Category Archives: Senate

Bachmann for Senate?

Given her tops-in-the-House fundraising performance during the 2010 election cycle ($13.2 million raised; $12.8 from individuals, with $1.97 million remaining in her campaign account) and polling showing her easily beating all other potential Minnesota Republican statewide candidates including Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN-6) is now saying that nothing is “off the table” for the 2012 election. Previously she said she was concentrating only on running for re-election. Though the early December Public Policy Polling data shows her to be the favorite of the Minnesota GOP, she and all other Republicans fare poorly against Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D). The Senator, who will be seeking her first re-election, breaks 50% against all potential Republican opponents, posting double-digit leads.

But there is another potential reverberation to Bachmann running for the Senate. If Minnesota loses a congressional district to reapportionment, as may happen in the Census Bureau announcement tomorrow, it would be easy for map-makers to collapse Bachmann’s congressional seat into a neighboring Republican district, thus costing the GOP a seat. Should a court draw the map, a likely scenario since the Democrats will control the governor’s mansion and Republicans the legislature, thus causing a political stalemate, a different option (among many) is to draw the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul into one seat, since it would be a sound legal argument to suggest the region is a community of interest. This would cost the Democrats a seat. So there is much more risk for the GOP than meets the eye should Bachmann take the statewide plunge.

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.

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.

Poll Confirms Michigan Senate Race as Competitive

Public Policy Polling, a very active national survey research firm throughout the final weeks of 2010, is reporting the results of their just-completed Michigan senate poll. The study, conducted over the Dec. 3-6 period with 1,224 registered Michigan voters via automated telephone calls, shows that two-term incumbent Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) would be vulnerable to a Republican challenger if the 2012 election were held today.

The person faring best against Sen. Stabenow, outgoing 2nd district Rep. Peter Hoekstra (R-MI-2), pulls into a virtual dead heat when the two are pitted against each other in a hypothetical ballot test. According to the large sample results, Stabenow would lead Hoekstra 45-44%. The congressman gave up his seat to run for governor in 2010, but lost the early August Republican primary to Governor-elect Rick Snyder.

Stabenow, who registers the same relative level of support against virtually all Republican potential candidates, is therefore solidly placed in the “vulnerable” category. When paired with Rep. Candice Miller (R-MI-10), a former two-term Secretary of State, the senator clings to only a 43-41% advantage. She leads soon-to-be-ex Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land by a similar 45-41% count. Only against former Gov. John Engler (R), currently the president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers, does Stabenow have some breathing room. Against Engler she leads 49-42%.

No Republican has officially announced for the seat, but polls such as this will quickly increase speculation as to whom may do so. Republicans need a net gain of four seats to wrest the Senate majority away from Democrats, and must protect only 10 states versus the Democrats’ 23 in the 2012 election. Michigan will factor prominently into the GOP’s offensive national strategy and is certainly in the top tier of potential conversion opportunities, particularly when considering the GOP’s strong 2010 vote performance.

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A 2012 Senate Snapshot

With 2012 Senate polling results already being released in at least four states, the new election cycle already is poised to begin. Unlike in the last three voting periods, it is the Democrats who must now defend the larger number of seats. In this particular cycle, because the Democrats did so well in the 2006 races, they are forced to defend 70% of the states standing for election; 23 Democratic Senators are up for re-election versus just 10 on the Republican side. This gives the GOP ample opportunity to win enough races to claim the majority.

The presidential election year turnout model is likely to be kinder to the Democrats than the 2010 mid-term voter participation ratio, but even with that advantage the GOP’s chances of gaining a net of four seats to claim an outright majority appears high. In 2010, the Republicans were forced to win 28 of the 37 campaigns in order to reclaim majority status. In 2012, they will only need to win 14 of 33 to do so, meaning a winning percentage of just .424. This obviously represents quite a change.

Let’s first start with the GOP defensive states. Today, of the 10 states they must risk, it appears that only two are vulnerable in a general election: scandal-tainted Nevada Sen. John Ensign, and Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown, who must now run for a full six-year term. Ensign likely will face a competitive primary before going onto the general election. Early polling gives Brown a substantial advantage over every potential Democratic opponent.

The Tea Party could again be a factor in certain GOP Senate primaries that may eventually affect the general election, thus potentially putting more seats in play for the Democrats. Sens. Olympia Snowe (ME), Kay Bailey Hutchison (TX), and Orrin Hatch (UT) appear to be in such a category today. Of these three situations, the greatest general election effect will occur in Maine.

On the Democratic side, with 23 seats to defend, it appears that at least nine states begin in competitive status. Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson, still feeling the effects of his crafting what is commonly called the “Cornhusker Kick-Back” in exchange for supporting Obamacare, leads the list of vulnerable Democrats. His favorability numbers suggest that several Nebraska Republican candidates could unseat him. Others in the highly vulnerable category include Sens. Jim Webb (VA), Jon Tester (MT), Claire McCaskill (MO), Bill Nelson (FL), Debbie Stabenow (MI), and Sherrod Brown (OH). The latter three, Nelson, Stabenow, and Brown, are in this category because of the way their states performed in 2010, the fact that the presidential election will increase the amount of political activity and awareness in their states, and that much GOP opposition activity is already underway.

Obviously, the 2012 Senate cycle will drastically change, but today’s outlook certainly gives the GOP ample opportunity to achieve their majority status goal.

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