April 21, 2015 — Polling has been unkind to several senators during the past few days. Last week we reported on research studies showing both Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D) and New Hampshire Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) trailing hypothetical opponents by very small margins. While a new Marquette University Law School survey finds yet another incumbent falling behind a challenger, this time the margin is anything but slight.
The Marquette data (April 7-10; 803 registered Wisconsin voters) finds former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D) leading incumbent Ron Johnson (R-WI) by a whopping 54-38 percent margin. Johnson unseated Feingold six years ago by a five percentage point spread and the former senator appears well positioned to re-enter elective politics.
Though Feingold has said little about the impending 2016 Senate race and has certainly not announced any intention to run, leaders from both parties expect him to again become a candidate. In February, Feingold resigned his appointed position as a State Department US Envoy to the African Great Lakes region, and many observers are surprised he has not yet announced or at least signaled his intention to run for the Senate. Polls such as the Marquette survey may hasten his decision. Continue reading >
April 20, 2015 — Since 2006, New Hampshire politics has been volatile to the point that no incumbent – Democrat or Republican – can be considered safe. Such is the recent history that first term Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R) faces as she prepares for re-election next year.
Gov. Maggie Hassan (D), despite a strong public approval record for most of her first two-year term, struggled to a 52-47 percent victory over unknown businessman Walt Havenstein (R) in the mid-term election.
Under this backdrop, Public Policy Polling conducted a survey of New Hampshire voters (April 9-13; 747 registered New Hampshire voters) and found the two, predictably, locked in a dead heat. According to PPP, if the election were now, Hassan would nip the Senator 46-45 percent.
Ayotte’s ballot test standing is slightly better than her job approval score; the latter showing her mildly upside down, 40:43 percent. By contrast, Hassan’s gubernatorial job performance rates a strong 53:34 percent. Interestingly, this may suggest a more troubling trend for Hassan, leading one to conclude that a significant number of voters who think she is performing well as governor are not supporting her for Senate. Continue reading >
FEB. 23, 2015 – Missouri Democrats successfully landed their top choice to challenge first-term Republican Sen. Roy Blunt. Secretary of State Jason Kander, an Afghanistan and Iraq War veteran, made public yesterday his plans to seek the US Senate seat next year.
Kander, 33, a former two-term state Representative from the Kansas City metropolitan area, won a close 2012 race for Secretary of State – ironically, a position Blunt himself held from 1985-1993 – defeating Republican Shane Schoeller by just over 39,000 votes out of more than 2.6 million ballots cast.
He will face an uphill battle against Sen. Blunt, one of the best prepared and battle tested of Republican incumbents. Winning a landslide 54-41 percent victory against then-Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) in 2010, Blunt is now chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee in the new Republican majority. Elected to the House from the southwestern 7th Congressional District in 1996, he quickly rose to the position of Chief Deputy Majority Whip, and was elected both Majority and Minority Whip. Continue reading >
It appears continuing the new-found Senate majority could well turn on the 2016 presidential election, and that puts Republicans in a precarious position.
When the GOP captured the Senate in 2014, much was made that their fledgling majority could be short-lived. Seeing that 24 of the 34 in-cycle 2016 seats are Republican-held means that Democrats need a minimum net conversion of only four states to re-claim control. That is, if the Ds – presumably in the person of former Secretary of State and First Lady Hillary Clinton – hold the White House upon President Obama’s exit. Otherwise, they would need to gain five.
In looking at the Senate players for the coming campaign we see not only a Republican Party forced to protect two dozen seats, but 10of those 24 can already be considered as highly competitive complete with a pair (IL-Kirk; WI-Johnson) in the toss-up category.
Of the vulnerable 10 states, seven (Arizona-McCain; Florida-Rubio, New Hampshire-Ayotte, North Carolina-Burr, Ohio-Portman, Pennsylvania-Toomey and Wisconsin-Johnson) are high-level presidential campaign targets. Likely putting the Republicans in even greater peril for the next election, President Obama twice Continue reading >
As 2014 closes, we’re taking a quick look ahead at the 34 in-cycle US Senate seats for 2016. The tables have turned in that it is the Democrats who will have to convert Republican seats in order to recapture their lost majority. With Republicans having to defend 24 of the 34 Senate states, the Democrats will have plenty of conversion opportunities. They will need to win all 10 of the seats they currently hold and convert five Republican seats to reach 51 senators. Should the Democrats hold the White House in the presidential election, the Senate conversion number will drop to four because the Democratic vice president will then be able to break a 50-50 deadlock.
Of the senators who preliminarily say they will seek re-election, four (senators Richard Shelby (AL), John McCain (AZ), Charles Grassley (IA) and Barbara Mikulski (MD), will be 80 years old or older at the time of the next election. Another six will be 70 or older.
Right now, several seats are projected to be competitive, and both Democrats and Republicans are eying individuals they would characterize as dream challengers.
For Democrats, the two most competitive incumbent protection contests will be Nevada and Colorado. New Senate Minority Continue reading >