Saturday, July 26, 2008

Review of the Senate Race Polls

Some races have changed significantly, so I've added some updates.

This is one of those days when I take some time to find out what's going on in the races around the country. The House race rating averages are up-to-date, and now I turn my attention to the Senate races.

Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich (D) has steadily held on to a small lead over Sen. Ted Stevens (R) for some time now. The most recent poll from Rasmussen suggests that his lead might be starting to expand. Since the indictment, Begich has opened up a huge lead.

State Sen. Vivian Figures (D) is going nowhere. She'll be hard-pressed to get to 40%. Jeff Sessions (R) is safe.

You know Sen. Mark Pryor (D) is safe when I have to look up the race to find out who his opponent is. Turns out he doesn't have one. At least not a Republican one. Instead, the Green Party nominee and a independent gun rights activist will compete for 2nd place.

Some polls have shown a very tight race here, but Mark Udall's (D) lead over Bob Schaffer (R) is probably in the 5-8 point range. This is not a done deal, but Udall will have to mess up pretty badly to blow this seat.

I had to look up Joe Biden's (D) opponent, too. It turns out that she's a mildly attractive political consultant named Christine O'Donnell (R). I'd say the race is over, but it never really started.

On paper, former longtime State Rep. Jim Martin (R) is the perfect candidate to take Saxby Chambliss (R). Indeed, Rasmussen's recent poll showing a 51%-40% lead for Chambliss shows more reason to be optimistic that I would have anticipated. On the other hand, Georgia is just about the only state that seems to have gotten redder during President Bush's 2nd term. Look for the NRSC to have to spend some money here, but something dramatic would have to happen to Martin to pull this one off. Two polls in a row put Martin within 6 points of Chambliss. This race suddenly turned into the sleeper of the cycle.

In another laugher, I just learned that Tom Harkin's (D) opponent is a businessman named Chris Reed (R).

There hasn't been any reliable polling on this race as far as I know. My assessment of this race is largely the same as what I wrote about Georgia. We've got the perfect candidate for the state, but the state is still conservative as hell.

It turns out that Dick Durbin's (D) opponent is a med school professor named Steve Sauerberg (R). Huh. Who knew?

Pat Roberts (R) gets the award for best defense of a seat by an incumbent. We recruited the best possible candidate this side of Kathleen Sebelius and the blogging class got all amped up about the possibility of a real race here. Did Roberts wait until September or so to see if Jim Slattery (D) caught any traction? No. Instead, he and the NRSC went straight for the jugular and ripped Slattery's head off. Roberts is now polling in the 60%+ range whereas Slattery's negatives are even with his positives. This race is over.

The award for worst defense of a seat by an incumbent? That just might go to Mitch McConnell (R). Maybe it's because of his weird ads comparing himself to Alben Barkley and bragging about earmarks, but for whatever reason, his lead is down to about 4-7 points against two-time gubernatorial loser Bruce Lunsford (D). And Lunsford has got the personal wealth to chip into that small lead. McConnell has bounced back and has a double-digit lead. This one will be real tough.

Landrieu's lead is small, about 4-7 points. But I sense that Louisiana voters' distaste for John Kennedy (recently R) is greater than their distaste for the Democratic Party, even if not by much. A new Rasmussen poll shows a huge shift towards Landrieu. I'm not sure I buy it, but I never bought into Kennedy in the first place, either.

I actually knew the name of John Kerry's woeful opponent, Jeff Beatty and didn't have to look it up.

All year we've been waiting for this race to start to break and it finally looks like it might have. Tom Allen (D) now consistently polls within 10 points of Susan Collins (R). Not exactly awe-inspiring stuff for a guy who has represented half the state for 12 years, but pretty good against one of the most popular home state politicians in the nation. The analogy to last cycle's Rhode Island race should be discouraging, not encouraging. Here's why: John Kerry beat George Bush by over 20 points in Rhode Island, and by only 9 points in Maine. Sheldon Whitehouse beat Lincoln Chafee by 7 points, a margin smaller than the gap in presidential voting between these two New England states. Allen can win, but I'm not ready to get on his bandwagon just yet. Collins hasn't been under 50% for a while now. I'm afraid this race will be as tough as Kentucky.

Carl Levin (D) faces some guy called Jack Hoogendyk (R).

Have Al Franken's (D) self-inflicted wounds (making a joke about rape in public years ago) hurt his standing? New polls by SurveyUSA and Quinnipiac seem to suggest they have. Rasmussen's polls show no movement. Rasmussen has always had this race at about a toss-up, whereas other firms show Norm Coleman (R) with leads around 10 points. Who's right? I'm of course a huge Rasmussen fan, and in this case I'd like to go with them. But I do think Coleman still has an edge here, just not a large one. Coleman's still ahead, but it's close.

In one of the few Republican laughers, Thad Cochran (R) gets to destroy former LaRouche activist Erik Fleming (D).

How can this not be the sexy upset pick of the cycle? Former governor Ronnie Musgrove is the perfect candidate for this race and Obama's presence on the ticket is sure to explode previous black turnout levels. Add to that that every recent poll in the world shows a tie, and we've got ourselves a genuine race in Dixie. Wicker has opened up a substantial lead here. I'm worried I made the wrong pick here.

Remember the debacle of a primary that led to the MT GOP nominating the Constitution Party's 2002 Senate nominee? Well, it was hilarious. What could be more hilarious than that? The party's hand-picked nominee, a former State Senate Majority Leader, is still running, as a write-in.

North Carolina
I've been on the Kay Hagan (D) bandwagon for some time. Still, she's really gonna have to ramp up her fund-raising if she wants to compete with the kind of spending Liddy Dole (R) exhibited immediately after Hagan's primary win, spending that has her lead back in the double digits. The DSCC has committed $5 million here, if I remember correctly, so they a) still think this race is winnable and b) are willing to spend freely to help Hagan close the money gap. This race just gets closer. It's practically tied.

Scott Kleeb (D) has turned out to be a total flop and it looks like Mike Johanns' (R) service in President Bush's cabinet isn't the scarlet letter we'd hoped. This will be a walk-over, even as Obama competes for a couple of electoral votes here.

New Hampshire
Not much has changed here, which is good news for Jeanne Shaheen (D). Her lead over Jon Sununu (R) looks to still be in the double digits.

New Jersey
Given what we have to judge by in other states, former Congressman Dick Zimmer (R) is a pretty decent recruit. But that says more about the NRSC's difficulties this cycle than it does about Zimmer himself. Expect Frank Lautenberg to win by one of his customarily small, but comfortable margins.

New Mexico
If we've been waiting for Maine to break, I suspect Republicans have been waiting for Steve Pearce (R) to start making up some ground here. That's just not happening. Tom Udall (D) is polling in the 60s and Pearce might be lucky to get within 20 points by election day. Rasmussen shows a huge shift towards Pearce, but still an 8 point lead for Udall.

I've got to admit, I've been really disappointed in Andrew Rice (D). He's still got the best biography of any candidate this side of Jackie Speier (CA-12), but he's been pretty poor as a candidate. He's got less than $800k on hand and that's just not gonna cut it.

Rasmussen sees a Jeff Merkley (D) surge here and a tied race. No one else has released a poll since May, so let's hold our breath and wait for another poll to confirm the Merkley really has caught Gordon Smith (R). That tied poll was an outlier. Smith still leads with Merkley in striking range.

Rhode Island
Jack Reed (D) is working on the biggest blow-out of the cycle, with Rasmussen's only poll in this race showing a gigantic 72%-20% spread over his opponent, casino worker Bob Tingle (R).

South Carolina
This is the one state where it was the Democrat that I had to look up. He's a pilot named Bob Conley (D). He'll get 35-40%.

South Dakota
Another laugher. Tim Johnson (D) might have a shot at beating Jack Reed's margin over his opponent, with Johnson beating up on Joel Dykstra (R).

Rick Noriega (D) has virtually no money and his poll numbers are headed the wrong way. This race might be slipping away.

If a conservative Republican has to be reelected by a landslide, I'm glad that it's gonna be Lamar Alexander (R). I like the guy.

Nothing new here. The real question is whether Mark Warner (D) or Tom Udall (D) will set the mark for biggest margin of victory in an open seat race.

West Virginia
Forgot Jay Rockefeller (D) was up for reelection? Me too.

Mike Enzi is safe.

John Barrasso is safe, too.

Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, and Virginia are pretty close to sure things. North Carolina is very close. Our prospects look a little worse, but still decent, in Georgia, Minnesota, and Oregon. Also winnable, but pretty unlikely are Kentucky, Maine, and Mississippi.

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