely that 90% or so of those voters who haven't made their minds up yet will go toward one of them.

That's the argument for why there won't be a runoff and I think there's a 60-70% chance that will be the case. What would cause the race to go to another seven weeks? Kenneth Lewis and Marcus Williams picking up more support than the polls are showing for them, and that could certainly happen. Two years ago no one took Williams seriously and he ended up getting a surprising 12% in the primary, within earshot of the 18% of Jim Neal who was treated like a top tier candidate when Williams was not. It's also possible that Lewis' radio advertising in the final week will help him to pick up the support of black voters that he had been expected to receive but which hasn't materialized yet. Neither of them has a real chance at getting in the top two, but if their level of support is larger than we are currently measuring it could be enough to prevent someone from winning outright.

We're doing our final primary poll this weekend...any suggestions for good questions we could put on the poll to help us get a better understanding of why what happens happens? Safe to say there will be no exit polling in the state on Tuesday night so whatever we ask will probably have to suffice for interpretation of the final results.

Breaking down the Crist shift

There are going to be a lot of races this year where a Republican leaning third party candidate would do Democrats a lot of good. The Florida Senate race is not going to be one of them. If Charlie Crist's independent run has any impact on Kendrick Meek's chances of winning it's likely to be negative. Here are three reasons why:

-In a hypothetical three way contest last month we found Crist winning 32% of Obama voters but only 22% of McCain voters. Even before making his departure from the Republican Party a reality he was pulling more from likely Meek voters than likely Rubio voters.

-The level of support Crist starts out with from Republicans is likely to decline over the next six months. On our recent poll Crist had 18% of the GOP vote in a three way contest. 18% is the share of the Republican vote Arlen Specter got against Pat Toomey on a Quinnipiac poll immediately after his party shift. A year later he's now getting just 9% of the GOP vote. Crist seems likely to experience a similar erosion in his Republican support as the year progresses.

-45% of Democratic voters have a favorable opinion of Crist while only 29% have a favorable opinion of Meek. Compare that to 52% of Republicans with a favorable opinion of Rubio and 28% with a favorable one of Crist. If Crist is more popular with the Democrats than their candidate and less popular with the Republicans than their candidate it stands to reason he'll pull more of the Democratic vote long term. Maybe that will change down the road once Meek becomes better known but for now it's good for Crist.

Republicans are going to be angry at Crist for leaving the GOP, but it may actually be the best thing he's done for the party in months. It should help Marco Rubio's chances of getting to the Senate.

2012 GOP in Arizona

For our look ahead to the 2012 Presidential race in Arizona this week we added Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul to go along with our usual choices of Mitt Huckabee, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney. And although we'll certainly need to see polling from more states to confirm a trend, the numbers suggest a Gingrich candidacy could hurt Palin's prospects.

Mitt Romney leads the way with 27% to 19% for Gingrich, 13% for Palin, 12% for Huckabee, and 9% for Paul. When we had polled previously in the neighboring states of New Mexico and Colorado we found Palin in second place behind Romney. But in Arizona Gingrich emerges as the main conservative challenger to Romney, trailing him just 29-26 with those voters. Romney's broader overall lead comes because he's up 25-7 on Gingrich with moderates.

Palin and Gingrich both have a unique appeal to the most partisan of Republican voters, but it may be that they see Gingrich as a more substantive and 'Presidential' candidate. They could end up competing for the same pool of GOP partisans, and if they both run it may prove to be a good thing for Romney. We'll certainly keep an eye on this.

Full results here

McCain holds tenuous lead

Republican primary voters in Arizona are down on John McCain, with a majority of them thinking he's too lenient on immigration and a plurality feeling that he's too liberal in general. But his saving grace may be that the candidate trying to exploit those weaknesses is J.D. Hayworth, who begins the race with high negatives. As a result McCain leads with 46% to 35% for Hayworth and 7% for Jim Deakin.

Hayworth actually leads McCain 46-38 with conservative voters. But McCain's 60-15 advantage with moderates is so overwhelming that it allows him the double digit lead.

McCain's overall numbers with primary voters are nothing to write home about. 45% disapprove of his job performance to 44% who approve. 43% think he's too liberal to 38% who think he's about right. 53% think he's too lenient on immigration to 32% who think he's about right.

But conservative voters in particular are down on him on all of those fronts right now. 46% of them disapprove of him with only 41% approving. 59% of them think he's too liberal to 30% who think he's about right. And 67% of them think his views on immigration are too lenient to only 26% who think they're about right.

For all that McCain still has to be seen as the favorite in the race. 40% of GOP primary voters have an unfavorable opinion of Hayworth to 37% with a favorable one. With moderates in the party his favorability is a putrid 13/59 spread, which explains why he trailed Rodney Glassman in our general election polling yesterday. Voters beyond the far right just don't find him very palatable.

This is certainly a race to keep an eye on and McCain's situation strongly resembles where Charlie Crist was about 4-5 months ago before he completely collapsed in the Republican primary. The difference may be Marco Rubio vs. J.D. Hayworth though. Rubio started as a relative unknown to GOP voters in Florida and was able to build a positive image of himself to capitalize on the increasing discomfort with Crist. Hayworth starts out as well known but not well liked and voters who don't like him or McCain give the incumbent a 17 point advantage, seeing him as the lesser of two evils. Unless Hayworth can change voters' existing feelings about him McCain will probably survive.

Full results here

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Giannoulias and Obama

Barack Obama is appearing with Alexi Giannoulias today in Illinois and that's a good thing for the Illinois candidate because fewer Obama voters are supporting him than any other major Democratic Senate hopeful in the country.

On our recent poll of the state Giannoulias was getting just 53% from people who reported having voted for Obama in 2008. In ten other key races we've looked at over the last four months the Democratic candidates were earning anywhere from 69-86% of the 2008 Obama vote. So not only is Giannoulias lagging the rest of his counterparts across the country, but he is doing so by a wide margin.

The candidate doing the best job of keeping Obama voters in the fold? Robin Carnahan in Missouri. That figure is further confirmation that she may be the best Democratic Senate recruit in the country, but the reality is that she may still lose because of Obama's flagging popularity in the state.

Obama is not a problem for Giannoulias- he is very clearly his own problem. But maybe Obama's overt support will help him bring up that 53% figure- even if he was on the low end of that 69-86% everyone else is getting it would be enough to put him back in the lead.

Here's the data on the percentage of the Obama vote the major Democratic Senate candidates we've polled on recently are getting:

Democratic Candidate


% of Obama Vote

Robin Carnahan



Michael Bennet



Arlen Specter



Harry Reid



Paul Hodes

New Hampshire


Lee Fisher



Dan Mongiardo



Elaine Marshall

North Carolina


Blanche Lincoln



Kendrick Meek



Alexi Giannoulias



Low Knowledge about NC Candidates

Want some insight into why voters are so undecided about who they will vote for in the North Carolina Senate primary? Democrats don't know the most basic of facts about their candidates.

Only 47% of those likely to vote next week can identify Elaine Marshall as the candidate who's Secretary of State. Just 30% know that Cal Cunningham's the one who served in Iraq. And only 15% know that Kenneth Lewis is the one who's been endorsed by many of the state's most prominent black leaders.

Here are some key takeaways from these numbers:

-TV advertising matters, big time. In the Triangle and the Triad, where Cunningham had been running ads before the poll was taken, more than 40% of voters knew about his war service. That number plummeted to 11% in the mountains, where his ads were not running. That's quite a dramatic difference.

-Endorsements only do you any good if you have the resources to leverage them. Lewis has received some impressive ones but without the money to let any one know about them, they haven't done him much good. Free media will only get you so far. And most troubling for Lewis, among black voters more think that Marshall (16%) was endorsed by Mel Watt, Harvey Gantt, and Eva Clayton than believe Lewis (15%) was the beneficiary of those endorsements.

-This is a common finding in our polling and not at all surprising, but voters in the Triangle are much more tuned into the campaign and knowledgeable about the candidates than folks in any other part of the state. 64% there know Marshall's current position, compared to 47% statewide. 47% know about Cunningham's military service, to 30% statewide. And 27% know about Lewis' endorsements, to 15% statewide.

The candidates have been telling their stories for months now. But it still doesn't seem the voters have been listening.

Full results here

McCain's numbers plummet

John McCain has had a Charlie Crist like drop in his approval numbers over the last six months, seeing double digit declines in his popularity with Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike. As a result a majority of Arizona voters now disapprove of his job performance.

55% of voters disapprove of McCain to just 34% who give him good marks. When PPP polled Arizona in September he was at a positive 48/42 approval spread, so he's dropped 27 points on the margin since that time. McCain's biggest fall in popularity has come with Republicans as he's been more aggressively challenged from the right by J.D. Hayworth. Where 65% gave him good marks last fall now just 48% do, a 17 point decline. He's also gone down 13 points with independents (from 41% to 28%) and 11 points with Democrats (from 32% to 21%.)

McCain has tried to shed his 'maverick' image in order to survive the Republican primary and the numbers indicate that's working, but at the cost of diminished support from Democrats and independents. Just 28% of voters feel that McCain is an 'independent voice for Arizona' while 55% are more inclined to describe him as a 'partisan voice for national Republicans.'

Despite all that McCain still looks like a solid favorite against likely Democratic opponent Rodney Glassman, leading him 49-33. That does represent a significant tightening since September when McCain led 55-25, but doesn't put him in a particularly dire situation. The reason for the disconnect between McCain's approval rating and his support for reelection is that while only 48% of Republicans express approval of his job performance, 78% will still vote for him in a general election.

Democrats' only real shot at winning the seat then is if Hayworth can win the primary, and we find Glassman leading Hayworth 42-39 in such a scenario. Hayworth is extremely unpopular with only 23% of voters holding a favorable opinion of him to 50% with an unfavorable one. Democrats (6/68 favorability) predictably see him in a dim light but he doesn't do a whole lot better with independents (22/49). Republicans are evenly divided with 37% viewing him favorably and 37% unfavorably.

These numbers have very little to do with Glassman at this point, as 78% of voters have no opinion of him.

Democrats have a very good chance here if Hayworth manages to find a way to win the primary...what are the odds of that happening? We'll have those numbers tomorrow.

Full results here

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Arizona Senate Poll Preview

John McCain doesn't want to be seen as a maverick any more and it looks like he's getting his wish with Arizona voters. We find that only 28% of people in the state think that he is an 'independent voice for Arizona' while 55% believe that he's a 'partisan voice for national Republicans' with 17% not sure.

What impact is that having on his approval numbers and reelection prospects? We'll have Arizona Senate numbers tomorrow, and we find Democrats with a better chance in that race than other recent polling has suggested. Stay tuned...

Some hope for Democrats

Things may look better for Democratic prospects in four key Senate races a month from now, once the party has chosen its nominees. That's because in Arkansas, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania there are a lot more undecided Democrats than Republicans as hotly contested primaries play themselves out.

On average there are 7% more undecided Democrats than Republicans in those contests. Those folks coming home won't provide much immediate aid in Arkansas where Blanche Lincoln and Bill Halter were both well behind on our last poll, but in 50/50 races like Ohio and Pennsylvania it could make the difference between a slight Republican edge and a tie or a tie and a slight Democratic advantage. And it could pull Cal Cunningham or Elaine Marshall within the margin of error against Richard Burr and get folks really paying attention to what a legitimate opportunity the party has to play some offense in that state.

It's not a given that Democrats will come together and cause those races to tighten up a little bit once they're unified around a single candidate, but I think it's likely.

Here's the data on those races:



Undecided Dems

Undecided Reps









North Carolina




North Carolina




















Goddard leads in Arizona

The Governor's race in Arizona continues to shape up as a rare opportunity for Democrats this year to pick up a major office they don't already have control of. But although Terry Goddard still leads all of his Republican opponents in the race, incumbent Jan Brewer's position has improved a good deal since PPP last looked at the state in September.

In the most likely match up for this fall Goddard leads Brewer 47-44. That represents a tightening since Goddard held a 46-36 lead over her last fall. Partisan preferences have hardened in the wake of Brewer's signing a tough immigration bill last week. Where Brewer was getting only 59% of the Republican vote in our last poll, she's now at 73%. But Goddard has seen a similar improvement in his own party, improving from 77% of the Democratic vote to 88%. The main reason for the overall tightening is that where Brewer trailed Goddard by 12 points with independents previously, that's now just a 2 point deficit.

There has been a great deal of movement along racial lines. In the September poll Goddard had a 3 point lead with white voters, but he now trails Brewer by 8. At the same time he's increased his lead with Hispanic voters from 20 points to 46. There are a lot more white voters in the state than Hispanic ones so from a cynical, purely political perspective Brewer's actions last week probably did her some good.

Goddard has more comfortable leads against the rest of the Republican field. He leads Buz Mills 45-37, Dean Martin 47-36, and John Munger 46-31. In a hypothetical contest against Joe Arpaio he holds a 47-44 advantage identical to the one he posts against Brewer.

Brewer is still not very popular, with 35% of voters in the state approving of her job performance and 46% disapproving. But those numbers represent a significant improvement from where she stood last fall, when the approval was a 26/43 spread. Her greatest gains have come with Republicans who now give her a positive 54/27 approval after previously giving her a negative 28/37. She's still on negative ground with independents but has seen an improvement there as well, from 26/46 to 33/39. The reason her overall numbers are negative though is that Democrats have turned against her in a big way- her disapproval with them has spiked from 48% to 75%.

This is likely to be a tight race, and after last week perhaps one of the most closely watched contests in the country this year.

Full results here

Summing up the NC Senate race

I think one finding in SurveyUSA's poll of the North Carolina Democratic Senate primary might sum the whole thing up: among those who report already having voted, 20% report being undecided. Maybe they just didn't want to say who they voted for. Or maybe they already forgot.

Marshall leads, Cunningham pulling closer

Our newest poll on the North Carolina Senate primary could be summarized the same way as pretty much all of the other ones: Elaine Marshall is leading, but Cal Cunningham is gaining. The question now is whether she can hold him off for one final week given his considerable financial advantage.

Marshall gets 26% this week to 23% for Cunningham. It's clearly become a two person race as the rest of the candidates are languishing in single digits. Kenneth Lewis is at 7%, Marcus Williams at 4%, and Susan Harris and Ann Worthy at 3%.

34% of voters remained undecided and even that number doesn't tell the whole story. 40% of the folks who do currently support a candidate say they could change their minds between now and next Tuesday. So more than 60% of the electorate is either completely undecided or open to a flip, showing just how fluid the race is.

After two weeks of television ads Cunningham has nearly caught up to Marshall in terms of name recognition. 59% of voters now have an opinion about her (with it breaking down favorably by a 44/15 margin) and 56% have one about him (with it breaking down favorably 39/17.)

Kenneth Lewis looked like a serious contender for a while in this race but was never able to build any momentum. His lack of resources has resulted in his continuing to lag Marshall and now Cunningham in name recognition. Despite a long list of endorsements from high profile black leaders Lewis is just tied for second with Marshall among black voters at 13%, six points behind Cunningham's 19%.

Marshall leads among liberal voters, whites, senior citizens, and folks in the Triangle, Charlotte, and western North Carolina. Cunningham's up with conservatives, blacks, young voters, and folks in the Triad and eastern North Carolina.

It's a toss up between Cunningham and Marshall. We'll do one final poll next weekend but with voters this indecisive we may actually have to wait for election night to really know who's going to win this one.

Full results here

Monday, April 26, 2010

Previewing Tomorrow's NC Senate Poll

We'll have our North Carolina Senate primary numbers out tomorrow and although it's clearly a two person race at this point, beyond that it's as up in the air as ever. We still find 34% of voters undecided. And out of the 66% who do have a preference, only 60% of them say that preference is set in stone with the other 40% saying they could change their minds between now and next week.

That means on the whole you have 39% of voters with their minds completely made up, 34% who are completely undecided, and 27% who are leaning in a certain way but could go in a different direction. That makes this about the most unpredictable race we've ever polled on a consistent basis. We'll do one final poll next weekend, and we usually feel pretty comfortable saying that whoever leads that last survey is going to be the winner. This is the rare race though where things are so undefined that there really could be a shift between the end of our polling on Sunday and the election on Tuesday so unless someone is out to a double digit lead we're not going to feel real comfortable calling it anything other than a tossup at that point. It's unusual to have an election where voters are this indecisive.

Arizona Governor Poll Preview

We polled Arizona over the weekend and as you might imagine Jan Brewer's signing of a controversial immigration bill last week has helped her in some circles and hurt her in others. Here are a couple key findings and we'll have the full results tomorrow:

-Brewer has seen a significant improvement in her job approval numbers with Republicans. When we looked at the state in September she was under water even with voters of her own party, as 37% of them expressed disapproval of her job performance while only 28% felt she was doing a good job. Now 54% of Republicans approve of her and only 27% disapprove, so she's seen a good deal of improvement on that front, which should be particularly helpful for her prospects of winning nomination for a full term against a crowded field of primary opponents.

-At the same time Democratic candidate Terry Goddard leads Brewer 71-25 with Hispanics. That may seem ho hum, but consider this: Barack Obama only won Hispanic voters in the state by a 56-41 margin. So Goddard's outperforming him by more than 30 points there. And on our September poll Goddard was up just 53-33 with Hispanics so it's a 26 point improvement on the margin even relative to that.

What does it all add up to? Check back tomorrow.

Friday, April 23, 2010

LeMieux's Flaws

George LeMieux is frequently mentioned as a potential challenger to Bill Nelson in 2012, but I have a hard time seeing him as one of the GOP's more viable candidates.

When we polled Florida last month we found LeMieux with only a 13% approval rating and 33% of voters disapproving of him. He had negative numbers across party lines with a plurality of Democrats, Republicans, and independents all expressing negative feelings toward him. The figures didn't even bode particularly well for his ability to win a contested GOP nomination contest- 29% of Republicans gave him poor marks with only 15% expressing positive feelings toward him.

Even Quinnipiac- which tends to give politicians of both parties higher approval ratings than we do- found LeMieux in negative territory on its most recent Florida poll. They at least found a plurality of Republicans speaking positively of him, but the numbers were far from impressive with 26% expressing approval to 16% disapproving.

I don't think voters are going to like politicians a whole lot more in 2012 than they do right now, so Republicans are going to have a much better chance against Nelson if they can run someone with outsider cred. A former Senator's about as far away from that as you can get. It's hard to imagine LeMieux's run in Washington extending much further than the end of the year.

Independents in NC

Independent voters have been leaning toward the Republicans for the entire 2009-10 election cycle in North Carolina, but that's reached a new level this month that Democrats will have to turn around by the fall to avoid a disastrous result at the polls.

This month we found them planning to vote GOP by a 47-18 margin for the legislature and by a 46-19 margin in their Congressional races. You don't have to go too far to find an explanation for why they're leaning so heavily toward the Republicans. 63% of them disapprove of the job Barack Obama is doing to just 33% approving and Bev Perdue's numbers with are even worse as 56% give her poor marks to just 23% who think she's doing a good job. When you have the two most important Democratic officials getting those kinds of reviews from independents, it doesn't do much to help the cause of their party's other candidates.

The most amazing thing we're seeing with independents right now is their attitude toward Richard Burr. They don't particularly care for him, with 43% saying they disapprove of his job performance to 31% approving. But then when you ask them how they plan to vote this fall they turn right around and say they'd give Burr a 43-23 advantage over Elaine Marshall, a 42-21 over Kenneth Lewis, and a 45-18 one over Cal Cunningham. They don't like Burr personally, but they like the idea of another Democratic Senator even less.

It's a long way until November and things can change on a dime in politics but Democrats are going to have to find a way to reach these voters and get their minds on something other than health care if they're going to do well at the polls this fall.

Lynch under 50

New Hampshire Governor John Lynch isn't exactly in a dire position for reelection, but he's not likely to win by nearly the margins he posted in 2006 and 2008 this year.

Lynch leads John Stephen 47-36, Jack Kimball 47-35, and Karen Testerman 47-29 as he seeks his fourth term as Governor. He won by huge margins in the last couple elections because he enjoyed overwhelming support from independents and even won a decent amount of Republican support but those things aren't really the case anymore. He gets only 12-14% of the GOP vote against each of his potential opponents and although he continues to lead by 10-17 points with independents against each of them, it's a far cry from the 60 point advantage exit polls showed with them in 2008.

There are a lot more undecided Republicans in each of the three match ups than Democrats, suggesting the race could get even tighter once the GOP has settled on a nominee. 21-33% of Republicans voters aren't sure who they'll vote for yet this fall across the three matches to only 9-12% of Democrats who haven't made a decision yet.

Some of Lynch's diminished standing is attributable to voters simply not liking him as much as they did in the past, but it's also an indication that even a previously popular across party lines politician like him is not immune to the national trends. Republicans across the country right now are extremely unified around their party's candidates and loathe to support any Democrats. And independents are leaning considerably more toward the GOP than they were the last couple cycles and that's even touching Lynch.

Lynch still has to be seen as a strong favorite for reelection, but he won't come close to touching the 74% and 70% marks he received at the polls in 2006 and 2008.

Full results here

Palin and the GOP

Sarah Palin's been bucking the Republican establishment a lot lately, endorsing Rand Paul and feuding with the RNC. You would expect that makes her the favorite of anti-establishment Republicans looking toward 2012. But our early polling indicates that's not the case.

Our national survey earlier this week found Palin with 23%, trailing Mitt Romney's 33% standing by ten points. But with voters who disapprove of the direction of the Republican party Palin's support stands at just 16%, a full 20 points behind Romney's 36% standing with those voters. She actually gets her best numbers with Republicans who are happy with where the party's headed- among them she gets 27% and lags Romney's 32% by only five points.

When we think about Republicans displeased with the direction of their party it usually conjures an image of far right conservatives who think their party is too liberal. But they're actually more moderate than the party's voters as a whole. Overall 78% of GOP voters identify as conservatives to just 19% as moderates. But among unhappy Republicans 71% are conservatives and 27% are moderates.

That goes a long way toward explaining why Palin doesn't poll that well with discontented Republican voters. A lot of them are people who don't think the party has put forward a winning message in the last two elections- and those folks don't think Palin is the solution to the party's recent struggles at the polls.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Party Unity and the Midterms

Lost in the endless coverage of tension between mainstream Republicanism and the Tea Party movement (which may well be mainstream Republicanism under a different name) is the fact that when it comes to voting this fall Republicans are a good deal more unified than Democrats are.

In the 11 most important Senate races that we've polled on so far this year the most likely GOP candidate is winning on average 10% more of the Republican vote than the most likely Democratic candidate is of the Democratic vote. On average GOP candidates are getting 80% support from their party's voters while the Democrats are getting 70% from theirs. All of the Republicans are getting at least 73% support from their party, while 6 of the 11 Democrats are under 70% with theirs. The only two Democrats who have their party more unified than their Republican opponent are Robin Carnahan in Missouri and Michael Bennet in Colorado.

There's actually a silver lining for Democrats in this- it means their candidates have more room to grow support between now and the fall. But while it's Republican disunity that gets most of the ink, it's Democratic disunity that may play a bigger role at the polls this fall. Unhappy Democrats aren't planning rallies to talk about it, they're just planning to support the GOP at the polls this fall or stay home.

Here's the full data:


Dem (% of Party Vote)

Rep (% of Party Vote)

GOP Unity Advantage


Giannoulias (54%)

Kirk (77%)

23 pts


Lincoln (68%)

Boozman (89%)

21 pts


Marshall (66%)

Burr (82%)

16 pts


Mongiardo (61%)

Paul (73%)

12 pts


Reid (75%)

Lowden (86%)

11 pts


Meek (67%)

Rubio (77%)

10 pts


Fisher (67%)

Portman (77%)

10 pts


Specter (71%)

Toomey (78%)

7 pts


Hodes (76%)

Ayotte (81%)

5 pts


Carnahan (85%)

Blunt (84%)

-1 pt


Bennet (79%)

Norton (77%)

-2 pts

Thoughts on the NC Senate Primary

We'll be conducting our next poll on the North Carolina Senate race this weekend and it's safe to say this one is more important than all of the previous ones combined.

In the three 2008 polls we did before Kay Hagan started running television ads she was at 18-19% while her main challenger Jim Neal was at 9-11%. Once Hagan got on the air her support went to 28%, then 35%, then 36%, then 41% over the course of the final four polls. Neal, who did not have the resources to run television, stagnated at 7%, then 8%, 8% again, and finished at 11%. That's how it went from being a relatively competitive 9 point race to a total blowout.

Based on that trajectory in the 2008 contest you would expect Cal Cunningham to be leading this penultimate poll after having the airwaves to himself for a week and a half. But he doesn't have as much money as Hagan did, and his ad buys so far haven't been particularly large. At the same time there is not nearly as much political ad clutter as there was in 2008 when the state had competitive primaries on both sides for Governor in addition to the Obama/Clinton contest so it's possible the volume of ads this time around doesn't have to be as large to make the same impact.

One thing that does seem more clear after yesterday's fundraising numbers came out is that this is a two person race. Kenneth Lewis was already lagging Marshall and Cunningham in the polling and he's even further behind in the money race- you don't usually catch up in the polls if you're way behind on the cash. Unless Lewis has some amazing, invisible grassroots operation he's going to be settling for the bronze.

If Cunningham has pulled ahead of Marshall there's going to be some temptation to say it's over between the poll lead and the money lead. But that would be premature. In the Treasurer's contest two years ago Janet Cowell led pretty much all of our polling. Then David Young was first on the air and took over the lead on our second to last poll. But after she started running her ads Cowell took it right back on the final poll before winning the race. So there is some precedent for Marshall to come back and win even if she has slipped behind this weekend.

I really have no idea who's going to win this race. It's going to be very interesting to see how it plays out.

Enthusiasm in PA-12

As the party tries to hold onto John Murtha's old Congressional seat here are some numbers that don't bode very well for Democrats- the enthusiasm numbers among the party's voters are exactly what they were in Virginia the weekend before Creigh Deeds went down to Bob McDonnell by 17 points.

38% of Democrats say they're very excited about voting in the special election while 29% say they are not very excited. When we had those numbers in Virginia the overwhelming thought was that it was due to Democrats being uninspired by Creigh Deeds' lackluster campaign. I'm not sure that the numbers in this case are really Mark Critz's fault so much as a reflection of unhappiness with the party in general. Democratic voters in this particular district aren't real high on the actions of any of their Democratic officials and that being the case it's not a big surprise that they're not enthralled with voting in this election.

There's been a lot of speculation that Critz might get bailed out in this race because it's the same day as the primary and the Democratic races for Senate and Governor in Pennsylvania are much more compelling than the Republican ones. But it's important again to remember that PA-12 Democrats are very different from national Democrats. There are a lot of voters who are going to be perfectly happy to go vote in the Democratic primary while also voting Republican for Congress- more than 20% according to our poll for this week.

I also think the Congressional race is going to end up being the main driver of turnout for this election rather than the primary contests, and with Republicans much more enthused about casting their ballots it just doesn't seem likely the Specter/Sestak race is going to give Critz a big boost. The race certainly looks like a tossup and is winnable for Democrats but there are a lot of bad signs for the party beyond the topline numbers.

Penry more popular than Norton

Colorado Republican Senate front runner Jane Norton has hired the party's leader in the State Senate, Josh Penry, as her campaign manager. When you look at their respective poll numbers though you're left wondering who should be the candidate and who should be the staffer. Our polling in the state has found Penry to be more popular than Norton.

Last summer when Penry was still running for Governor we found that he had a +3 net favorability rating with 23% of voters viewing him positively and 20% negatively. With Republicans he was at +30 with 37% holding a favorable view of him to 7% with an unfavorable one.

When we polled the Senate race in the state last month we found somewhat less favorable numbers for Norton. 25% of voters saw her favorably to 35% unfavorably for a net rating of -10. Her numbers within the GOP are worse than Penry's as well with 42% holding a positive opinion to 24% with a negative one for a net +18.

Norton is better known than Penry but their favorables are virtually identical, with her negatives both among GOP voters and the electorate as a whole much higher.

So you have a candidate running for the Senate whose image with voters in the state is worse than that of her campaign manager. Not something you see every day.

GOP strong in NH House races

It's a given that Republicans will pick up a lot of Democratic held Congressional seats in districts won by John McCain this year. What will decide whether the GOP can take control of the House is its ability to win ones where Barack Obama was victorious as well. And it appears to have a very good chance to do so in both of New Hampshire's districts.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter has an upside down approval with 50% of voters disapproving of her job performance to just 41% giving her good marks. Hers is the more conservative of the state's districts and she's probably not helped by Obama's negative 45/49 approval spread or the 52/42 opposition to the health care bill there.

In a hypothetical match up with Frank Guinta, Shea-Porter trails 46-45. It has little to do with Guinta- 52% of voters in the district don't know enough about him to have an opinion and it's far from inevitable that he will be the GOP nominee. But he nevertheless leads 45-42 among independents and takes 9% of Democrats to Shea-Porter's 7% of Republicans. Shea-Porter has not really done any bipartisan bridge building so that puts her fate in the hands of independents and that will make it tough for her this fall with independents everywhere leaning toward the GOP. This one looks like a tossup.

If the best known candidates for Paul Hodes' open seat win their party nominations Republicans will be heavily favored to take it back. Former Congressman Charlie Bass leads 2002 Democratic nominee Katrina Swett 47-32. Those numbers are pretty comparable to what happened when they faced off the first time and Bass won 57-41, not a huge surprise given that this is the first year where New Hampshire Republicans have much cause for optimism since that 2002 election.

Although she is the best known candidate for now because of her family name and prior run, Democrats may be better off nominating someone other than Swett. 29% of voters in the district have an unfavorable opinion of her to only 19% who view her positively. Bass isn't amazingly popular either with 35% of voters holding a favorable opinion of him to 34% with a negative one. Still he leads Swett 49-26 with independents and gets 18% of the Democratic vote against her so if that's how the race shapes up the GOP will be in a very strong position.

If Republicans can win these sorts of districts around the country in the fall, they will probably take back the majority. In New Hampshire anyway, they appear to be in a strong position to do so.

Full results here

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Mad at their party...

There's an interesting dichotomy right now in how Democrats and Republicans feel about their own parties. Democrats are much more likely than Republicans to think their party is headed in the right direction. But at the same time unhappy Democrats are much more likely to abandon their party at the polls this year than unhappy Republicans. So even though there are a good deal fewer of them, angry Democrats are a much bigger threat to their party's prospects in 2010 than angry Republicans are to theirs.

On our most recent national poll just 54% of Republican voters said they were pleased with the direction of their party. The 46% who fall into the unhappy or not sure camps though still say they'll vote for the GOP by an 82-9 margin this fall.

By contrast 83% of Democrats are happy with their party's direction. But among those who aren't 48% are planning to vote for Republicans this fall to 36% who are planning to vote Democratic. So despite the fact that there are far more GOP voters mad at their party than Democrats, the number of angry Democrats planning to vote Republican is actually larger than the number of angry Republicans planning to vote Democratic. It's just one more thing the party is going to have to cope with for this fall.

Ayotte, Stephen lead NH primaries

Kelly Ayotte has a wide lead for the Republican Senate nomination in New Hampshire. She's currently getting 43% to 19% for Bill Binnie, 11% for Jim Bender, 5% for Ovide Lamontagne, and 1% for Tom Alciere.

There had been some speculation that Ayotte might have some trouble in the primary with more conservative 'Tea Party' voters but she has relatively similar numbers across the ideological spectrum, getting 46% with moderates and 41% with conservatives. Binnie is running second with conservatives at 24% and Bender is second with moderates at 14%.

It's not impossible that Ayotte could lose the primary but she benefits from the size of the Republican field because opposition to her is dispersed among several candidates. She has to be seen as the overwhelming favorite.

In the Republican primary for Governor there are more voters (46%) who are undecided than anything else. John Stephen leads with 29% to 15% for Karen Testerman and 10% for Jack Kimball.

Full results here

Romney up big in New Hampshire

One of the biggest blows to Mitt Romney's hopes for being the 2008 Republican Presidential nominee was his losing the neighboring state of New Hampshire. Right now it doesn't look like that would be a problem for him in a 2012 run. Romney is by far and away the favorite of voters in the state at this very early point, with the support of 39% of Republicans in the state. Sarah Palin comes in second at 13%, with Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich tied for third at 11%. Ron Paul is fifth at 7%, and if anyone out of the unlikely trio of Tim Pawlenty, Haley Barbour, and Rick Santorum was somehow able to win the state they'd be able to say in their victory speech that they started at nothing- Pawlenty registers at 3% with Barbour and Santorum at just 1%.

We've looked at the Republican race for 2012 now in 13 different states and New Hampshire is just the second where there's been a runaway leader. The other was Florida, where we found Romney with 44% to 25% for Palin and 17% for Huckabee. Florida and New Hampshire are two of the most important stops on the early Republican calendar, and if Romney had been able to turn his narrow losses in them into victories in 2008 there's a very good chance he would have been the GOP nominee. Obviously it's still a long way until 2012 but perhaps even more than his lead in our national polling, his broad advantage in this pair of key states speaks to his nominal front runner status.

Full results here

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Fall of Charlie Crist

It's his fall with Republicans that gets all the attention, but Charlie Crist's poll numbers have declined almost as badly with Democrats and independents over the last year as they have within his own party. And that makes me doubt he would be successful in an independent Senate bid even if he did decide to make a run for it.

Comparing Quinnipiac's April 2009 poll to its poll this month Crist's approval rating has dropped 19 points with Republicans, from 68% to 49%. But it's also dropped by 18 points with independents from 68% to 50% and by 14 points with Democrats from 66% to 52%.

Right now Crist gets 30% of the Republican vote and 27% of the Democratic vote if he runs as an independent. But it's important to keep in mind that 61% of Democrats don't know enough about Kendrick Meek to have formed an opinion of him yet- are Democrats who like Crist and don't know Meek today still going to vote for Crist this fall once they know Meek? Given the downward trend in his poll numbers among Democrats it seems like he would lose a lot of that support. The same is even true with Rubio, although to a lesser extent. 25% of Republicans still don't have an opinion about him.

The ideological war in the Republican Party is certainly a big part of Charlie Crist's trouble right now. But he's on the decline across the board and has been pretty much since he decided to run for the Senate instead of seeking reelection as Governor. I think part of Crist's problem might be a feeling from voters that he's overly ambitious- and leaving his party to try to get elected to the Senate won't do much to assuage that problem. It's too early to write the obituary on Crist's political career- too many amazing comeback stories in the annals of politics to do that- but a victory in 2010 seems unlikely under any scenario.

NC voters think they have higher taxes

Every week it seems there's a new study or statistic that some interest group or other can use to claim that North Carolina does or does not have an unusually high tax burden. When it comes to the perceptions of voters though it's no contest- North Carolinians think they pay higher taxes than people in other states.

59% of voters in the state feel that way compared to 26% who think North Carolina's taxes are about the same as other places and 10% who feel that the state has lower taxes. It's a sentiment that there's bipartisan consensus on- 70% of Republicans, 56% of independents, and 52% of Democrats think that residents of the state pay more than average.

So do these numbers spell big trouble for Democrats as they try to keep control of the General Assembly this fall? I doubt it. Only 3% of voters in the state say taxes are the most important issue to them. And although we've never asked this particular question before I imagine the numbers would have been pretty similar even when the state had Republican Governors or for the brief time it had a Republican House. And it's harder for Republicans to use this as a wedge issue when voters across party lines feel the state has unusually high taxes- there's a pretty large segment of the electorate that feels that way and is still perfectly content to vote for Democratic candidates.

I would, however, advise Democratic candidates not to try to convince voters that North Carolina's taxes aren't unusually high. The perception is so widely held that it's probably immutable. Better to focus on the positive aspects of the state that result from them.

Full results here

Ayotte up on Hodes

Our first look in 2010 at the New Hampshire Senate race confirms what all the other polling shows- Republican front runner Kelly Ayotte has a solid early lead over Democratic candidate Paul Hodes, 47-40.

Part of that is Barack Obama's falling popularity in the state and part of that is Ayotte's personal popularity. Obama won a solid victory in the state in 2008 but his approval rating is now in negative territory with 48% of voters disapproving of him to 47% who like the job he's doing. The health care bill passed last month is more unpopular with 50% of voters in the state opposed to it and only 42% supportive. A majority of independents both disapprove of Obama and express opposition to the health care bill.

The falling fortunes of the President would make this a tougher year for Democrats in New Hampshire in and of itself but Ayotte is also a particularly strong opponent. 34% of voters view favorably to 24% with an unfavorable opinion. That includes a positive 35/23 spread with independents, who are down on pretty much all politicians right now. She's also seen positively by 20% of Democrats, which is more popularity across party lines than most politicians are mustering in this highly polarized political climate.

What it all adds up to is Ayotte leading Hodes 49-34 with independents and picking up 15% of the Democratic vote while Hodes gets just 7% of the Republican vote. Ayotte even leads 47-42 in Hodes' Congressional district while holding a wider 49-37 advantage in Carol Shea-Porter's.

Hodes also trails Bill Binnie 46-41, but leads Jim Bender 43-40 and Ovide Lamontagne 43-38. Republican primary numbers that will be released tomorrow confirm that Ayotte is the clear front runner for her party's nomination.

There's a long way to go until this fall but for now this race looks like it will be the first real bright spot for Republicans in the state since 2002.

Full results here

Burns leads Critz 44-41

Buoyed by an electorate that is exceptionally sour on national Democrats, Republican Tim Burns has a 44-41 lead over Democrat Mark Critz in the special election to replace John Murtha in the House.

It's a rare election these days where both candidates are viewed pretty favorably in the district. 45% of voters have a favorable opinion of Burns to 26% who view him unfavorably and Critz is in positive territory as well with 41% of voters saying they like him to 34% who do not.

Tipping the balance in a race where each candidate is pretty well liked may be the way voters in the district feel about a number of key Democrats- Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Arlen Specter, and Ed Rendell are all exceptionally unpopular. Obama's approval rating is just 33% to 57% disapproving, only 24% have a favorable opinion of Pelosi to 64% with an unfavorable one, 28% of voters approve of Specter to 60% who don't, and 24% give Rendell good marks to 63% unhappy with him. Those aren't the sorts of reviews that bode well for the district electing another Democratic politician.

Although the district is exceptionally Democratic- 55% in this sample- these are not what you would think of as mainstream national Democratic voters. Only 50% of the party's voters in the district approve of Obama's job performance and just 43% support the health care bill passed last month. There are more Democrats in the district who have an unfavorable opinion of Nancy Pelosi than a positive one.

Because of that it's not surprising that Burns is winning over 22% of the Democratic vote compared to Critz's 10% of the Republican vote. Burns also has a 51-31 lead with independents, although there are fewer of them in this district than most.

Republicans have the enthusiasm on their side in this race as well. 57% of GOP voters say that they are 'very excited' about voting in the special election while just 38% of Democrats express that sentiment. There's been some speculation that more closely contested primaries on the Democratic side for Senator and Governor might give the party a turnout edge but that will more than likely be evened out by Republicans being more excited about the special election.

We find a likely electorate that voted for John McCain by seven points in 2008, in contrast to his single point victory in the district. That six point shift in a Republican direction is consistent with what we found for the electorate in the Massachusetts Senate election in January, but it shows Critz could make this even closer by getting Democratic voters out to the polls in the same proportions that were seen in 2008.

It's hard to see this race as anything but a tossup at this point. It's very close and there are a fair number of undecided voters still remaining. Critz is clearly doing an effective job of distancing himself from national Democrats and is polling remarkably well given the way voters in the district feel about his party. Still Burns has the national political climate and a more fired up party base on his side, and that gives him a very good chance to flip this seat to the Republicans next month. It's going to be an interesting one to watch unfold.

Full results here

Monday, April 19, 2010

PA-12 Poll Preview

Some Democrats may not be thrilled Mark Critz is emphasizing his opposition to the health care bill as he seeks to replace John Murtha in the House, but after polling the district it's hard to see that as anything but necessary for survival. Only 28% of voters in the district express support for it with 59% opposed. Even Democrats there support it by just a 43/39 margin.

Obama's overall approval rating in the district is 33%, with 57% of voters disapproving of him. It's hard to imagine any Democrat winning an open seat this year where the President is that unpopular but it's still a close race. We'll have the full numbers out tomorrow.

Looking more at Democratic enthusiasm

Our latest numbers on enthusiasm among Democrats for voting this fall are a good reminder of just how awful it was for the party to have Creigh Deeds and Jon Corzine as its standard bearers last fall.

We find 62% of the party's voters nationally 'very excited' about voting this fall. That's quite a contrast from last fall's races when 38% of Virginia Democrats and 35% of New Jersey Democrats expressed that sentiment about their Governor's races.

I'm not going to say that the races last fall were meaningless as a barometer for this year- certainly they portended good news for the Republicans in 2010. At the same time it's not exactly breaking news that bad candidates lose elections, and what happened in New Jersey and Virginia speaks to that at least as much as the overall mood of the voters.

Democrats should do comparatively a lot better this year than they did in 2009 assuming their candidates generate a little more enthusiasm from the party base than Deeds and Corzine did.

NC supports offshore drilling

Offshore drilling continues to be very popular with North Carolina voters. More than 60% support it with just a little more than 20% in opposition.

It has wide bipartisan support. The major Democratic Senate candidates have come out against it, but that position is actually at odds with a majority of voters in their party. Roughly 58% of Democrats express support for it along with 70% of Republicans and 66% of independents.

Offshore drilling has seen an increase in its popularity even since the height of high gas prices in the summer of 2008 when we found 54% of North Carolinians in support of it and 26% opposed. There's a lot more support now from Democrats and independents, perhaps due to President Obama's recent statements on the issue.

This poll is a good example of how slight adjustments in question wording can affect the way people respond. We asked half of those polled simply if they supported 'drilling for oil off the coast of North Carolina' and the other half whether they supported 'President Obama's plan for drilling for oil off the coast of North Carolina.' Both question wordings produced support in excess of 60%, but they led to very different numbers by party. When the President's name was invoked support rose from 52% to 64% with Democrats. But it dropped from 73% to 66% with Republicans. Either is a perfectly reasonable way of asking the question but it shows how malleable public opinion can be.

President Obama's approval rating in North Carolina continues to hold steady, with 46% of voters giving him good marks and 50% dissenting.

Full results here

Romney continues to lead

Mitt Romney continues to lead the way among the top Republicans likely to run for President in 2012. He's polling at 33% nationally to 27% for Mike Huckabee and 23% for Sarah Palin.

PPP state by state polling has found Huckabee strong in the South and Romney winning everywhere else and the national numbers confirm that trend. Huckabee leads his home region with 37% to 25% for Palin and 23% for Romney. But in the Northeast, Midwest, and West Romney leads with anywhere from 37 to 39% with Palin second in her territory and Huckabee getting runner up honors everywhere else.

The big story in 2012 polling continues to be Palin's surprisingly poor performance. She hasn't led in a single one of the dozen individual states we've taken a look at, and runs ten points behind Romney nationally. She is actually the most well liked of the GOP front runners with 66% viewing her favorably to 55% for Huckabee and 54% for Romney, but there's a disconnect between how much voters like Palin and how willing they are to support her for President.

Beyond the regional difference Romney leads with pretty much every subgroup of the Republican electorate at this point- moderates and conservatives, women and men, and every age group except the under 30 crowd.

Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul will be added for next month's poll.

Full results here

Friday, April 16, 2010

More on Burr's numbers

Earlier this week we showed Richard Burr with his worst poll numbers since we started monthly tracking in December of 2008. But we're not alone- Republican firm Tel Opinion Research, which does polling for the right wing Civitas Institute, also showed Burr with his worst numbers ever on their most recent poll.

Their March survey showed 27% of North Carolinians with a favorable opinion of Burr. That number has declined every month so far in 2010. He started at 33% favorability in January and dropped to 30% in February before landing at the 27% mark in March. Even his 33% at the beginning of the year represented a drop from his standing in early 2009. In January and March of last year Tel Opinion put him at 37% favorability but he was down to 33% in April and then 31% in June before Civitas stopped polling it.

Richard Burr's camp likes to claim his vulnerability is just a figment of PPP's partisan agenda but it's hard to ignore the fact that even the polls of organizations on his team show his numbers at their worst level yet. We still don't really know the answer to whether the country is exclusively in an anti-Democratic mood or if it's an anti-incumbent one but if it turns out to be the latter, Burr will be the first Republican Senator to go.

Very good news for Democrats in Georgia

Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is reporting that Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond will enter the US Senate race against Johnny Isakson on Tuesday. This is exceptionally good news for Democrats on two fronts:

1) Last month we ranked Isakson as the third most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the country seeking reelection, behind only Richard Burr and David Vitter. When we polled the state six weeks ago he had extremely middling approval numbers with 36% of voters giving him good marks and 38% saying they disapproved of him. We showed him at just 46% against a generic Democratic opponent and lest you think that's just PPP bias Rasmussen has shown him under 50% in the last few months as well. Obviously Georgia is going to be a tough state for Democrats in this political climate. But Isakson is a weak incumbent and it's very good news for Democrats that a statewide office holder is willing to challenge him. This could be a sleeper race like the Jim Martin/Saxby Chambliss one two years ago that ended up being much closer in the fall than anyone had expected in the spring.

2) The other reason it's really good news is that having a strong black candidate on the top of the ticket alongside Roy Barnes should really help to get African American voters out for the Governor's race and the whole Democratic ticket. Taking the polling as a whole you have to look at the Gubernatorial contest as a 50/50 proposition right now. If Democrats can avoid the drop off in turnout from black voters that plagued the party's chances of winning the Martin/Chambliss runoff in 2008 and more recently the Virginia Governor's race that will really help their prospects across the board- and Thurmond should help with that.

Democrats haven't had a lot of good weeks on the recruitment front so far this year- but with Pataki and Thompson out in New York and Wisconsin and Thurmond in in George you have to declare the last five a days a win for the party.
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