Consistent Inconsistency

By Jim Ellis — Monday, June 17, 2024


Arizona senate candidate Kari Lake (R) struggles in race despite Trump’s lead in polls. / Photo by Gage Skidmore

While news stories are prevalent discussing former President Donald Trump’s polling status, which, despite being convicted in his New York trial, shows him leading in most of the swing states, the same cannot be said for most of the Republican senatorial candidates.

Last week, Senate surveys were released in Arizona, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, three key swing states. Marist College conducted the Ohio and Pennsylvania studies, while a Republican/Democratic polling combination, Fabrizio Ward (R) and Impact Research (D), executed the Arizona project.

The Fabrizio/IR Arizona survey, conducted for AARP (May 28-June 4; 600 likely Arizona voters; live interview & text), projects former President Trump to be holding a 45-37-11-3 percent advantage over President Joe Biden, Independent candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr., and Green Party nominee Jill Stein. Yet, the open Senate ballot test before the same sampling universe favors Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Phoenix) over former news anchor and 2022 Republican gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, 48-45 percent, a net 11-point swing from Trump’s lead to Lake’s deficit.

We see a similar pattern in the latest Ohio data. Marist College conducted the Buckeye State poll during the June 3-6 period and communicated with 1,137 registered Ohio voters either through telephone interview or online questionnaire. Here, we see Trump topping President Biden, Kennedy, Stein, and Dr. Cornel West, 48-41-5-1-1 percent. Yet, in the Senate race, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) posts a five point, 50-45 percent edge over Republican nominee Bernie Moreno, or a net 12 points behind Trump’s standing (Trump up 7; Moreno down 5).

Marist’s Pennsylvania findings also follow this similar pattern. The college’s polling administrators conducted the Keystone State survey during the same June 3-6 period as the Ohio study and interviewed either through phone or online contact 1,181 registered Pennsylvania voters. The results found Trump holding a two-point lead over President Biden, 47-45 percent, while Kennedy posted only three percent support, and Stein and Dr. West, one percent apiece. On the Senate question, however, Sen. Bob Casey, Jr. (D) tops businessman David McCormick (R), by six percentage points, 52-46 percent, or a net eight points below Trump’s position.

Though we did not see new general election data released in Nevada and Wisconsin during the week, the Trump leading (or close to tied in Wisconsin)/Republican Senate candidate trailing pattern is also consistently present in these two places.

In two other highly competitive races, Michigan and Montana, the Senate races are much closer. The numbers between Trump and the leading Michigan Republican, former Rep. Mike Rogers, are pretty close, with each clearly falling into a toss-up realm. In Montana, while Trump is consistently running well ahead of President Biden, the Senate race between incumbent Sen. Jon Tester (D) and challenger Tim Sheehy (R) is a virtual tie.

Some of the presidential to Senate discrepancy can be explained through incumbency. In Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin the Republican candidates are challenging incumbent Democratic senators, Jacky Rosen (D-NV), Sens. Brown, Casey and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). But, that’s not the case in Arizona where the similar pattern exists even in an open seat race.

The other state with a competitive Senate race, Maryland, is in a different category. Trump is far from leading in the Free State polling, nor will he at any time before the election. Maryland is going to be one of President Biden’s strongest states, and GOP nominee and former Gov. Larry Hogan has a different set of obstacles to overcome if he is to be successful.

With the current Senate map decidedly favoring the Republicans because they must defend only 11 seats as opposed to 23 for the Democrats, the GOP must maximize their win-to-loss ratio in the 2024 elections. Though they are effectively at a 50D-50R break from an electoral standpoint because of what appears as a virtual conversion lock in West Virginia, the Republican leadership must make a concerted effort to assist several of the challengers in defeating their incumbent Democratic opponents.

Getting to 53 or 54 Republican senators is the GOP goal for this election year. They must have such a cushion when they head into the 2026 and ’28 election years when the Senate election maps favor the Democrats.

Therefore, unless the Republican strategists can find a way to break the pattern we’re seeing in most of the competitive race states where their candidates trail while Trump leads, they will fall short of their goal. Monitoring their developing offensive strategy in the coming weeks merits significant attention.

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