Friday, November 7, 2014

Did ex-Senator Udall's 'War On Women' Strategy Depress the Female Vote in Colorado?

 
Photo Courtesy of the NRSC


It's an interesting coincidence that female turnout, as a percentage share of the electorate, was the lowest nationwide in Colorado Tuesday night. Couldn't possibly have anything to do with the sharply negative ads in the state, largely directed at women, could it?

Nearly two years ago, Colorado's incumbent Democratic Senator was considered safe in a midterm election that would seemingly favor Republicans. Then came the backroom deal that propelled Cory Gardner to the nomination. Knowing that Gardner was their greatest political threat of the Colorado GOP bench, the Udall campaign began a focused effort on convincing Colorado women that the Republican nominee for Senate would eliminate their access to abortions and birth control. After the Obama/Biden campaign experienced some success with the so-called "war on women' tactic in 2012, Udall hoped to replicate their campaigns impressive performance among females by singing a similar tune.

This time, however, they were unsuccessful. Gardner has been declared the winner with 93% of precincts reporting.

Over time, Udall's single-issue focus on women's reproductive health drew criticism and ridicule from all political corners, most notably from local Colorado newspapers that historically bent Democratic. And indeed, Tuesday night's exit polling would indicate Udall's 'war on women' strategy failed. Though the Democrat did ultimately win the female vote, it was by a rather unimpressive 52-44%, especially when compared to Udall's seventeen point loss among Colorado males, or Beauprez's twelve point loss with women, or Buck's seventeen point loss with females in 2010.

But there appears to be another interesting side effect of the "war on women" overkill seen in the 2014 Colorado Senate race - women made up a lower proportion of the electorate as compared to men than in ANY other Governor or Senate contest that night, save only the Colorado Governor race.
Just 47% of Colorado voters identified as female, while 53% identified as male. For reference, the national exit poll taken Tuesday found women made up 51% of voters, with men at 49%. Even Alaska, where men outnumber women in the total population, found higher turnout among women in their Senate race (48%) than Colorado. Of the forty-one exit-polled contests on November 4th, women outnumbered men as a share of the electorate in thirty-two of them, or 78% of the time. Men outnumbered women in only four of them, or just 10% of the time. The five remaining contests split 50/50 between male and female voters.

These stats alone aren't enough to conclusively state that Udall's campaign tactics caused more women to stay away from the polls than otherwise would have. But even browsing through past Colorado exit polls for President, Governor, or Senator indicates that it's far from typical for Colorado to feature the lowest female turnout in the country, as compared to males.

In 2010, the Colorado Senate and Gubernatorial electorate was made up of equal percentages of men and women, along with eight other contests that year. While this represented a lower percentage of women than found nationally, Colorado was not at the bottom of the heap. Eight states actually had a higher percentage of men voting than women. Twenty-seven out of the total fourty-four exit-polled contests that year found women exceeded men (or, 61% of the time).

Something similar occurred in 2012. Colorado's female turnout as compared to men, though it came in under the national average again, was a net 7-pts higher than it was Tuesday. In fact, women made up a majority of the Colorado electorate in 2012 (51%).

More significantly, out of about 300 Presidential, Gubernatorial, and Senate contests that were surveyed by exit pollsters since 2006, only *THREE* featured a lower, or AS low a percentage of female voters as the 2014 Colorado Senate race. Those three contests are, ironically enough, the 2014 Colorado Governor race (54% male, 46% female), the 2010 Hawaii Senate race (54% male, 46% female), and the 2010 Hawaii Governor race (53% male, 47% female). Again - only three!

Colorado has typically seen lower female turnout than most states, at least according to exit polls conducted since 2008. But certainly not THE lowest in the country. And never as low as 47% (see table below). Who is to say whether Udall's 'war on women' strategy depressed female turnout, or motivated male turnout? Indeed, who is to say any of this has anything to do with the 'war on women?' But again, Colorado saw the lowest proportion of female to male voters of the night on Tuesday. And the 2014 Colorado Senate contest featured one of the four lowest proportions of female voters out of nearly 300 exit-polled contests since 2006. I'd like to kindly submit this to the DSCC, as they ramp up for 2016.

Chart 

Update: Nate Cohn, who I respect, has pointed out that the Colorado exit polls are very likely wrong. Which totally sucks. This seemed like a great theory what was an admittedly stand-out statistic. But what the hell, I'm leaving it up anyway, in commemoration of what might have been.  

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why Sen. Pat Roberts Isn't Out Of This Yet - A Dive Into The New SurveyUSA Kansas Senate Crosstabs

Pictured above, former Republican and Democrat, now Independent candidate for Senate in Kansas, Greg Orman.

Survey USA was first out of the gate yesterday afternoon, releasing a new poll of the Kansas Senate battle taken entirely *after* the shocking announcement last week that Democrat Chad Taylor would be exiting the race. Cutting to the chase - things look pretty bad for Republicans, at least on the surface.

Long-time incumbent Pat Roberts is polling at just 36% with the general electorate - that, after having won 60% in 2008, 83% in 2002, and 62% in 1996. Republican turned Democrat turned Independent Greg Orman comes in at 37%. A stunning 10% say they will vote for Chad Taylor regardless of the fact he has dropped out of the race. 17% are either undecided or will vote for Libertarian Randall Batson.

Given Kansas Democrats singular desire to kick Roberts out of D.C., it's easy to look at the 37-36-10% split and just say "hey, give that 10% for Taylor to Orman, and you have a 47-36% Independent candidate lead over the incumbent Republican." But why stop the assumptions there? Especially considering the fact that the devil is in the details.

First of all, the odds that 10% of Kansas likely voters will actually wind up voting for a non-candidate like Taylor are unlikely. So to see how the Taylor vote could break-up down the road, consider the partisan make-up of the 10% of Kansas likely voters that say they will vote for Chad Taylor. 21% of Democrats support Taylor. 12% of Independents do. And just 3% of Republicans support Taylor. Now suppose that two-thirds of the Taylor-supporting Democrats decide to abandon the non-candidate in favor of Greg Orman between now and November 4, 2014. The remaining one-third of Taylor supporting Democrats stay with Taylor in this scenario because...well...some Democrats are bound to vote for the guy with a (D) beside his name. In the meantime, reallocate two-thirds of the Taylor-supporting Republicans to the Roberts column, and leave the remaining third with Taylor. Lastly, reallocate two-thirds of the Taylor-supporting Independents evenly between Roberts and Orman, with the remaining one-third staying loyal to Taylor. How would the Survey USA result have looked under such a feasible scenario, all other findings remaining the same?










So you see, it's not quite as simple as just slapping all 10% of Taylor voters up on Orman's board. Orman would lead in such a hypothetical where Taylor voters side overwhelmingly with Orman, but by 4 points overall. And remember, the scenario above also assumes Roberts' 59% among Republican voters increases to 61% as a result of taking two-thirds (2%) of Republicans that claim they will support Democrat Chad Taylor. The scenario further assumes that 2/3 of Independent Taylor supporters will split evenly for Roberts and Orman, with Taylor maintaining the other third. In the end of this scenario, Taylor's support among the general electorate is around 3%, which sounds more likely as awareness grows about his non-candidacy in the 8 weeks remaining until election day.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Like Father, Like Son? Rand Paul Takes A Hit Among Republicans, as Americans Grow More Hawkish on ISIS

After riding high for a while, Rand Paul's primary numbers return to mediocre in the wake of renewed interest in international affairs.

Former Congressman Ron Paul ran twice for President, and never attracted more than 11% of Republican primary voters nationally. He never won a single contest, in either 2008 or 2012. His best statewide performance came in the form of a caucus, in the small state of Maine, where he won just 36% of the vote, losing to Mitt Romney with 38%.

This poor performance shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, especially considering the senior Paul was never your typical Republican primary candidate for President (being a renowned isolationist and 9/11 truther).

Unfortunately for Dr. Paul's son, Rand, the political atmosphere in which he is likely to launch a 2016 presidential bid promises to be more foreign policy focused than the two his father ran in. And Rand has done very little to distance himself from his father's controversial views on international affairs, even as Americans, and particularly Republicans, become more willing to get involved in the festering situation in Iraq.

Perhaps it's a coincidence, but it just so happens that as American awareness of ISIS and the dangers they pose at home and abroad rises, Sen. Rand Paul's GOP primary numbers suffer. It has been over one year since I wrote about Senator Rand Paul's initial rise among Republican voters, in the wake of an old-fashioned filibuster that lit up social media. But his standing has deteriorated since then. Consider the chart below, which documents every national or state Republican presidential primary poll taken since the end of June (when the first national surveys on Americans' views towards ISIS began appearing):

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Reviving Rick Perry - The Master of Debate Debacles Is Back On Top After A 3-Year Repentance

Photo courtesy of Joyce Marshall/AP














It was the 'oops' heard 'round the world. A painstakingly demeaning moment in front of millions of TV viewers nationwide turned Texas Governor Rick Perry's 2012 Presidential campaign upside down. Perry, who entered the field later than any contender, needed to make a good impression on voters just tuning into the race. Instead, he reenforced preconceived notions. Like the fact that he was an intellectual lightweight, an accusation hurled often at ex-President George W. Bush. And who could blame anyone for buying into those stereotypes? It's not as if Perry was trapped in a 'gotcha moment' by the debate moderator. He was hoisted by his own petard (thanks Selina!), unable to complete his own talking point on the three federal agencies he would abolish as President.

Needless to say, the "oops" moment was a low point for the Perry campaign. He quickly fell into single digits in national polling and never recovered, having made a huge splash upon his late entry into the race on August 13, 2011. Before the "oops" debate on November 9, 2011, Perry averaged 19% in national Republican primary polls. After that debate, until he suspended his campaign on Jan 19, 2012, he only averaged 7%. See the table below:


Polling data used in averages is compiled from The Roper Center's i-poll database.












Thoroughly mocked and humiliated on a national level, Perry returned home to finish out the three remaining years of his fourth term as governor. And not even they were happy to see him.

If "oops" was Perry's low moment, then his best moment since then would certainly have to be now. After the failure that was 2012, Perry set out to rekindle relationships and reassure potential supporters that 2016 would be much more serious. And external political events, namely the crisis of unaccompanied immigrant children flooding the southern border, have further boosted his profile. All of this has culminated in the two most recent national 2016 GOP primary surveys finding Perry essentially tied for first place.

A recent Fox News poll finds that while several potential candidates are clustered together at the top, Rick Perry and Jeb Bush emerge with 12% a piece, more than anyone else. A CNN poll released just a couple of days earlier found Perry again in double digits amidst a crowded field, with 11%. Chris Christie and Rand Paul led with 13% and 12%, putting Perry well within the +/- 4.5% margin of error.

Yet perhaps more important than Perry's raw percentage of the likely 2016 Republican primary vote are the trend lines. In the case of the Fox News poll, Perry drastically improved his performance from their prior survey in April, where he only managed 5% of the vote (good enough for 6th place). In the CNN survey, Perry nearly doubled his level of support from their prior poll just two months ago, jumping from 7th to 3rd place.

Monday, July 28, 2014

An Unusually High Number Of Undecided Voters in the 2014 Mississippi Senate Race Shouldn't Concern Thad Cochran

Photo courtesy of William Widmer of the New York TImes.

















Bitter primary battles come and go. But one thing nearly all of these events have in common is that at the end of the day, the overwhelming majority of the losing candidate's supporters wind up backing their nominee, regardless of who they voted for in the primary.

Don't get me wrong - there have been multiple polling examples of intra-party anger like we're seeing in Public Policy Polling's newest survey on the Mississippi Senate race. In each of those circumstances, however, the party largely came home to support their candidate in the general election.

Granted, the level of discontent found among Republicans in the newest Mississippi poll seems a bit unprecedented, at least when comparing their results to other post-close-primary polls from 2012, 2010, and the 2008 Presidential primaries. Cochran (R) leads Childers (D) overall by a 16 point margin, or 40-24%. The Democratic candidate actually finishes 3rd to undecided, which receives 31%.

Of the 31% of Mississippi voters that say they are undecided in the November Senate battle, the majority are Republicans and Independents, two groups that favor Cochran overwhelmingly in the survey. In fact, Republicans ALONE account for 51% of the total "undecided" vote. All of this has served to keep Thad Cochran a good distance from the magic number of 50% both in the general election, and with HIS OWN BASE. Yes, that's right. Cochran's only winning 48% of Republican poll respondents (his overall lead over Childers is thanks in large part to historic support from Democratic and black voters).


PARTISANS COME HOME

Now sure, there was lots of hoopla about Hillary Clinton Democrats voting for John McCain back during the 2008 presidential campaign. And yes, Obama's poll numbers among members of his own party suffered as the primary heated up and after it ended. Consider the table below, which points out Obama's support among Democrats in polls against John McCain taken just before and after the primary ended.


























As you can see, Obama hit a low of 61% support from Democrats in a hypothetical match-up against John McCain, at least according to a YouGov/Economist poll taken shortly after Hillary Clinton's June 7th, 2008 campaign suspension, only to regain their support by November. But that's sill nothing compared to the mere plurality of support Thad Cochran enjoys from his own party in the PPP survey. Among the dozens of surveys taken in 2012 and 2010 Senate and gubernatorial primary races, not once could I locate a nominee whose support among their own party was as low as Thad Cochran's is per PPP.

For example, Senator Blanche Lincoln's (D-AR) support within her own party was just 68% against John Boozman (R), immediately following her contentious primary with Lt. Governor Bill Halter. She still managed to wrangle up 78% of Democrats to support her ultimately losing bid in the end, however.

Controversial Senate nominee in Delaware, Christine O'Donnell, regularly polled in the 60% range with Republicans against Democrat Chris Coons before and after her ultimately successful primary against Mike Castle. On election day, Republicans came home, to the tune of 81%.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

New Democratic Louisiana Senate Poll Finds A Tied Race, But With Strong Likelihood of Republican Gains

A recent television ad paid for by by 'Friends of Mary Landrieu' shows citizens of a rural Louisiana town watching Landrieu TV appearances in which she takes it to the Obama Administration on a number of issues. Separating herself from an unpopular president is a must if she hopes to hang on to her seat.

Of the premier 2014 midterm contests, the Louisiana Senate race is *the* most likely to flip into Republican hands, at least according to current Huffington Post Pollster averages. That's why the  new Public Policy Polling survey allowed the Landrieu campaign to breathe at least a slight sigh of relief, especially considering the recent spate of run-off polling. An incumbent who is tied with their opponent at 47% wouldn't typically be received as welcome news for most political campaigns, unless six of the eight polls taken this year found that opponent ahead.

But as far as Democrats are concerned, the good news stops there. Because a closer inspection of the PPP memo and crosstabs suggests little room for improvement for the incumbent:

The likely Landrieu/Cassidy match up for the December runoff is tied at 47. Among those who support Maness or Hollis or are undecided for the November election, 68% move to Cassidy for December compared to only 11% who move toward Landrieu. Even though only 6% of voters are undecided in that match up, they don't set up great for Landrieu- 61% voted for Romney to 20% who voted for Obama, and she has a 14/65 approval rating.

It's July, and if you buy the PPP numbers, a mere 6% of likely voters are undecided. So no matter where they end up, the Louisiana Senate race is bound to be at least remotely close.

As Nate Silver has argued before, at least at the presidential level, there comes a point in the election cycle where job approval ratings become a leading indicator of final result. So let's divvy up that tiny 6% slice of the electorate to the Louisiana Senate candidates, with 14% going to Mary Landrieu (her approval rating among undecided voters), and 65% going to Republican Bill Cassidy (her disapproval rating among undecideds).

Suddenly, the GOP challenger jumps out to a 51-48% lead, which goes to show that despite undecided voters being few and far between, Landrieu is unpopular enough with them to make a difference. The same thing happens when you reallocate undecideds according to how they voted in the 2012 election (61% for Romney, 20% for Obama). What was a 47-47 tie again becomes a 51-48% Cassidy lead.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Democrats May Have A Midterm Turnout Problem In North Carolina, But Not So Much So, Says New Rasmussen Poll

Photo courtesy of Scott McIntyre.

The release of Rasmussen's first post North Carolina Senate GOP primary survey reminded me of Nate Cohn's New York Times article from last week, titled 'Why The Democrats Turnout Problem Is Worst In North Carolina.' The piece provided some useful information pertaining to North Carolina voting demographics from the 2010 midterm election, especially considering the fact that no exit poll was conducted in the state that year.

For example, per Cohn, the white percentage of the 2010 North Carolina midterm electorate was six points whiter than in 2012 (77% vs. 71%, respectively). The black vote was three points lower than in 2012 (20% vs. 23%), while the '65 years & older' age group was 6 points higher (26% vs. 20%). Naturally, this is all good news for Republicans, as they typically perform stronger with white voters than minorities, and older voters vs younger.

In light of the information provided in the New York Times piece, lets consider how the Rasmussen survey results would have differed applying 2010-like race and age statistics.

Tillis leads Hagan overall in the survey 45-44%. Among white voters only, his lead grows to 26 points, or 57-31%. For what it's worth, that's a good deal less impressive than Romney's 68-31% advantage over Obama in 2012, when he carried the state overall by two points. Rasmussen also finds that white voters make up 72% of the NC electorate, vs. 77% in 2010. Those numbers are more in line with 2012 style turnout than 2010. So what would Rasmussen have found if survey respondents had been more illustrative of 2010 racial identification (all other findings remaining the same)?


What was a virtual tie between Tillis and Hagan becomes...welll...less of a tie. The Republican's lead is still within the four point margin of error, but he does add a bit more distance between himself and the incumbent.

A similar occurrence is seen when applying 2010-age identification to the Rasmussen survey. Tillis leads among the oldest of voters, 62-35% (while younger voters spring for Hagan, 46-29%). Rasmussen found just 20% of North Carolina likely voters identifying as being over the age of sixty-five years old, though they made up 26% of the electorate in 2010. How would the Rasmussen results have looked with a larger pool of older voters?


Again, not a significant shift, but definite movement in Tillis's direction. The bottom line is that, if you buy Rasmussen's numbers, Tillis is starting the general election against Hagan with an advantage regardless of which electorate - presidential or midterm - shows up.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

45 Years Of House Ballot Polling Finds Pollsters Typically Overstate Democrats Actual Performance

Image on the left is courtesy of Alaskans For Begich TV ad, and highlights the wealthy, mega-donors Koch Brothers support of Republican candidates. Image on the right comes from an anti-Obamacare ad sponsored by Generation Opportunity.

Glancing at the current HuffPollster and RCP polling averages, Democrats and Republicans are essentially tied on the generic House ballot question. The former finds Republicans ahead by less than half-a-percentage point, while the latter finds them down by a roughly equal margin. But don't expect the same polling dynamic that exits today to be present on election day - at least not if past generic House ballot polling dating back to 1970 has anything to do with it. And further, I'd caution against relying too much on the surveys taken in the final week before the election, too, as they've been pretty hit-or-miss themselves.

Hundreds of generic ballot surveys taken over the last 45 years and eleven midterms finds polls conducted in the Spring of an election year (April, May, and June) have overstated the eventual Democratic margin in nine of them, or 82% of the time (including the last five midterms in a row). Surveys taken in the final week(s) of a campaign are no exception, understating the Republican margin in eight of eleven elections. Consider the tables below, the first of which provides polling data in the spring of each midterm since 1970 compared to the final result, the second of which compares polling data taken in the final week(s) of the campaign with the actual result.


Polling data pre-2006 was provided by the Roper Center's IPOLL databank. * Indicates the cutoff date for polls to be included in the average was TWO weeks prior to the actual election day. ** Indicates the cutoff date for polls to be included in the average was THREE weeks prior to the actual election day. Dates were only altered if necessary to obtain a large enough sample to average.

Surveys conducted in the Spring of the last eleven midterm elections tended to overstate the eventual Democratic margin over Republicans by an average of five net points. Looking at specific elections, such as 2010, you can see Republicans were polling an average 43% in the Spring of that year, though they eventually won 51% of the popular vote. Democrats, meanwhile, were polling an average of 42% that Spring, and wound up with 45% that November. The Republican advantage over Democrats grew from just one point in April, May, and June, to six points in November.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Undecided Voters Poised To Flock To Mark Pryor's Republican Challenger in Senate Race, Says New PPP Poll

Photo courtesy of Club For Growth TV ad.

A new poll in Arkansas from the Democratic leaning pollster Public Policy Polling puts incumbent Senator Mark Pryor ahead of his Republican opponent Congressman Tim Cotton by just one point, or 43-42%, with 16% undecided. This result might be interpreted by some as impressive for a Democratic Senator in a deep-red state, especially considering the conventional wisdom around the race for much of the last year as one of the Republican Party's likeliest Senate pick-up opportunities.

But not so fast. Tom Jensen tweeted out this crucial bit of information following the official poll release:


In a race where both major party candidates are polling in the lower 40s, the undecided vote could dramatically alter the outcome. And there are several data points that would assist in providing clues about where those undecided voters will ultimately end up. Are they Democrats or Republicans? Young or Old? Liberal or Conservative? Among PPP respondents who said they voted in the 2012 election, it's the Romney voters that remain more undecided than Obama voters (17% to 8%). That's an obvious plus for Tom Cotton (R). Conservatives are more undecided than liberals (16% to 12%), another plus for Cotton. A full eighteen percent of Independent voters remain undecided (more than Republicans or Democrats), and they support Cotton over Pryor 50-31%. Yet at the same time, women, who support Pryor by greater margins than men, are more undecided than men. African Americans, as well as younger voters, both of which being groups more likely to support Pryor, are more undecided than whites or older voters.

But perhaps more important than any of these stats regarding undecideds is what Tom Jensen tweeted above - the fact that the President's approval rating is upside down with these voters by 61 points!

Unfortunately, PPP didn't provide a crosstab of how poll respondents that approved or disapproved of Obama's job performance said they would vote in a Pryor vs. Cotton match-up. But pollsters that have provided such info in the past would note that there's a very close correlation between a voters feelings towards the President's job performance, and how he or she may cast a vote in a federal partisan contest.

Suppose those sixteen percent of Arkansas voters that said they were undecided between Mark Pryor and Tom Cotton supported the two candidates by the same proportion they approved or disapproved of President Obama? Or in other words, suppose 13% of those undecided voters end up supporting Mark Pryor, while 74% end up supporting Cotton. How would PPP's final result have looked?



Senator Mark Pryor's one point lead over Tom Cotton evaporates into an eight point DEFICIT in the event undecided voters break for the candidates in a proportion identical to their approval of Obama's job performance. What was a 43-42% Democratic lead becomes a 53-45% Republican lead.

Obviously, this is purely speculative. But the big news from this PPP poll shouldn't be the fact that Pryor's clinging to a lead. It should be that if the crosstabs are to be believed, Pryor's lead is fleeting.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Despite Some Screwy Crosstabs, NYT Polling Finds Unpopular Obama Hasn't Sunk Senate Democrats Yet

Photos courtesy of Corbis Images.

A spate of brand new surveys put out by the New York Times and conducted by the Kaiser Foundation finds once incredibly vulnerable Democratic incumbent Senators hanging on, and in some cases, leading their Republican opponents in four states carried by Mitt Romney in 2012:

  • Arkansas, which Obama lost in 2012 61-37%
  • Kentucky, which Obama lost in 2012 61-38%
  • North Carolina, which Obama lost in 2012 50-48%, and
  • Louisiana, which Obama lost in 2012 58-41%.
The Democratic resilience found by the Kaiser Foundation seems all the more miraculous considering how deeply unpopular the president is in all four states. His most positive rating is 41/51%, found in North Carolina, with his most negative rating coming from Kentucky, where just 32% of registered voters approve of the job Obama is doing, and 60% disapprove. Yet still, in those states, both incumbent Democratic Senator Kay Hagan, and Democratic challenger Allison Lundergen Grimes, are exceeding expectations considering the unpopularity of their party boss. Hagan's net job approval rating is 10 points higher than the President's, and she actually leads both of her likely primary opponents by 2. Grimes, who is saddled by a President with a 60% disapproval rating, only trails McConnell 44-43%.

The same applies in Arksansas and Louisiana. In the former, Obama is stained by a 33/60% job approval rating, a full THIRTY-SIX net points LOWER than Democratic incumbent Senator Mark Pryor's 47/38% job rating. Not only that, but Pryor leads Cotton (R) 46-36%. In Louisiana, the President's net job rating is SIXTEEN points lower than Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu's.

All in all - this is some much-needed decent news for Democrats. But a word of caution regarding the results...

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Unknown Charlotte Pastor Performs Stronger Against NC Sen. Hagan Than Establishment-Backed Tillis

Taken during the Tuesday Night, April 22 North Carolina Republican Senate Primary debate. From left, Pastor Mark Harris, Nurse Heather Grant, Physician Greg Brannon, and State Legislator Thom Tillis.

The Republicans vying to take on North Carolina's Junior Senator Kay Hagan (D) met last night in a debate format for the first time prior to the May 6 primary. Besides a few barbs thrown at the Chamber of Commerce and American Crossroads backed Thom Tillis (R), the event likely did little to shift opinion in the largely unsettled primary. But there was one claim made during the closing arguments of First Baptist Church of Charlotte Pastor Mark Harris that sounded dubious coming from someone who is largely (73%) unknown outside of his congregation.

Consider the tweet below from debate viewer Jonathan Kappler, Director of UNC's State Government Relations:

The poll referred to by Pastor Harris was conducted by SurveyUSA at the end of March, and showed Sen. Hagan trailing Harris 47-43%, more than she trailed anyone else, though NOT outside the poll's 2.6% margin of error (that would have required Harris lead Hagan by at least 49-43%). But SurveyUSA isn't the only pollster to find Harris leading the incumbent Senator by a larger margin than the rest of the field. Local partisan pollster Public Policy Polling also found Harris with a four point lead against Hagan, better than all but one primary opponent, (but again, inside the survey's 3.6% margin of error). For what it's worth, the establishment-backed Tillis only led Hagan 46-45% in the SurveyUSA poll, and actually trailed Hagan 43-41% per PPP.

President Hits 6-month Job Approval High on Gallup and RCP

Photo courtesy of The Guardian.

Today's Gallup tracking update fits nicely with the new Democratic narrative that, just maybe, despite years-long conventional wisdom, Obamacare and its creator aren't as doomed as originally thought. For the first time since their October 8, 2013 update, President Obama's job approval rating came within two points of matching his disapproval rating on Gallup.



In the intervening period since October, the President's net approval (the difference between his approval and disapproval rating) has ranged from -4 (on April 19-20 and March 19-20), and -16 (on March 1-2 and March 15, 2014). Furthermore, today marks only the second time since October 8 that Obama's approval rating has reached as high as 46% (the other time being on February 20). Today also marks the first time since October 8 the President's job DISAPPROVAL rating dropped below the 49% level.

You have to go all the way back to September 26th to find the President's net job approval higher than it is now. And unfortunately for Republicans, the Gallup daily tracker isn't the only pollster showing Obama's job ratings improving from months ago. Check out his RCP and Pollster averages. Obama's at his best net average job rating since October 29 per the former, and since September 24 per the latter.

There are two obvious theories behind the ratings change: 1) the outrage over the Obamacare website's failures and canceled insurance policies, which began in early October, roughly around the same time as Obama's approval rating drop, is subsiding. Though the evidence for this seems split at best. 2) The Gallup tracker has a history of bouncing around on a day-to-day basis, which is most likely all we're seeing in today's numbers. Afterall, the President was at 42/52% on April 16, just six days ago. And over the course of two days earlier this month, the President's job rating fell from 45/49% to 40/55%, a net drop of eleven points. On the other hand, Obama's WEEKLY average job approval (which is a better metric for spotting trends), is the lowest its been in two months, even before factoring in today's lofty 46/48% figure. You have to go back to the week of September 29 to find a higher average weekly net job approval for the President.

In the end, remember, we're talking about Gallup's daily tracker. It can be erratic, sometimes wildly so. But today's numbers, taken in the context of most recent national surveys, bode well for Democrats.