Tag Archives: Steve Daines

Polls Confirm Key Senate Races are Toss-ups; Walsh’s Appointment Both Helps and Hurts

Karl Rove’s American Crossroads entered into the Senate polling arena in January, contracting with Harper Polling to provide surveys in seven key states. The HP results appear to be in line with other findings, except for one place.

Harper’s Alaska poll (Jan. 20-22; 677 registered Alaska voters) projects Sen. Mark Begich (D) to be trailing two Republican challengers, Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former Attorney General Dan Sullivan, by identical 41-47 percent margins. This is a much different result than found in the Public Policy Polling survey from a little more than a week ago (Jan. 30-Feb. 1; 850 registered Alaska voters), which posted the senator to a 43-37 percent advantage over Treadwell and 41-37 percent against Sullivan. Begich’s troubling factor, detected in both firms’ data, however, is his low 40s standing even when leading.
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The Big June 5th Primary is Fast Approaching

Next Tuesday, six states go to the polls to nominate Senate and House candidates, and possibly recall a governor. On Monday, we’ll cover all of the hot California races. Today, we look at the other states voting on June 5.

Iowa: In a state promising to be a hotbed of presidential campaign activity in the general election, two, and possibly three, House seats will also be highly competitive. The contenders in Districts 3 and 4 are already set. District 3, anchored in Des Moines and Council Bluffs, will feature a general election incumbent pairing between veteran representatives Leonard Boswell (D-IA-3) and Tom Latham (R-IA-4). The new 3rd is very marginal, and this will be a close race. But Tuesday’s primary carries no drama for either man. To the northwest is new District 4, featuring Rep. Steve King (R-IA-5) defending his position against Christie Vilsack (D), the state’s former First Lady. The seat leans Republican, so King is favored, but, as in District 3, Tuesday’s vote is already well-defined.

In the southeastern 2nd District, Rep. David Loebsack (D) faces Davenport state Sen. Joe Seng. Loebsack should hold, but he loses his Cedar Rapids power base to District 1 and adds Davenport, a city he has not previously represented but one in which Seng has served in local government as well as the state legislature. The 2nd has the chance of becoming moderately competitive in the general election particularly if Seng pulls a big upset over the incumbent on Tuesday.

Montana: A gubernatorial primary is underway for the state’s at-large open seat. Attorney General Steve Bullock is the prohibitive favorite in the Democratic primary. Former Rep. Rick Hill (R-MT-AL) is attempting a political comeback in this race after being out of office for 12 years. The Senate competitors are already set: Sen. Jon Tester (D) and Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL). In the open House race, former lieutenant governor nominee Steve Daines has the inside track to the Republican nomination, while the Democrats are in a battle among seven candidates led by state Sen. Kim Gillian and state Rep. Franke Wilmer.

New Jersey: The races here are quiet except for the 9th District Democratic pairing between representatives Steve Rothman (D-NJ-9) and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ-8). This race has been hotly contested for weeks and turned nasty on several occasions. Most believe Rothman has the slight advantage, particularly with official party endorsements in two of the district’s three counties. Pascrell needs a larger than normal turnout in Passaic County to snatch a close win. Surprisingly, the mayor of the district’s largest city, Paterson, has endorsed Rothman as has a member of the city council. These endorsements sting Pascrell because he was a former Paterson mayor before being elected to Congress. The representative does have former president Bill Clinton’s public support. A wild finish is guaranteed here.

New Mexico: In the Senate campaign, it appears that Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM-1) and ex-Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1) are headed for their respective party nominations. This will be a highly competitive general election. In Heinrich’s open House race, a tight Democratic primary is evolving. Polls show state Sen. Eric Griego and Bernalillo County commissioner and former congressional candidate Michelle Lujan Grisham to be in a virtual tie, with former Albuquerque mayor Martin Chavez trailing the duo. There is no run-off election in New Mexico, so this race will likely being decided on Tuesday by only a handful of votes. Republicans will nominate former state Rep. Janice Arnold-Jones. The eventual Democratic nominee has the inside track for the fall election.

South Dakota: Little in the way of contests are occurring in South Dakota. There is no Senate race this year, and freshman Rep. Kristi Noem (R) is positioning herself for a second term. For the Democrats, Minnehaha County Commissioner Jeff Barth and former congressional aide Matt Varilek vie for the right to challenge Noem. Though South Dakota does feature a run-off, the two-way race guarantees that Democratic voters will choose a nominee on Tuesday night. Noem will be a big favorite in the general election.

Wisconsin: Finally, the long-awaited recall election for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) will be decided next Tuesday. Momentum had been swinging Walker’s way and he still seems to have more energy behind his candidacy than does Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, his Democratic opponent. At least one survey, however, the Lake Research poll taken for the Democratic Party, shows the race to be a tie. All others give Walker a slight lead. The race will turn on the rate of voter participation and both sides are gearing up for a major effort. The result here could be a harbinger for the general election, certainly in Wisconsin, but possibly nationwide, too. Arguably, this race will have the greatest effect on national politics of any June 5 campaign.

The plethora of California congressional races will be covered in our Monday report.

Our 2012 Senate Outlook

With three new Senate vacancies already present in the 2012 election cycle, it’s time to update our election grid. Democrats, including the two Independent senators who caucus with the party, must defend 23 states compared to just 10 for Republicans. The GOP needs a net gain of four seats to claim the outright majority, but 13 to reach 60, the number needed to invoke cloture on any issue.

Democratic Seats – Most Vulnerable

North Dakota – Sen. Kent Conrad’s retirement gives the Republicans their best shot at converting a Democratic state. The GOP political bench here is robust and strong, thus the eventual Republican nominee will enter the general election as the favorite.

Nebraska – Sen. Ben Nelson, a retirement possibility, is politically damaged. He already trails at least two potential GOP candidates in polling, Attorney General Jon Bruning and state Treasurer Don Stenberg. Right now, in this very early going, the Republicans are favored to convert the state.

Lean Democrat

Florida – The politically marginal Sunshine State suggests that Sen. Bill Nelson (D) will face a highly competitive 2012 election challenge. The GOP field is yet to be determined, but Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) appears to be the only Congressman positioning himself for a run. Right now, Nelson must be viewed as the favorite, but this will become a serious race.

Michigan – The Republican resurgence here, and the early polling, suggests that Sen. Debbie Stabenow has a difficult road to re-election. GOP candidates have yet to come forward, thus the current Lean D rating is attached. Michigan is certainly a state to watch. The presidential election year turnout model is a plus for Stabenow.


Missouri – Sen. Claire McCaskill is polling in the dead heat range against former Sen. Jim Talent (R), the man she defeated in 2006. Talent is not a sure candidate, but former state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman is. Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO-6) also is reportedly considering entering the contest, particularly if Talent remains on the sidelines. All would be very competitive against McCaskill in a state that is trending a bit more Republican during the past two elections.

Montana – Sen. Jon Tester can also expect a very competitive GOP challenge in what is normally a Republican state in a presidential year. Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) has not yet committed to the Senate race. Former Lt. Governor nominee Steve Daines is an official candidate and actively raising money.

Ohio – Sen. Sherrod Brown faces tough sledding presumably against newly elected Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor (R). Ohio will again assume its normal role as a battleground state for the presidential campaign, which, in 2012, could help Taylor. This may become the most hotly contested Senate race in the country.

Virginia – The actions of former governor and Democratic National Committee chair Tim Kaine and defeated gubernatorial candidate and ex-DNC chair Terry McAuliffe (both saying they won’t run for Senate in 2012 under any circumstances) suggests that Sen. Jim Webb will seek re-election, even though the incumbent has yet to confirm his intentions. Former senator and governor George Allen (R) will soon announce his candidacy, setting up a re-match with Webb. The Democrat won by 7,231 votes of more than 2.3 million cast five years ago. Early polling suggests a dead heat.


Hawaii – Speculation is prevalent that Sen. Daniel Akaka, who will be 88 at the time of the 2012 election, will retire. If so, the Republicans will be competitive with former Gov. Linda Lingle. If Akaka runs, and early indications suggest he will, the Democratic incumbent should have little trouble winning again.

New Jersey – Sen. Bob Menendez is polling below 50% in early survey trials but comfortably ahead of all potential Republican rivals. Though the senator is the decided favorite today, this race could become one to watch. Republicans may be looking most favorably toward entrepreneur John Crowley, who appears to have the potential of generating measurable political strength.

New Mexico – Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D) is in strong position for re-election and is viewed as a heavy favorite. Republican former Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM-1), always a good vote-getter, could make challenging Bingaman a competitive race. She is said to be seriously considering launching a bid.

Wisconsin – Though he has been mum on his re-election intentions, Sen. Herb Kohl is another retirement possibility. If he chooses not to run, defeated Sen. Russ Feingold (D) waits in the wings to run again. Should the senator seek re-election, he will likely face only a minor challenge.

Likely Democrat

Connecticut – Sen. Joe Lieberman’s (I) retirement, thereby avoiding an unpredictable three-way race, greatly improves the Democrats’ chances. Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5) and ex-Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz are announced Democratic candidates. Edward Kennedy Jr., son of the late senator, is rumored as a possibility. The two losing 2010 nominees, Tom Foley in the governor’s race and Linda McMahon for the Senate, are both mentioned as possible candidates; so is former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2).

Pennsylvania – Until the Republicans field a top-tier candidate, something they have yet to do, Sen. Bob Casey Jr. is a strong favorite for re-election. A serious campaign could develop, but not unless a stronger Republican joins the current field of candidates.

Rhode Island – The Republicans could move this state into the competitive category if former Gov. Don Carcieri (R) decides to run. In a presidential year, it is unlikely he will, so Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse is a solid favorite for re-election. 2010 gubernatorial nominee John Robitaille (R) has already closed the door on a senatorial challenge.

Vermont – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) is another strong favorite for re-election, but state Auditor Tom Salmon (R) is making noises about challenging the first-term senator. A statewide official would give the Republicans the opportunity of making this a competitive race.

Safe Democrats

California – Dianne Feinstein (D)
Delaware – Tom Carper (D)
Maryland – Ben Cardin (D)
New York – Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Washington – Maria Cantwell (D)
West Virginia – Joe Manchin (D)

Republican Questions

Arizona – Retirement rumors are swirling around Sen. Jon Kyl. The senator has yet to begin an active re-election effort, thus suggesting he may decide to call it a career. The seat is competitive in an open situation.

Nevada – This is clearly the most vulnerable Republican seat, should scandal-tainted Sen. John Ensign win re-nomination. Rep. Dean Heller (R-NV-2) is considering a Republican primary challenge. Heller would have a good chance of winning the nomination and the seat. Democrats are in strong shape if Ensign qualifies for the general election. Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-NV-1) is a potential Democratic candidate and promises to make her intentions known in mid-February.

Lean Republican

Massachusetts – Sen. Scott Brown (R), elected in an early 2010 special election, must stand for a full term in 2012. Despite Massachusetts being one of the most reliable of Democratic states, Brown’s numbers appear strong and he has a legitimate chance to win again. Once the Democratic field gels, a better assessment can be made.

Likely Republican

Indiana – Sen. Richard Lugar (R), who will be 80 at the time of the 2012 general election, has already announced that he is seeking re-election. A predicted Tea Party primary challenge could be his biggest problem. Lugar looks strong in a general election, but the GOP primary situation could change the outlook.

Maine – Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) has some of the better general election approval ratings of any 2012 in-cycle senator but, she too, has Tea Party problems in the Republican primary. Her situation in that regard has improved of late, however.

Safe Republicans

Mississippi – Roger Wicker (R)
Tennessee – Bob Corker (R)
Texas – Kay Bailey Hutchison (R) – Open Seat
Utah – Orrin Hatch (R) – Potential Tea Party convention challenge
Wyoming – John Barrasso (R)

Analyzing this initial line-up, it appears the Republicans’ chances of gaining an outright majority are good today, though there is no chance the net increase could be so high as to score filibuster-proof control.
For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.

Our 2012 Senate Outlook

Though we are just at the beginning stage of the 2012 election cycle, action already is beginning to occur in certain Senate races. Below is a quick look at the situation in some of the first half of the in-cycle states. More will be covered in the near future.

Arizona – Sen. Jon Kyl (R) – Retirement rumors are swirling. Should Mr. Kyl decide not to seek a fourth term, look for a free-for-all in both parties. If he does run, the state becoming more politically marginal suggests a competitive campaign battle.

California – Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D) – The senator is safe if she runs again, but turning 79 before the next election, retirement considerations are a factor. The seat should remain in Democratic hands regardless of the situation, however.

Connecticut – Sen. Joe Lieberman (I) – The senator is already discussing re-election plans, but his favorability ratings are among the lowest of any 2012-cycle incumbent. He will have strong Democratic opposition, possibly in the person of Rep. Chris Murphy (D-CT-5). It’s unclear what the Republicans will do. Defeated GOP nominee Linda McMahon is talking about running again. Former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2) is also a potential GOP alternative.

Delaware – Sen. Tom Carper (D) – Right now, the senator is in strong shape for re-election. Defeated GOP nominee Christine O’Donnell is not yet out of the public eye, so another Senatorial run for her is not out of the question. Carper becomes the prohibitive favorite if O’Donnell enters the race.

Florida – Sen. Bill Nelson (D) – Mr. Nelson begins the cycle in relatively strong shape, leading all potential opponents in early polling but only scoring mediocre approval ratings. State Senate President Mike Haridopolos has announced his intentions to run. Rep. Connie Mack IV (R-FL-14) is a potential candidate. Former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) has already dismissed a Senate candidacy.

Indiana – Sen. Richard Lugar (R) – Another octogenarian at the time of the next election, Sen. Lugar says he will seek re-election. A Tea Party challenge could be on the horizon, however. Democrats will take a wait and see approach here.

Massachusetts – Sen. Scott Brown (R) – With Republican Sen. Brown facing the voters for a full term in 2012, it appeared earlier that he might be the most vulnerable of GOP incumbents. The early numbers suggest a different story, however. He leads all potential Democratic opponents by comfortable margins and enjoys high job approval ratings.

Michigan – Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) – Considering the strong Republican sweep here in 2010, Sen. Stabenow has to be rated in the vulnerable category. Former Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2) is mentioned as a possible challenger. This is a race to watch.

Mississippi – Sen. Roger Wicker (R) – After winning the special election in 2008, Sen. Wicker will try for a full term in 2012. He should have no trouble in a state that is proving to be a national Republican stronghold.

Missouri – Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) – This is shaping up to be another close statewide contest in the Show Me State. Former Sen. Jim Talent is a potential Republican candidate. Ex-state treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Sarah Steelman has already announced her intention to run. A toss-up all the way.

Montana – Sen. Jon Tester (D) – Sen. Tester must defend the seat he won in a close contest over an incumbent back in 2006. At-large Rep. Denny Rehberg is a top Republican potential candidate. Former lieutenant governor candidate Steve Daines (R) has already announced his candidacy.

Nebraska – Sen. Ben Nelson (D) – With the senator’s favorability ratings among the lowest of those standing for re-election and trailing two statewide Republican office holders, Nebraska is the most endangered Democratic seat. Should Nelson not seek re-election, this becomes an easy Republican conversion.
For further detailed insights, to sign up for my daily email updates, or to sign up to track specific issues or industries, please contact me at PRIsm@performanceandresults.com.