Monday, November 8, 2010

The 2012 Senate Class

There were a ton of competitive Senate races in 2010 and the playing field could be even wider in 2012. Since the beginning of August PPP has polled on the approval ratings of 18 Senators who are up for reelection next time around. 9 of the 18 have an approval spread somewhere that's between +10 and -10, indicating the kind of ambiguous feelings toward an incumbent that can lead to a competitive race.

The three least popular and conceivably most vulnerable Senators up next time that we've polled on are Joe Lieberman, Claire McCaskill, and Debbie Stabenow. Lieberman has now reached the point where neither Democrats nor Republicans are particularly inclined to reelect him. He was able to win reelection in a three way race in 2006 by becoming the de facto Republican candidate- if he can't achieve that status again this time his career may be over. Missouri was extremely brutal for Democrats this year and McCaskill has not built up a lot in the way of crossover support from Republicans and independents during her first term in the Senate. Stabenow's approval numbers with this year's electorate are partially a reflection of the fact that the enthusiasm gap in Michigan was particularly large- but still indicative of trouble ahead if she draws a strong opponent.

In an unusual twist the most popular Senator on the list might be in trouble as well. Olympia Snowe has the strongest overall approval numbers but we've found in several polls a desire from the Republican base in Maine for a more conservative alternative to her. Her numbers with GOP voters are a lot weaker than Mike Castle's or Lisa Murkowski's were six months out from their primary defeats. Others near the top of the list are Amy Klobuchar and Jeff Bingaman.

Here's the full rundown. Obviously we'll be going far beyond approval numbers on these folks in the coming months to sort out who's in trouble and who's not:




Olympia Snowe



Amy Klobuchar



Jeff Bingaman



Daniel Akaka



Dianne Feinstein



Kay Bailey Hutchison



Tom Carper



Jon Kyl



Kirsten Gillibrand



Maria Cantwell



Bill Nelson



Herb Kohl



Bob Casey



John Ensign



Sherrod Brown



Debbie Stabenow



Claire McCaskill



Joe Lieberman




yokem55 said...

The Democrat's best scenario for the Senate in 2012 would leave them with 50 or 51 seats. If they pick up Brown-MA, Ensign-NV, and Snow-ME (if Snow switches or gets primaried out as looks possible), then they can lose up to 5 other vulnerable senators and keep the majority. If Obama is re-elected, then that number goes to 6. But that best scenario would have to work out very well indeed, and the odds of it are not all that great.

Anonymous said...

As a libertarian I'd be interested in seeing how Gary Johnson would do against Bingaman. He's probably running for President but it'd be interesting to see if he has a path to the Senate. He'd be the top choice for Paul supporters like me and draw enough fund-raising. Like Rand Paul he could probably be the highest profile Tea Party candidate as well.

Also it would be interesting to see if a formerly popular 90's governor has any name recognition and any traction against a popular incumbent.

wt said...

The more PPP polls the competitive races early on, say Tester v. Rehberg, the more impact you'll have on the narratives of these races, i.e. toss-ups, trending blue, trending red, etc.

No reason to slow down just because the 2010 cycle is over. Sure, take a vacation, but your ability to break news with your polling data and track record has been a huge boon to business. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

As somewhat of a political novice, I was wondering when you guys and other pollsters start polling for these 2012 cycle senate and other races?

Anonymous said...

Why isn't Jim Webb on here?? What am I missing?

Anonymous said...

You narrowed the field for vulnerable Senators, but didn't include Ben Nelson?

You can carry water all you want, but people know that Ben Nelson is toast in 2012.

Anonymous said...

Sorry to disappoint, but Sen. Brown of Massachusetts is currently quite popular, and has an enormous warchest. The Democrats will struggle to get rid of him.

Tom Jensen said...

If you read the post- which I'm guessing you didn't- you'll see this is a list of approval ratings for people we've polled on since the beginning of August. We haven't done a public poll in Virginia in over a year and we've never done a public poll in Nebraska. That's why Webb and Nelson aren't on there.

The Interesting Times said...

Wouldn't a -4 approval rating still make Casey one of the most popular politicians in his state?

I suspect that Casey will be difficult to beat in 2012.

Gaucho said...

Where are Sheldon Whitehouse, Jim Webb, Jon Tester...?

Anonymous said...

Maine will be very interesting...a TEA party governor just got elected and the GOP just seized the legislature for the first time since ......? Can anybody even remember?

I expect Snowe to pivot hard on fiscal issues...she's already been making glowing remarks about the tea partiers..she's no dumby and not many are better at knowing where the wind blows...

Anonymous said...

Kent Conrad could be in real trouble in view of what happened to Pomeroy.

Dustin Ingalls said...

"Where are Sheldon Whitehouse, Jim Webb, Jon Tester...?"

Do you read? We haven't polled RI, VA, or MT.

"a TEA party governor just got elected"

Barely, thanks to Cutler, Mitchell, and the other two independents splitting the Dem vote.

NRH said...

Brown is going to be in tremendous trouble facing an engaged Massachusetts electorate in a presidential year. He managed to get into the seat in a special election, when Democratic turnout is often at its worst, facing a particularly poor campaign from his opponent. His best hope is that Massachusetts Democrats don't turn out - but they just came out in 2010, in some of the worst Democratic turnouts in modern history, to re-elect a full Democratic slate. Brown also has to spend the next two years staying far enough right to make the Massachusetts rump Republicans not dump him for someone more ideologically pure (as teahadists have shown themselves prone to do).

Anonymous said...

It is not very serious talk about "The 2012 Senate Class" without poll all the senators of this class.

And after the result of your polls before the election (giving pro-republican results) well, I doubt about all this.

Anonymous said...

Richard Lugar, R-Ind., is also up for re-election in 2012. Why wasn't he included here?

Anonymous said...

I will work very hard to get rid of Claire McCaskill, democratic senator from Missouri.

Anonymous said...

The one issue with this article on Joe Lieberman is that, while among registered Democrats and registered Republicans, he doesn't score too high, he still has a good deal of popularity among independents, and there are more independents in CT than either Dems or GOPs. The far left of the Democratic Party nominated Ned Lamont in 2006, and yet when Lieberman ran as independent, he still won handily over both challengers. People in CT look at the person, not the party. If he decides to run, my guess is that he'll win in the general.

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