Tag Archives: Public Policy Polling

Southern States Polling Results

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell (R)

Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell (R)

Public Policy Polling, fresh from setting the mark as one of the most accurate pollsters in the 2012 election cycle, went into the field in three key southern states — Kentucky, North Carolina and South Carolina — to project some very early Senatorial numbers. Here’s what they found:

Kentucky

Among the incumbents tested was Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who won his last election (2008) with 53 percent.

Looking ahead to 2012 in the Bluegrass State, the PPP data (Dec. 7-9; 1,299 registered Kentucky voters) produced unusual results. In their analysis, the organization’s president, Tom Jensen, claims that McConnell’s 37:55 percent job approval ratio is the worst of any senator. But, he still leads all hypothetical foes in isolated ballot tests.

The senator tops three well-known Democrats by identical 47-43 percent margins. Two of the three, Attorney General Jack Conway and Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, already have said they have no intention of challenging McConnell. The third tested candidate is actress Ashley Judd. She also has made public statements downplaying her desire to run but is the favorite of liberal activists, nonetheless, because many of them want a celebrity challenger to the Republican leader.

The other two Democratic figures who come within single-digits of the senator are Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer (trailing McConnell 41-46 percent) and Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (behind 40-47 percent).

Though McConnell is not particularly popular in his home state, he remains one of the best campaigners in the Republican stable. Should the Democrats actually convince Judd to run, she might find going against McConnell much more difficult than it appears on paper. It is unlikely that she will run. Right now, the Democrats have no viable option, but expect them to field a credible challenger.

North Carolina

Looking ahead to 2014, first-term North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan (D) appears to be one of the most vulnerable incumbents facing re-election. Hagan won in the high turnout year of 2008, defeating then-Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R) who made many strategic campaign mistakes and had clearly lost touch with her constituency. In the upcoming mid-term election, considering the assured lower turnout when compared with a presidential year and that the state was one of two (Indiana was the other) that failed to support President Obama in 2012 after doing so in 2008, the stage is already set for a highly competitive Republican challenge race against her.

Looking at the early hypotheticals, Public Policy Polling (Dec. 6-9; 578 registered North Carolina voters) tested several North Carolina Republicans, not including any of the newly elected statewide officials. Among various members of the congressional delegation, Hagan scores in similar territory. Paired with GOP Reps. Renee Ellmers (down 39-45 percent), Virginia Foxx (trailing 39-49 percent), Patrick McHenry (behind 40-48 percent), and just-elected George Holding (Hagan leading 48-39 percent), the senator scores in a consistent range. Her totals suggest vulnerability. Though leading all of the congressmen, she doesn’t break 50 percent against any and, despite none of them having statewide name identification, all are within early striking distance. This will prove to be one of the hardest fought of the 2014 Senate races.

South Carolina

With all the talk surrounding Sen. Jim DeMint’s (R) resignation and potential replacement, less attention is being paid to the state’s senior senator who also must face the voters in 2014. While the conventional wisdom has been that Sen. Lindsey Graham is vulnerable in a South Carolina Republican primary, the new PPP polls paints a completely different picture.

According to the Public Policy Polling Republican primary data (Dec. 7-9; 506 South Carolina Republican voters), Sen. Graham enjoys a 66:26 percent favorable to unfavorable job approval ratio and crushes selected members of the congressional delegation in individual ballot tests.

Of the potential congressional challengers that PPP tabbed, Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC-1) fares the best, but even he trails 32-54 percent. Graham is well above 50 percent against all potential comers, and scores 51-40 percent when asking whether the respondent would favor the senator or another candidate who is more conservative. Continued similar results will soon remove Sen. Graham from the primary vulnerability list.

Haley Narrows Her List

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley’s (R) visit to the Charleston area yesterday did not result in her naming a replacement for outgoing Sen. Jim DeMint (R) as some thought it might, but reports from her office suggest that her short list contains five names.

Top Choice: Rep. Tim Scott

Most believe the leading contender is freshman Rep. Tim Scott (R-SC-1), who won a big re-election in November and was subsequently appointed to the House Ways & Means Committee. Aside from being a capable replacement for DeMint, Rep. Scott scores political points for the governor in several ways. Haley is standing for re-election in 2014 with upside down approval ratings, and along comes a new Public Policy Polling survey (Dec. 7-9; 520 registered South Carolina voters) that posts her two points behind (44-46 percent) the man she defeated in 2010, Democratic state Sen. Vincent Shaheen. This tells us that the governor needs political strengthening.

Among other benefits, the Scott appointment would allow her to take credit for appointing the first African-American senator in the state’s post-Reconstruction history. Secondly, since Scott enjoys strong support from South Carolina’s Tea Party movement, selecting him would help Haley with the very group that could bring forth a challenger against her in the Republican primary. Third, by appointing the Charleston area congressman, she can restore the Upcountry/Low Country balance that the state traditionally featured. Both current senators, DeMint and Lindsey Graham (R), are from the northwestern sector of the state. Thus, she could theoretically increase her Charleston area support with this move. Fourth, Haley would gain kudos from national conservatives who are also pushing Scott for the appointment, possibly including Sen. DeMint himself. Though he claims not to be lobbying for anyone, most observers believe that the outgoing incumbent favors Rep. Scott as his successor.

The Remaining Four Options

Others on what is believed to be her short list of contenders are Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC-4), state cabinet officer Catherine Templeton, former Attorney General Henry McMaster (R), and Jenny Sanford, the state’s former First Lady, who handled herself so positively during her husband’s — former Gov. Mark Sanford — nationally publicized extra-marital affair.

Rep. Gowdy, also a freshman who just won a big re-election, brings little to the table for Haley. Though conservative, he represents DeMint’s former congressional district, so he fails to bring any geographic balance. He is unknown outside of the Greenville-Spartanburg region, so it’s difficult to see how the governor improves her own standing through his appointment.

Templeton is a confidant of the governor who already has received appointments to a pair of statewide cabinet posts. She currently is in charge of the South Carolina Department of Health. She hails from the Charleston area, thus bringing geographical balance but has little in the way of a political base. Furthermore, Templeton has no legislative experience, so starting her career as a legislator in the United States Senate will require a rather large learning curve that could put her well behind in preparing for a statewide election. This could make her vulnerable in what would likely transform itself into a messy primary confrontation — something Haley will certainly want to avoid.

McMaster is a former two-term attorney general and chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party. He ran against Sen. Ernest “Fritz” Hollings (D-SC) in 1986, and for governor against Haley, herself, in 2010. McMaster finished a distant third in the gubernatorial primary contest, failing to secure the second run-off position. That fell to Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-SC-3), who Haley defeated in a landslide. McMaster, from Columbia, does not appear to be a good fit for Haley, but including him on her short list does throw a bone to the state’s Republican establishment.

Jenny Sanford is a popular figure with obviously high name identification. She, too, is from Charleston and highly identified with the city, since she maintained the family home there instead of moving to the Governor’s Mansion in Columbia when her husband was elected. Sanford is not closing the door on accepting the appointment, saying she is “honored” to be considered. What is probably more likely than her being appointed to the Senate is running in the special election for the 1st Congressional District – her husband’s former House seat – should Scott receive the appointment.

The Likely Outcome

The prevailing political winds point toward Gov. Haley appointing Rep. Scott. Expect this action to occur immediately upon Sen. DeMint’s official resignation. All of the prospective candidates on this list would be competent Senators for the state, so making a credible selection is not an issue. Since Scott is the best political pick, and the governor needs a political boost, the odds are strong that she will soon turn in his direction.

Virginia Governor Update

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling

In what will probably become the closest of the 2013 elections, significant action is already occurring in the open Virginia governor’s race. Since this state is the only one in the nation that still imposes a one-term limit on its chief executive, the odd-year election is always incumbent-less and thereby competitive. Next year’s campaign will be no exception.

Already, the Republican nomination situation is coming into focus. Clearly understanding that he could not win majority support in a statewide nominating convention against the more conservative Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is again dropping plans to run for governor — this time with bad blood. Four years ago, Bolling stepped aside to give then-AG Bob McDonnell a clear shot at winning the nomination.

Objecting to the Republican Party of Virginia’s decision to replace a primary election with a convention, Bolling is not only exiting the governor’s race but says he will retire as lieutenant governor, too. “Under normal circumstances, I would be open to the possibility of running for another term as lieutenant governor, but I would not be interested in running on a statewide ticket with Mr. Cuccinelli,” he stated in a parting quote. Bolling’s reluctant action will now give Cuccinelli the opportunity of becoming the consensus Republican candidate.

On the Democratic side, former national committee chairman Terry McAuliffe, who fared poorly in the party’s gubernatorial primary four years ago losing to eventual nominee Creigh Deeds 50-26 percent, is indicating he will be back for another run. Former one-term Congressman Tom Perriello (D-VA-5) is also a potential Democratic candidate.

NOTES:

 
NC-7 Recount

Only one county remains to be re-canvassed in one of the closest House races in the country, the North Carolina contest between Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC-7) and state Sen. David Rouzer (R). When the recount began, McIntyre’s lead was 655 votes. Through the current portion of the almost completed process, the congressman has actually increased his lead by eight votes to a margin of 663 tallies. It is only now a matter of time before McIntyre is awarded an official victory. Expect this Wilmington-anchored 7th District to be a major Republican target in 2014.

New Hampshire Senate

Already, the first 2014 Senate poll has been conducted. Public Policy Polling (Nov. 14-15; 1,018 New Hampshire registered voters) surveyed a hypothetical pairing between first-term Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D) and former Sen. John E. Sununu (R). The results stake the incumbent to a 53-42 percent advantage. There is no indication that Sununu will run again, but PPP often tests the most well-known political figures against incumbents before a field of actual challengers comes to the forefront. Sen. Shaheen’s job approval is 51:36 percent favorable to unfavorable.

Little Change in Two Years

Less than one week before Election Day 2012, we know little more about the projected outcome than we did when the campaigns began in earnest almost two years ago. At that time there was uncertainty about the presidential election. A feeling persisted that Pres. Barack Obama could certainly win re-election, but enough vulnerability existed that a strong challenger could deny him a second term.

With majority Democrats having to protect 23 of the 33 in-cycle contests, control of the Senate appeared up for grabs. With the 2010 state legislative elections swinging hard toward the Republicans, thus giving them clear control of the redistricting process, it became a foregone conclusion that the House GOP majority would be sustained in a post-reapportionment election year with newly drawn congressional district boundaries.

Two years later and six days away from the people’s decision, we still have no counter-arguments to any of these observations.

According to all of the latest national polls, the presidential race is a virtual tie. Seven national pollsters released popular vote surveys yesterday and the biggest spread among the group was Rasmussen Reports producing a two-point lead for Republican Mitt Romney. Five of the polls were showing one-point margins either way, and one, Public Policy Polling for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), showed a 49-49 percent tie. It simply doesn’t get any closer.

Turning to the states, we find equally close numbers though the Romney position has improved in many key electoral vote havens. Think of the model that stated the Republican needed to convert Indiana, the 2nd Congressional District of Nebraska (because the state awards it electoral votes individually for the candidate carrying each congressional district), Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, Ohio and one other Obama state larger than Vermont or Delaware. Today, Romney looks solid in Indiana and NE-2, and good in Florida and North Carolina, while improving to even footing in Virginia. But this standing, while much better than his Republican predecessor’s of four years ago, does not clinch victory.

The next tier becomes determining. The Romney trends in Ohio are improving, and at least one pollster, Rasmussen Reports, actually has the challenger forging ahead in the Buckeye State by the slimmest of margins. All other survey research firms show either a tie or a slight Obama lead. Trends seem to be moving Romney’s way in Colorado. Iowa, Wisconsin and New Hampshire are all still very much in play, and are virtually deadlocked. Obama has been recently drawing stronger numbers in Nevada. Movement could still occur in Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota and possibly even Oregon, but it is likely that these states are only flirting with the Republicans and will return to the Democratic fold on Election Day.

Though there are still ways for Romney to win nationally without carrying Ohio, assuming the rest of our analysis rings true, he likely won’t unseat the president without winning what is becoming the deciding state. It is very likely that the way Ohio eventually votes will determine who remains or becomes president. Amazingly, the election is still simply too close to call.

The Senate remains just as tight, though Democrats are in good position to hold at least a bare majority. There are still 14 Senate races projected to be within the margin of error, so anything can still happen. The outcome of the presidential race will likely help decide all of these critically important, and virtually dead even contests.

There are ominous signs on the near horizon for the president, however. As an incumbent, going into an election tied rarely leads to victory. The Obama campaign confirms Romney’s momentum by consistently promoting a negative message. Additionally, aggregate estimates from all of the early voting states suggest that the Democrats are more than 20 percent behind their 2008 pace of returning the ballots to the election officials. They are still responding in greater numbers than Republicans, but the Democratic margin is certainly down. And, finally, we are all basing our predictions on polls showing a zero to two-point difference when their own error factor is 2.5 to 3.5 percent.

It’s clear this election will be very close and it’s possible we could be headed to political overtime, meaning absentee ballot counting could again make the difference, just as it did in 2000.

Tracking Ohio

It can be argued that the presidential election is coming down to Ohio. It is very likely that the eventual winner will carry the Buckeye State, and that entity will be enough to put Pres. Barack Obama or Mitt Romney over the top nationally. There are other scenarios — either candidate losing Ohio but carrying Wisconsin and Colorado, for example – but the voting patterns suggest that Ohio will choose the winner.

That being the case, let’s check the latest Ohio polls. Six separate polls measuring the Obama-Romney campaign were just released and these are the results:

• Angus Reid (Oct. 18-20; 550 likely Ohio voters):
  Obama 48%; Romney 48%
• Gravis Marketing (Oct. 18-19; 1,923 likely Ohio voters via automated calls):
  47% Tie
• Public Policy Polling (Oct. 18-20; 523 likely Ohio voters):
  Obama 49%; Romney 48%
• Pulse Opinion Research for Let Freedom Ring organization (Oct. 15; 1,000 likely Ohio voters):
  Romney 47%; Obama 46%
• Quinnipiac University (Oct. 17-20; 1,548 likely Ohio voters):
  Obama 50%; Romney 45%
• Suffolk University (Oct. 18-21; 600 likely Ohio voters):
  47% Tie

Can it be any closer? For the second time in 12 years, deciding the presidency could come down to just a handful of votes.