One of the most intriguing and impressive 2014 congressional candidates is retired Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell (R), the commander of the military operation that captured Saddam Hussein in Iraq. Russell is a career soldier, author, public speaker, and former Oklahoma state senator now running for the open 5th CD.
In the June 24 Republican primary, Russell placed first in a field of six candidates, garnering 26.6 percent (14,597 votes). Patrice Douglas, state corporation commissioner (an elected position in Oklahoma) was second with 24.5 percent (13,440 votes). The two vie for the party nomination in an Aug. 26 run-off. The winner becomes the prohibitive favorite to win the seat in November and succeed Rep. James Lankford (R-OK-5) who will be moving to the Senate.
Russell placed first but spent the least (just over $171,000) among the top four GOP candidates in the race. His effort was boosted by his local notoriety and a strong and highly targeted grassroots operation.
A new internal Russell campaign poll from Louisiana-based JMC Analytics and Polling gives their client a 43-29 percent lead over Douglas when factoring in leaners. (The leaners are respondents who first answered “undecided” but then chose a candidate when asked again; those choosing a candidate on the secondary question split about evenly between the two candidates.)
But this poll added a unique twist. Though many survey research firms segment establishment, or “traditional” Republicans from “Tea Party” Republicans, this poll went one step further. The JMC survey added “Libertarian” Republicans as a new segment. Within the three separate ideological segments, the candidates were tested. Interestingly, the ballot test within the individual groups showed little differentiation as Russell universally leads.
Not surprisingly, the split within the Tea Party group is the conservative Russell’s best, where he posts a 47-32 percent advantage. Among Libertarians, however, he scores a similar 45-30 percent margin, and even with Traditional Republicans, the Russell edge is 40-28 percent. This suggests that the retired Army officer is in very strong position to claim the GOP nomination, and ostensibly the seat, when voters again visit the polls in late August.
The Senate race between incumbent Mark Pryor (D) and Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) has drawn more that its share of public polling, and both candidates have had their time with the lead. Within the past week, no less that four polls have been released, with each man scoring the advantage in a pair of surveys.
In data released on July 28th from YouGov internet polling for the New York Times (1,628 registered Arkansas voters), Rep. Cotton leads Sen. Pryor 49-45 percent after leaners are added. The Talk Business-Hendrix Business College poll, which regularly conducts statewide and district surveys in Arkansas (July 22-25; 1,780 registered Arkansas voters) posts Cotton to a 44-42 percent spread.
But, two others find more positive results for Sen. Pryor. Harstad Research (July 7-10; 807 likely Arkansas voters), surveying for the Pryor campaign, finds the opposite. According to their data, the senator claims a 45-39 percent lead. This is corroborated by an Anzalone Liszt Grove Research Democratic survey (July 20-24; 600 likely Arkansas voters) that gives him the edge, but a much smaller one, 44-42 percent.
With this type of continuing seesaw polling pattern, the Arkansas Senate race continues to be one of the most volatile contests in the nation.