By Jim Ellis
Oct. 14, 2016 — Candidates in both Wisconsin and Missouri may be rethinking their ad buy decisions.
It’s likely that strategists in both the Democratic and Republican Senate campaign committees who took the unusual step of canceling their media buys in the Wisconsin race are reconsidering their decision. The original move was interpreted as each side coming to the clear conclusion that former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) is on an irreversible path to unseat first-term incumbent Ron Johnson (R). It’s now probable that the advertising time will quickly be re-claimed.
A new Marquette University Law School poll (Oct. 6-9; 878 likely Wisconsin voters) became the third poll in a week to conclude that Sen. Johnson is making a viable comeback. The Marquette numbers found Feingold’s lead dropping to only 48-46 percent, a decided difference from the organization’s September survey that posted the ex-senator to a six-point, 47-41 percent, advantage.
Marquette’s finding is on the heels of the CBS News/YouGov poll (Oct. 5-7; 993 likely Wisconsin voters) that detected a similar 45-42 percent Feingold edge just two days earlier. The Loras College survey (Oct. 4-5; 500 likely Wisconsin voters) first projected a major Johnson move giving the senator his first lead of the contest, 45-40 percent.
While it was easy to dismiss the Loras result as an outlier, the two follow-up studies confirm a developing trend in Johnson’s favor.
The Marquette poll may be the most significant of the trio because it came after the Donald Trump videotape incident, yet it still shows clear incremental movement toward Johnson. Additionally, the sample and accompanying data appears sound because Hillary Clinton’s lead over Trump, Libertarian Gary Johnson, and Green Party nominee Jill Stein is holding constant. Marquette’s current presidential split finds a 44-37-9-3% margin, very consistent with their past data and other polls similarly conducted.
The new Monmouth University survey (Oct. 9-11; 406 likely Missouri voters) shows a tightening of the Senate race, but simultaneously produces several points of significant good news for incumbent Sen. Roy Blunt (R).
While the Monmouth ballot test finds Blunt’s lead over Secretary of State Jason Kander (D) dropping to 46-44 percent, the post-Trump videotape survey still gives the Republican presidential nominee a 46-41 percent edge over Hillary Clinton.
But the better Republican news comes in the governor’s race. Here, a significant swing has been detected in favor of GOP nominee Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL. While Monmouth’s August poll gave Attorney General Chris Koster (D) a commanding 51-40 percent lead, the new result finds the Democratic advantage slipping to just three points, 46-43 percent.
The governor’s race data is particularly significant because this is the statewide race around which the Democrats had hoped to create a Missouri wave to sweep Kander into office. Because Clinton has not been performing well in the Show Me State, the party strategists believe the Koster campaign would better serve as their ground operation base and is the medium necessary to increase Democratic turnout.
Even though Kander is gaining ground, gubernatorial nominee Koster is hemorrhaging support and Trump remains in position to clinch the state. If the latter’s numbers did not experience a short-term dip after last weekend’s videotape revelation, then it is unlikely he will falter in the longer term.
The Missouri Senate race is certainly competitive and a key national contest, and while the Monmouth poll is being portrayed as good news for Kander and his party leaders, the deeper story appears to be telling us something different.