Thursday, January 22, 2009

Voinovich Retirement a Blessing in Disguise for GOP?

The conventional wisdom is that George Voinovich's retirement announcement last week opened up a big opportunity for Democrats in Ohio. But our polling shows that it may have actually boosted Republican prospects for keeping the seat next year.

Earlier this week we tested Jennifer Brunner, Lee Fisher, and Tim Ryan against Rob Portman in possible 2010 Senate contests. Over the summer PPP had also looked into how they stacked up against George Voinovich. Here's how it breaks down:

Dem Possibility

Vs. Voinovich

Vs. Portman

Jennifer Brunner



Lee Fisher



Tim Ryan



Brunner, Fisher, and Ryan all polled better against Voinovich than they do in this initial test against Portman with the disparities ranging from four points for Fisher to 12 points for Brunner.

Also, the 28% of Ohio voters who have a favorable opinion of Portman is pretty much equal to the average of 31% of Ohioans who expressed approval for Voinovich's job performance over the course of three summer polls we conducted looking at it. But the 23% of voters who have a negative opinion of Portman is considerably less than the average of 39% six months ago who said they disapproved of Voinovich's work. Basically Portman has similar positive reviews from voters with a lot who had a dim view of Voinovich currently rating themselves as unsure about Portman.

Certainly the specter of an open seat creates a higher degree of certainty that one or more strong Democratic candidates will make a bid for it. But Voinovich would have been incredibly vulnerable if a decent candidate had challenged him, and the Republicans may end up being better off in 2010 with a fresher face as their nominee than the incumbent.

Our polling in Missouri last week similarly found that the difference between incumbent Kit Bond and a trio of possible new Republican candidates pitted against Robin Carnahan was not that great, and although we haven't done any polling in Florida yet since Mel Martinez retired, his numbers over the summer were so bad that it's hard to imagine the open seat not improving GOP retention prospects.

It is undeniably bad news for Republicans that Democrats have a good chance to pick up these open seats in Florida, Missouri, and Ohio. But if anything it's possible their ability to hold these seats has been helped rather than hindered by incumbent retirements.


Anonymous said...

How did Voinovich wind up being so unpopular? When I lived in Ohio he was very well liked.

Anonymous said...

Well, let's see. Centrists don't care. Democrats aren't going to like a GOP. He hardly fits in with the Religious Right. And he's viewed as an old politician by the newly awakened that brought us Ron Paul and Barack Obama.

Sometimes if a politician just coasts, he's going to be replaced by a fresh face.

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