Monthly Archives: December 2010

New Senate Numbers in Wisconsin and Ohio

Public Policy Polling continues their early polling of major Senate races with surveys in Wisconsin and Ohio. Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) must decide whether to seek a fifth term in 2012. He will be 77 at the time of the next election, but the PPP data shows him to be in relatively good political position. In Ohio, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) stands for his first re-election in what figures to be a competitive battle and one of the more important national races for both parties.

The Wisconsin poll (Dec. 10-12; 702 registered voters) pits Sen. Kohl against three of the bigger Republican names in the state regardless of whether or not they have expressed any interest in running. Among former Gov. Tommy Thompson, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI-1), it is Congressman Ryan who fares the best in the early trial runs. He would trail Kohl only 42-48%. Thompson is behind 40-49%, while Kohl polls best against Van Hollen, leading him 51-38%. The senator’s job approval score is 50:43% favorable to unfavorable.

Should Kohl decide to retire, most people believe that defeated Sen. Russ Feingold would be first in line to attempt a comeback. PPP tested him against the same trio of Republicans and found him to be leading them all. His numbers are strikingly similar to Sen. Kohl’s. Interestingly, Feingold’s favorability ratio is exactly the same as Kohl’s: 50:43%.

In Ohio, the incumbent’s numbers aren’t quite as strong as either Sens. Kohl or Feingold. PPP (Dec. 10-12; 510 registered voters) conducted a small-sample poll of the Ohio electorate and tested four Republicans against Sen. Brown. Newly elected Attorney General and former U.S. Senator Mike DeWine fares the best, actually pulling into a tie with Brown at 43%. Newly elected Lt. Governor and former state Auditor Mary Taylor trails only by two points, 38-40%. The new Secretary of State, Jon Husted, is behind 38-43%, and 4th district Rep. Jim Jordan is eight points down at 35-43%.

At this time, it does not appear that DeWine will enter the Senate race, nor does Husted. Earlier this week Jordan indicated he is much more inclined to seek re-election to the House than running for the Senate. Ms. Taylor, on the other hand, may be the GOP’s top option. She has strong support among the Republican Party’s conservative base, which would likely give her the inside track for the 2012 nomination should she choose to run.

Preemptive Redistricting Moves

Next Tuesday, the Census Bureau will release the 2010 state population figures, and we will know then just how many congressional seats each state will possess for the next decade.

Even before we see the numbers, office holders are beginning to make contingency plans in case their state re-map places them in an adverse re-election position. One such man may be Rep. Joe Donnelly (D-IN-2). The congressman was originally elected in 2006, unseating then-incumbent Rep. Chris Chocola (R), and won again easily two years later. This past November, however, produced a much different electoral result as Donnelly barely escaped defeat, beating Republican Jackie Walorski 48-47%, on a margin of just 2,538 votes.

With Republicans controlling the redistricting pen in 2011, Donnelly already is publicly speculating about his future options should the GOP place him in unfriendly political territory. He is letting party leaders know that he would seriously consider a race for governor — the seat will be open because Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) is term-limited — if he deems his re-election prospects to be poor. Many believe that attempting to draw a 7R-2D Hoosier State map is a stretch, hence Donnelly’s rhetoric could be part of a strategic preemptive strike designed to keep his northern Indiana seat intact. This is a great example of the political “game within the game.” Expect many more plays of this type in the coming weeks.

In Minnesota: Klobuchar Strong, Pawlenty Faltering

Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN)

Public Policy Polling continues their early 2012 election cycle polling with two surveys of Minnesota voters. Their conclusions are that first-term Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) is in strong position for re-election; Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) fares best within the state Republican voting base; and outgoing Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) is not as robust among his own party faithful as one might expect, but does lead the presidential pack of candidates even though 3/4 of the likely primary voters prefer another contender.

According to the PPP December 4-5 data (949 registered MN voters), Sen. Klobuchar has majority support against all potential 2012 opponents. Pawlenty fares best against her, but trails 43-53%. Klobuchar has a 14-point lead over former Sen. Norm Coleman, 54-40%; a 17-point advantage when paired against Rep. Bachmann, 56-39%; an 18-point edge over the recently defeated gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer; and enjoys a 52-34% spread over Rep. Erik Paulsen (R-MN-3). In the early going, it looks like Sen. Klobuchar will not be among the most seriously challenged Democratic incumbents in the next cycle.

PPP’s secondary poll surveyed the Republican electorate. Their small-sample poll (387 MN Republican primary voters, released December 13th) produced some interesting patterns. In testing all potential statewide candidates against Klobuchar, Rep. Bachmann easily does the best, claiming the support of 36% of those questioned. Pawlenty was second, but lagged back at 20%. Coleman followed with only 14%. Newly elected 8th district Rep. Chip Cravaack, who has yet to even take office in the House, actually scored a respectable 7%.

None of those candidates tested, however, have expressed any interest in running for the Senate. Still, if these individuals score as poorly as they do against Klobuchar, then it’s unlikely the GOP will be able to recruit another candidate who would begin in better position.

Though the Minnesota Republican survey is a small-sample poll, it does give us some clear points of reference. First, Bachmann, with her strength among Minnesota conservatives, is a viable contender to win a Minnesota GOP nomination. Second, Gov. Pawlenty, though a winner of two statewide general elections, should be doing better among Minnesota Republicans. If his support here is this weak, then a Pawlenty for President campaign will have to quickly gain strength and momentum, particularly in nearby Iowa, if he is going to be a factor in the national election.

Pew: Public Strongly Favors Tax Bill

Though President Obama is fending off strong political attacks from his own base in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, a new Pew Research Center for the People & Press poll suggests that rank-and-file Democrats strongly support the measure. In fact, their support for the bill is not unlike those who identify themselves as Republicans or Independents.

According to their national survey conducted of 1,011 adults across America over the period of December 9-12, approval of the tax bill compromise receives a 60% approval rating versus just 22% who disapprove. The most notable point coming from the poll is just how consistent the approval mark is across the political party spectrum. Democrats approve of the bill by a 63-25% margin; Republicans favor it by a 62-21% count; and Independents register their support at 60-21%.

However, the most surprising Pew number comes from the self-described liberals. Among the people comprising this cell group, 65% support the Obama-Republican tax package and only 20% oppose the bill. That’s an even better ratio than among conservatives who report a 64-22% support level for the measure.

Indiana Gov. Bayh Won’t Go

Outgoing Senator and former Gov. Evan Bayh (D-IN) announced that he will not run for his old job when it comes open in 2012 because of family considerations. Bayh bid the Senate farewell right before the candidate filing deadline early this year, expressing discontent with the Senate and Congress in general. Until this weekend, however, he had not ruled out again running for Governor. Bayh served as Indiana’s chief executive from 1991-1999 before winning the Senate seat. Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels is ineligible to seek re-election in 2012, as he is midway through his second consecutive term in office.

When the senator announced his retirement, he had more than $13 million in his campaign account. He only contributed about $1 million of that back to the Democratic Party to assist in the failed attempt at electing his would-be successor, Rep. Brad Ellsworth (D-IN-8). Former Sen. Dan Coats (R) easily converted the open seat back to the Republican column, winning a 55-40% landslide victory. Deducting other expenses, Bayh still controls $10.2 million in campaign monies.

There also has been speculation that he might take a shot at the White House, with some going so far as to suggest that challenging President Obama in the Democratic primaries next year was a possibility for Mr. Bayh. Though the president is under fire from the left wing of his political base, Bayh is unlikely to be the favorite of those who think Obama has abandoned his liberal principles.

Throughout his career as governor and senator, Bayh consciously positioned himself closer to the center of the Democratic conference. Thus, he has a narrow path from which to run for President in 2012. The political set-up and timing is simply not right for him at this point in time, so few expect him to run. After Mr. Obama leaves office in 2016, assuming he’s re-elected, the political climate will probably look much different, which might create a better opportunity for a Bayh presidential effort.

In other presidential news from the weekend, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he will not be a candidate for national office next year. His “no way, no how” response when asked if he was moving toward running appears to shut the door on any Bloomberg for President effort.