Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Recent Surveys Show Scott Brown Falling Well Short Of Markers Set By Romney, Ayotte In New Hampshire

Photos from left to right courtesy of Just Jared, Gretyl Macalaster, and Marc Nozell. Apologies for not being able to resist the gratuitous shirtless Scott Brown pic.
Given recent stories of New Hampshire GOP weariness regarding the now announced Scott Brown Senate bid, it's hard to believe there was a time when the pick-up truck driving, common-man type was a source of great Republican pride. After all, how could the establishment, or the Tea Party for that matter, begrudge the man who wrestled away the Senate seat held by liberal lion Ted Kennedy for five decades, in a state with a partisan bent like Massachusetts?

But a stinging, if not anticipated loss to Elizabeth Warren and the Democratic presidential turnout machine in 2012, on top of less than inspiring polling numbers against his new Democratic opponent Jeanne Shaheen, have caused the former model/attorney to lose a bit of his luster. Most recent surveys of the 2014 Senate battle find Brown trailing Senator Shaheen by around 10-pts or more. However, he's got three other headaches to contend with beyond the simple fact he's losing.

First of all, his polling trend lines do not look good. After a strong month in January (when he trailed Shaheen by an average of 44-40% across four surveys), Brown now trails by an average 50-39% (in four surveys taken since February). He's also lost ground among various demographic and political groups. Consider the chart below:

Polling used in the average can be found at Huffington Post's Pollster.

Brown went from leading among New Hampshire voters aged 18-45 years old by three points in January, to trailing with this group by eleven points in February/March. He held Shaheen to an eleven point advantage among women in January, though her advantage has now doubled to twenty-two points. Brown's lead among men dropped, while Shaheen's lead with >46 year olds and Independents grew slightly. The only positive trend for Brown from January to February/March was his numbers among Republicans, which improved from January ever-so-slightly.

The second headache for Brown? Not only is he trailing Shaheen, but he's WELL behind where his would-be Senate colleague, Kelly Ayotte (R) was polling at this point in 2010, and is failing to hit crucial markers reached by Mitt Romney in 2012. Granted, Brown has nearly impossibly large shoes to fill if he hopes to recreate Ayotte's landslide 60-37% victory over Paul Hodes (D) during the last Republican wave. But for the record, she was leading Hodes by double-digits before the Spring of 2010. Brown hasn't led a poll against Shaheen yet, at least not according to the Huffington Post or Real Clear Politics.

 As for Mitt Romney, while he did lose New Hampshire to Barack Obama in 2012, it wasn't the 11-pt deficit seen by Brown over the last two months - it was by five-and-a-half points.

For an illustration of how much better Ayotte and Romney ultimately did than Brown is currently doing, consider the chart below:

Compiled from 2012 and 2010 CNN Exit Polling.

By virtually every metric made measurable by available crosstabs and exit poll data, Romney, who ultimately lost New Hampshire, was stronger there in November 2012 than Brown is today.

And Scott Brown's third headache? For all the recent talk of a likely Republican takeover of the Senate in 2014, a wave seems unlikely to save him at this point, at least if the topline numbers amongst the various demographic groups do not improve. That's because recent NH Senate pollsters are picking up on similar demographic and political findings. Consider the chart below.

As you can see, American Research Group, Rasmussen Reports, Suffolk University, and Public Policy Polling are all finding roughly the same gender split that exit pollsters found in New Hampshire during the 2010 wave. The age and partisan identification splits are roughly on par with 2010 exit poll findings as well. So in other words, Brown can't hope for some demographic miracle to save him from weak poll toplines. Odds are, Republicans already saw their "demographic miracle" in the state in 2010.

Things aren't over for Scott Brown yet. Campaigns matter, and he's only JUST started. But he has a lot of work to do if he hopes to catch up to Shaheen by November. And for all of the headaches noted above, he has two things going for him. 1) He's been down in the polls before, only to come back and win, and 2) Republican voters, those most likely to support him in November, are currently more undecided than Democrats. But consolidating the Republican base, alone, wouldn't be enough for Brown to close a double-digit deficit in a state like New Hampshire, where Independents are approaching half of the entire electorate. And though he was initially down in polling against Martha Coakley in 2010, a New Hampshire general election, held on election day, is an entirely different beast than a mid-January special election in Massachusetts, just as incumbent Senator Sheehan is an entirely different beast than Martha Coakley.

From a recruitment standpoint, the GOP did well in New Hampshire. But polling to date doesn't give any indication of a GOP blow-out like the one seen in the Granite State in 2010...not even close.

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