Category Archives: Senate

New Wisconsin Poll Shows Weakness for Romney, Thompson

A new Public Policy Poll of Wisconsin Republicans (Oct. 20-23; 650 Wisconsin Republican primary voters) provides even more evidence that retired business executive Herman Cain is continuing to gather serious momentum in his quest for the Presidency. The results give Mr. Cain a 30-18-12-12 percent Badger State lead over Mitt Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, respectively.

As further evidence of Cain’s strong standing, he even leads on the follow-up question about being the respondents’ second choice. When asked, “Who would be your second choice for President?”, it is again Cain who places first, this time with 18 percent. Gingrich is second at 16 percent; Romney scores 14 percent; Perry 12 percent; and Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) 10 percent.

Turning to the upcoming open Wisconsin Senate race, it is former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson who is not faring quite as well among the Republican faithful as one might expect. The ex-governor and former US Health and Human Services Secretary leads former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, but by a rather unimpressive 35-29-21 percent margin.

What may be most troubling for Thompson, is that it is within the party’s dominant conservative wing where his weakness is greatest. When asked if the respondents would prefer Mr. Thompson or a more conservative candidate, the latter was preferred by a 51-35 percent margin. When paired with Neumann on a one-on-one basis, Thompson’s lead shrinks to just four points, 43-39 percent. If the race came down to a Thompson-Fitzgerald battle, the former governor’s edge is a more substantial 47-35 percent margin. Even this is not a particularly good sign for Thompson, however, because the former governor is known by 86 percent of those questioned versus just the 50 percent who could identify Fitzgerald. Mr. Neumann’s name ID is 61 percent. All three men have strong favorability ratios.

The Wisconsin presidential primary will be held April 3, and will distribute 42 delegates to the GOP candidates. The state employs a winner-take-all by district and statewide system as is used in seven other states, two of which are mega-delegate California and Florida. (Though the latter will likely lose half of its delegation as a penalty for moving their primary before Super Tuesday in violation of Republican National Committee rules.)

The Wisconsin system awards 10 delegates to the candidate who wins the statewide vote, regardless of percentage garnered. Three delegates apiece are given for carrying each of the state’s eight congressional districts. A sweep at the district level would yield one candidate 24 more delegate votes. The remaining eight are party officer and bonus delegates who can vote as they please. As in the vast majority of states – there are only seven winner-take-all places under the new party rules – multiple candidates will likely win some Wisconsin delegates. The primary is open to all voters.

The Wisconsin Senate race is likely to be one of the most important statewide contests in the country. With majority control of the body possibly coming down to one state, Wisconsin could be that one, and both parties are placing the highest priority upon this open-seat campaign. Four-term Sen. Herb Kohl (D) is retiring. The consensus Democratic nominee is becoming Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI-2). The race is expected to have a “toss-up” rating all the way to Election Day.

The Ohio Senate Race Tightens

For months, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) has enjoyed close to a 20-point lead against all potential 2012 Republican challengers. A new Public Policy Polling survey (Oct. 13-16; 581 registered Ohio voters) now shows that Brown’s margin has suddenly regressed into single digits. According to the data, the senator leads GOP state Treasurer Josh Mandel 48-40 percent, a loss of seven points from the previous PPP poll conducted in August. Mandel has closed the gap despite his poor 12:21 percent favorable to unfavorable personal popularity rating. Sen. Brown’s job approval ratio has dropped to 40:35 percent positive to negative.

Up until recently, the Ohio senate race had been a disappointment for the Republicans. Failing to convince a more senior party office holder to enter what should be a competitive race against Sen. Brown, who was originally elected in 2006, the GOP may be moving this race back into the top tier. Mr. Mandel, only 34 years of age, was just elected state treasurer last November. He has impressively raised $3.8 million for the Senate race according to the latest financial disclosure (Sept. 30, 2011) and has $3.2 million cash-on-hand. Sen. Brown has raised $4.1 million and has an equivalent amount in his campaign account.

Because of the competitive political nature in the state, this race was destined to tighten, but the fact that a major movement was made this early suggests the campaign could quickly become seriously contested. Much more will happen here in the coming year.

Ben Nelson’s “Independent” Ad

A year away from the 2012 election, embattled Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson (D) already has embarked on a rather interesting strategic course. If the logic behind his new television ad ultimately prevails, a new chapter in campaign finance law could be opening. If the Republicans directly counter-attack, Nelson may have prematurely opened a door that he would have preferred kept closed.

The Nebraska Democratic State Central Committee is paying for an ad that attacks all three of Nelson’s Republican opponents, graphically portraying them as three peas in a pod. The Senator’s campaign claims that this ad is part of an independent issue expenditure and should not count against the coordinated expenditure limit between party and candidate. What’s different about this “independent” ad – one that cannot be coordinated with a campaign – is that the senator himself appears in the spot and says he approves of its message. If this is considered “independent,” then we could have a whole new approach to all other independent expenditure campaigns.

In the body of the ad, Nelson and his party claim the Republican candidates want to cut Medicare and Social Security and that he (Nelson) will protect them both. Yet, when the senator became the deciding vote on the Obama healthcare plan that led to the infamous “Cornhusker Kick-back” attack, now the source of Nelson’s current political trouble, he himself supported a $500 million cut in Medicare by voting for the bill. The counter-argument to this point seems an easy one for the GOP candidates to make.

The new party ad, independent or not, may prove to cause Sen. Nelson more trouble than it might be worth. His taking such bold action at this time clearly confirms the public polls that show him trailing his Republican opponents.

Hawaii’s Lingle Runs for Senate

Former Republican Gov. Linda Lingle officially entered the race for Hawaii’s open Senate seat next fall. With Sen. Daniel Akaka (D) retiring, it means that this will be the first incumbent-less Senate race in 36 years. Only five people have represented Hawaii in the Senate since the territory was admitted to the Union as a state in 1960.

Despite the heavily Democratic nature of the state, Lingle was successful in winning two statewide elections. For most of her tenure, she was quite popular, as her landslide re-election victory in 2006 (62-35 percent) so indicates. Toward the end of her second term, however, her popularity ratings began to significantly sag. She left office with upside down job approval numbers and her early Senate race polling did not appear particularly promising.

Still, she is moving forward with another statewide campaign, one that will certainly be an uphill battle. Rep. Mazie Hirono (D-HI-2), with substantial backing from most of the Hawaii establishment, is the leading Democratic candidate. Former representative and Senatorial candidate Ed Case is also in the race. His fortunes have dropped, however, when he challenged Akaka in the Democratic primary six years ago, and then was unable to capture the open 1st Congressional District in an early 2010 special election. Case is a significant candidate, but he is clearly the underdog in the September primary. Though unlikely to occur, a bitterly competitive Democratic primary is exactly what Lingle will need to win next November. She must hope that the majority party vote will be split to the degree that a large chunk of Democratic voters will defect to her in the general election.

Linda Lingle’s candidacy is a break for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which needs the maximum number of competitive races to regain majority status in the Senate chamber. Ms. Lingle makes the race competitive, no doubt, but considering that favorite son Barack Obama will again be on the national ticket, she must be seen as a heavy underdog, at least in the early going. At the very least, the Hawaii Senate race must be rated as “Lean Democrat.”

Virginia Poll Shows Trend Moving Away from Obama

A new Roanoke College poll (Sept. 6-17; 601 registered Virginia voters) suggests that both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are ahead of President Obama in early presidential race pairings. Virginia is a must-win state for the GOP if their eventual nominee is to have any legitimate chance at unseating the Democratic incumbent. According to the data, Romney would defeat Obama 45-37 percent if the election were held today. Gov. Perry also leads, but by a much smaller 42-40 percent clip. The President’s job approval score is a poor 39:54 percent and, by a margin of 81-15 percent, the respondents believe that the nation is on the wrong track. By contrast, the polling sample generally believes their state of Virginia is heading in the right direction (49-41 percent).

Those tested also believe that their own top elected officials are doing a very good job, irrespective of political party. Both Sen. Mark Warner (D) and Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) scored identical ratings, each posting an impressive 67-24 percent positive to negative ratio.

But the news isn’t all bad for the President in this swing, and possibly decisive, state. The Virginia sample, by a margin of 25-16 percent, still blames former President George W. Bush for the current state of the economy rather than President Obama. They also agree, by a 55-36 percent count, with one of the President’s key campaign themes, saying that the rich should pay a greater share of the current tax burden. Interestingly, the sampling universe split exactly evenly on whether they believe an elected official should vote the way he or she sees fit or in the manner that he or she perceives are the people’s desires without regard to the official’s personal views.

In the hotly contested VA Senate race, Republican former Sen. George Allen has taken a slight 41-38 percent lead over former governor and Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine. It is already clear that this race will go down to the wire.