The Senate Approvals

By Jim Ellis

April 29, 2019 — The Morning Consult organization released the first quarter approval ratios for all 100 senators, and it appears that quite a number of the 2020 in-cycle incumbents need to improve their ratings before facing the voters next year. In fact, when looking at the ratio spread from positive to negative, seven of the 10 weakest performers will be on the next ballot.

The senator with the highest positive score, 62 percent, is presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. The Vermont electorate is the most pleased with their senators. Not only did Sen. Sanders score a 62 percent favorable job approval rating, but his veteran seat mate, seven-term incumbent Patrick Leahy (D), is right behind him with a 59 percent positive total.

But, the swing between the individual positive and negative scores may be the better indicator of an office holder’s actual standing. The senator with the widest range, in his case seeing his positive score (55 percent) run 33 points higher than his negative (22 percent), is North Dakota Sen. John Hoeven (R).

Close behind, with a 32-point spread (58:26 percent) is Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar (D), another presidential candidate. Then, Sens. Sanders and Leahy follow, both with 31-point spreads. Rounding out the top five with a 30-point swing (56:26 percent) is Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso (R).

Looking at the senators who are presidential candidates, four more beside Sanders and Klobuchar are in the race. The next two rank 47th and 48th on the point spread scale (each with 14-point swings): Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ; 47:33 percent) and Kamala Harris (D-CA; 43:29 percent).

With 13 and 9-point spreads between their positive and negative scores, and having only the 56th and 71st best scores, respectively, are Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY; 43:30 percent) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA; 49:40 percent), the final two presidential candidates.

Looking at the opposite end of the scale, the senators with the lowest marks are led by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) in the swing category, seeing his negative number exceed his positive rating by 14 percentage points. Leader McConnell also notches a 50 percent negative rating, the only senator to reach such a plateau. Though he consistently scores poorly in job approval ratings, he always comes out on top during election season.

The only other upside-down senator is New Jersey’s Bob Menendez (33:43 percent), but he was just re-elected in November.

Below are the ratings for the in-cycle senators, excluding those who have already announced their retirements: Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and Tom Udall (D-NM):

WYOMING Mike Enzi (R)  52  23    29
MASSACHUSETTS Ed Markey (D)  51  22    29
SOUTH DAKOTA Mike Rounds (R)  56  28    28
DELAWARE Chris Coons (D)  52  29    23
LOUISIANA Bill Cassidy (R)  47  24    23
NEBRASKA Ben Sasse (R)  49  27    22
RHODE ISLAND Jack Reed (R)  49  27    22
GEORGIA David Perdue (R)  47  25    22
NEW HAMPSHIRE Jeanne Shaheen (D)  53  32    21
SOUTH CAROLINA Lindsey Graham (R)  52  31    21
IDAHO Jim Risch (R)  43  23    20
ARKANSAS Tom Cotton (R)  43  23    20
VIRGINIA Mark Warner (D)  48  29    19
WEST VIRGINIA Shelley M. Capito (R)  48  30    18
OREGON Jeff Merkley (D)  46  28    18
MINNESOTA Tina Smith (D)  42  24    18
TEXAS John Cornyn (R)  42  25    17
NEW JERSEY Cory Booker (D)  47  33    14
MAINE Susan Collins (R)  52  39    13
MONTANA Steve Daines (R)  44  31    13
OKLAHOMA Jim Inhofe (R)  41  29    12
MICHIGAN Gary Peters (D)  33  23    10
ALABAMA Doug Jones (D)  40  34     6
ALASKA Dan Sullivan (R)  38  32     6
IOWA Joni Ernst (R)  40  37     3

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