Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Hillary Clinton Exceeds Records Set By Her Husband Against Republicans In 2016, Says New CNN Poll

Hillary Clinton laughs with ex-Sec. of Defense Leon Panetta. A recent CNN/ORC poll certainly gives her plenty reason to smile. Photo courtesy of Win McNamee/Getty Images

Still shaking off the sting of November's thumping, a recent CNN/ORC poll provided Democrats with some glimmers of hope. While most of the headlines generated by the poll were concerned with Obama's sudden surge in job approval, there was another eye-brow raising statistic in the release - Hillary Clinton positively dominates the entire 2016 Republican field, at a time when news of Jeb Bush's unofficial campaign launch has sucked up much of the media oxygen in the room.

So how does the recently much-hyped junior Bush stack up against the recently quiet ex-Secretary of State? Very poorly, actually.

If the election were held today, Hillary would win a clear majority of the vote (54%), while Jeb Bush just barely cross the 40% mark. Supposing the margin between the candidates holds, it would be the worst popular vote performance for Republicans in a Presidential election since Barry Goldwater's landslide 1964 loss.

And if Jeb Bush is not the Republican nominee, and you're a Republican voter, well...go ahead and bend over, per CNN, because 2016 is going to be a rough ride.

The tough-talking New Jerseyan, who most think is a shoe-in to run, trails Hillary by an embarrassing 56-39% margin. Candidates as diverse as Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Ted Cruz, all trail ex-Sen. Clinton by 20 points or more. Hillary even hits 60% in a head-to-head against Sen. Cruz.

If you buy the CNN/ORC numbers, Hillary's performance against all of these candidates is truly intimidating. Not only does she match her ex-two-term President husband's 1990s performance in many demographic metrics, she actually exceeds his showing in many more. Consider the table below, which documents the demographics in which Hillary Clinton performs exceptionally strong in the CNN poll, and compares her performance with past Democratic nominees for President dating back to 1972 (the beginning of the modern exit polling era). 

Exit Poll data courtesy of Best & Krueger's Exit Polls.

Clinton's performance against Jeb Bush among men, women, Democrats, and Independents, is the best performance for any Democratic presidential nominee since at least as far back as national exit polls track (1972). In other words, Hillary Clinton outperforms EVERY Democrat dating back to McGovern, in key demographics tested by the CNN/ORC poll. For example, she's up four among men, a feat not yet accomplished by any Democrat in exit polling to date. Only Bill Clinton came close to such an accomplishment when he carried the male vote by 3 points in 1992. But even then, that election is not directly comparable due to the unique strength of third-party candidate Ross Perot.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Chris Christie's Republican Problem: A Year Of Scandal Damages His Ratings With An Already Suspicious Base

Chris Christie is the least popular Republican in the 2016 primary field, and that's according to Republicans. Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney are both popular with the base. Center illustration is courtesy of Daniel Adel. Illustration on the left is courtesy of Ismael Roldan. Illustration on the right is courtesy of DonkeyHotey.

In a July 2013 piece written on this blog, I suggested that a bipartisanly popular Governor Chris Christie would likely have a harder time winning a GOP primary than all three of his recent predecessors, Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush. The hypothesis was based on an examination of all four politician's favorability ratings with members of their own party in the lead-up to the presidential primary.

Some, myself included, were surprised to learn that, despite home-state rockstar status in the wake of his handling of the Hurricane Sandy recovery, and a national favorability rating in the positive double-digits with voters of all stripes, Christie was in a worse position with his own party than known moderates that ran for President before him.

Flash-forward eighteen months to present day, and the situation has only gotten worse for Governor Christie. Not only did the Bridgegate scandal cause his home-state favorability rating to tumble hard back to earth, but his image has suffered nationally as well. No longer are Democrats giving him the benefit of the doubt - he's essentially any old Republican to them now. Independents, the group among whom Christie often saw his best numbers, now barely keep him above water.

But most important for his lingering presidential run, Christie is in a dangerously perilous position with the people he needs to win a primary - Republicans. In fact, his position is considerably worse than any one of the large pool of potential contenders bantered about by pundits. It's also considerably worse than serious contenders from years past, such as Mitt Romney, John McCain, and Rudy Giuliani.

Christie's trouble couldn't be more apparent than in a recent Monmouth University Poll of fifteen possible Republican presidential candidates. He ranks second-to-last in terms of net favorability, beating out Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (who only 23% of Republicans are familiar enough with to rate at all; Christie, meanwhile, is the second best-known of the fifteen candidates tested, behind Mitt Romney).

Thursday, December 4, 2014

A "firefight into a footnote." Why Mary Landrieu's Racially Tinged Runoff Strategy Won't Save Her

Sen. Landrieu appears with Hillary Clinton at a recent rally in Louisiana. Photo courtesy of Gerald Herbert/A.P. The quoted portion of the title of this article is courtesy of a recent Sean Sullivan and Karen Tumulty piece for the Washington Post.

Sen. Mary Landrieu's campaign is flailing. Her ominous performance in the 2014 midterm, and her panicked (some would even call desperate) attempts at turning out black voters for the runoff this Saturday provide clear evidence of the perilous position she's in.

Just one month ago, Landrieu racked up her worst performance in her state's jungle primary since initially running for the seat in 1996. She captured just 42% of the vote, compared to her two main Republican primary opponent's combined 55%. Then, recently, came even more daunting news of her predicament - she was down in early voting in the runoff, as was African American turnout. As added insult, the DSCC has apparently chosen to stay out of the race all together.

To boot, of the five runoff surveys released since the November 4th jungle primary, Landrieu has trailed by no less than eleven points, and by as much as twenty-one points. That's near-irreversibly awful, especially for a three-term incumbent.

So it's no surprise Landrieu's latest campaign tactics have turned from merely aggressive, to potentially inciteful. Look no further than comments she made at a campaign rally just Tuesday, as reported by the Washington Post's Sean Sullivan, in which she claimed her Republican runoff opponent had been "disrespectful" to the Democratic President.

The inference she is making is clear. She was addressing a largely black audience, and was echoing comments originally directed at African-Americans in an ad by Democratic Congressman, Cedrick Richmond, who is also African-American.

When pressed further for an explanation of her comments, Landrieu explained:

"[Cassidy] refers to [Obama] by his last name. Constantly."

She added: "If you are going to refer to the president of the United States, he's at least earned the title that the people gave him when they elected him."

For what it's worth, Landrieu has had her own brushes with Presidential disrespect, according to the always objective Daily Kos.

But I digress. While Landrieu's campaign tactics as of late may seem off-putting, there's a definite purpose behind the attacks. The Democrat, if she has any chance of pulling off a miracle in Louisiana, is in dire need of historical black turnout, well beyond what was seen in the 2014 primary - or any recent statewide Louisiana race, for that matter. Why? Because in the 2014 primary, blacks comprised 65% of Sen. Landrieu's vote total, vs. just 2% of Bill Cassidy's.

In the 2014 primary, 29% of the primary electorate consisted of African American voters, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State's office. Yet Landrieu still finished well below the 50% threshold she would need to avoid the runoff. Such a feat would have required black turnout to approach the 40% level. Unfortunately for Landrieu, polls just aren't finding that - in fact, they're finding nothing near what she will need in terms of black turnout to survive.

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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Once Thought Vulernable, Nikki Haley Looks Poised For A Big Win – But There’s A Caveat…

Photo courtesy of the A.P.

There was a time when South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley looked like she would have serious trouble in her bid for reelection, even as recently as this June.

Her problem was multipronged. First, she was never elected by an overwhelming mandate to begin with, kind of stumbling across the finish line in 2010 with an anti-climactic 51-47% victory during an incredibly favorable election cycle. That somewhat meek level of support transferred over into Haley's job approval ratings. Then came her frequent quarrels with the South Carolina legislature, a feature of her tenure which began early on after announcing she would be issuing "report cards" to S.C. lawmakers on criteria determined by her, and culminated in the summer of 2012 when the Republican legislature overrode a number of Haley's budget vetoes.

And of course, who can forget the proverbial cherry-on-top of her first two years in office - the hacking of four million South Carolinian's social security numbers.

All of those missteps aside, more recent events would tend to suggest that Haley is going to weather the storm.

Not long ago, Haley took the opportunity to barnstorm the state, bragging about future business investments that are expected to bring lots of job creation to South Carolina. Couple that with a steady unemployment rate decline from 10.5% upon taking office in January 2011, to 6.4% as of September, and a smoothly handled Senate confirmation process for the newly appointed (and popular) Sen. Tim Scott, Haley seems back in the game.

And polling bears that out.

A base that once appeared unsure of Haley from a polling perspective, has returned home in full. Republicans aren't the only ones to take note of Haley's accomplishments. Her job approval rating with ALL South Carolinians is the highest its ever been. Sixty-two percent of likely voters say the state's economic condition is getting better, versus just thirty percent who say it's getting worse.

Then come the head-to-head numbers, which seem to look better everyday. After starting out trailing her Democratic challenger Vincent Sheheen in a 2012 poll, she's been ahead in every survey since. She's ahead by double-digits in practically all of the non-Democratic Party affiliated polls of likely voters. Gov. Haley leads 49-37% in the Ace Of Spades Decision Desk average, leads 50-38% in the Huffington Post Pollster average, and leads 50-37% in the Real Clear Politics average.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Republicans Are Coming Home To Roberts In Kansas...And Why That Might Not Be Enough To Win

Photo courtesy of Jim Richardson, National Geographic.
For months, buoyed by public polling, the media has been enthralled by the notion of a three-term Republican Senator from a deeply red Great Plains state losing to a now Independent, multi-millionaire ex-Democratic businessman. The Huffington Post Pollster average pegged Senator Pat Roberts at 39.8% in the average of polls at the beginning of this week, while his Independent opponent sat at a healthy 46.6%.

Now, with the inclusion of Wednesday's Fox News poll showing Pat Roberts ahead by five, and a CNN poll showing him up one point, the Kansas Senate race is tied in the Pollster average, and gives Roberts a 50/50 shot of holding on to his seat - quite the improvement from last week.

Why is Roberts seemingly closing so well, you might ask? Well, for the most part, his base appears to be returning home, after a weeks-long flirtation with Greg Orman. The two most recent polls finding Roberts ahead of Orman overall also found him performing better among Republican voters than in previous surveys. Orman's Republican support, once in the low-30 percent range, has been cut in half. Pat Roberts GOP support, once stuck in the 50 and 60 percent range, has swollen to over 70% (hitting a highwater mark of 84% in the new CNN poll).

another chart

But if Roberts is consolidating the Republican vote in a state with a Cook partisan voting index of R+12, a state where the Republican party identification advantage over Democrats hasn't dropped below R+19 in any exit poll since 1992, how is he still barely scraping by Orman?

The answer is two-fold: 1. Though Roberts has made significant inroads with Republican voters, he's not quite performing at the level of a typical Republican running statewide in Kansas. And 2. Orman's advantage among Independent voters is larger than any Republican or Democrat to run for statewide office in Kansas since at least 1992 (according to available exit polling).

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What’s The Matter With…OKLAHOMA?!? Shock Poll Says Governor Fallin’s Fallin’

Photo courtesy of the www.huffingtonpost.com

What a year, huh? Democrats are dropping off statewide ballots like flies. Bizarre 3-way contests are putting typically loyal partisan states in play. Once quixotic Independent bids are gaining real traction with voters.

And now, in the sixth year of an unpopular Democratic President's term, the Republican Governor of deep-red Oklahoma could be in real danger of losing her re-election bid, at least according to her Democratic opponent's pollster.

Clarity Campaigns, the internal polling firm for Joe Dorman, finds Governor Mary Fallin ahead just 47-45%, well within the survey's margin of error. Fallin's job approval rating is upside down, with 42% approving, and 46% disapproving.

How could this be, in a state with an R+19 partisan voting index (the third most Republican in the country)?

Oklahoma isn't just some squishy RINO state, like North Carolina. It is Tea Party through and through, more conservative than any one of the Romney-state Congressional contests going down this November. To beat a dead horse, Obama won just one-third of Oklahoma voters in both the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

What in the world could prompt such a state to even begin to consider throwing out not only their first female Governor, but one they elected on the first go-round, 60-40%?

Whatever their reasons, there is some evidence to suggest that MAYBE, just maybe something is awry in the Sooner State.

We'll start with the horse race polling. Two relatively dated surveys from Rasmussen Reports and YouGov found Dorman within single digits of Gov. Fallin. That's at least swinging-distance. Another poll, from a Republican firm, found the incumbent Governor sitting at just 44% with likely voters in a head-to-head with Dorman. The frothers at +Daily Kos  pointed out that Clarity Campaigns had previously found Dorman down just six points, in a poll that wasn't publicly released.

Last, but not the least important reason Fallin could be upset: she's no longer the popular figure she was when we last saw her as she comforted the citizens of Moore, Oklahoma, after a brutal tornado ravaged the town in the Spring of 2013. And her biggest decline appears to have come from Republicans and Independents. Indeed, take notice of this morsel from the Dorman internal memo, on why their candidate is doing so well:
"His coalition is built on a strong lead with Independents, winning 18% of crossover Republican voters, and a consolidated Democratic base."
All that being said, I'm not quite buying it. It just seems like fool's gold, even grander than the notion of Travis Childers offing Thad Cochran in Mississippi.

I'll grant that the Oklahoma Governor's contest feels closer than it should be, but we're still talking about Oklahoma - a state that hasn't voted for a Democratic President since LBJ. A state who's entire congressional delegation is Republican. A state that had a town that banned dancing!! But there are plenty more reasons than that to not buy the closeness of this race, like the fact that evidence of a Fallin implosion isn't all that solid.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Are Democrats On The Verge Of Vanishing In The South? A Look At How They're Performing With White Voters in 2014 Senate Contests

Come next month, the days when successful national Democrats were almost exclusively from the South may very well come to an end. Al Gore, left, and Bill Clinton, right, represent the last era of locally popular Southerners making the leap to the national stage.

The Democratic struggle to win over white voters was a well documented failure of the 2012 presidential election, in spite of their four point national popular vote win. Republican Mitt Romney carried whites by a 20-pt margin, a figure only exceeded by Ronald Reagan's landslide re-election in 1984.

But in the South, where a large number of heated 2014 Senate battles will be held in just five weeks, the white disdain for Democrats is even more pronounced.

Consider North Carolina, where Romney won nearly 70% of the white vote. Or Alabama, where he won 84%. Or Mississippi, where he carried roughly NINE in TEN whites! Even in tough years for Republicans, like 2008, they still perform stronger among white voters in the South, relative to how they do nationwide.

Given the large number of high-profile Southern senate races this Fall, I thought it might be interesting to check in on some of those GOP contenders, and compare how they're doing with white voters now to how other recent candidates performed.

Consider the Arkansas Senate race between Sen. Mark Pryor and Rep. Tom Cotton. In an average of polls taken since August (only those that provide racial demographic crosstabs), Cotton attracts 50% of white voters, while Pryor draws 36%. Though that margin surpasses Cotton's overall advantage over Pryor, it falls well short of McCain's 68% among Arkansas whites in 2008, and John Boozman's 65% in 2010. But the 2014 Pryor/Cotton race isn't comparable to those contests in the first place - it was never expected that Cotton would pull off a 20+ point victory.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Quinnpiac Poll Finds Gillespie Within 10 Points of Mark Warner - But He's Lagging With Republicans

Photo courtesy of the A.P.

A brand new survey out this morning from Quinnipiac University finds the former head of the RNC, Ed Gillespie, within reaching distance of popular Democratic Senator Mark Warner in the Virginia Senate race. Warner, who sports an impressive 52/34% favorability rating, only clocks in at 48%, while Gillespie attracts 39%.

Quinnipiac's previous Virginia survey from March found Gillespie trailing 46-31%, though that was among registered voters. The new survey was conducted among likely voters, so it isn't exactly comparable.

 Looking at the crosstabs, Warner has leads among women (50-37%) and men (46-41%). Despite trailing by nine points overall, Gillespie actually attracts more Independent voters than Warner, leading among this subgroup 43-41%. Of particular note was the passage below from the official poll release:
"Actually Gillespie is tied with Warner among independents but the incumbent's lead rests on Sen. Warner doing about 15 percentage points better among Democrats than Gillespie does among Republicans."
So Warner is doing a better job of consolidating his Democratic base than Gillespie is his Republican base. Warner racks up an astonishing 94% of Democratic voters. Compare that figure to Gov. Terry McAuliffe's performance with Democrats in the 2013 Governor race against Ken Cuccinelli, when McAuliffe captured 95% of the Democratic vote. That's the same percentage won by Tim Kaine and Barack Obama in their respective 2012 matches.

If you buy the Quinnipiac numbers, it appears as though Warner has maxed out his Democratic vote. But that isn't necessarily the case for Ed Gillespie.  The Republican is only capturing 78% of his base. That's significantly lower than where Ken Cuccinelli wound up in 2013 (92%), or even George Allen and Mitt Romney in 2012 (93%). In other words, Gillespie likely has room to grow.

Since Quinnipiac took the time to point out the basis Warner's lead is predicated on, let's consider how the survey would have looked had Gillespie performed as well among Republicans as Warner did among Democrats. In other words, what would the poll results have been if both Warner AND Gillespie attract 94% of their bases?

blog post

What was a 48-39% lead for Mark Warner becomes a 44-43% lead.

Obviously, the campaigns don't take place in a vacuum, and the numbers will shift between now and election day. But it is interesting to see how close of a race we could have assuming two things: 1) Quinnipiac's numbers are accurate, and 2) Republicans rally almost unanimously around Gillespie.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Loving To Hate Pat Quinn: Why An Unpopular Democratic Governor Stands A Decent Chance At Re-election

Gov. Quinn struggles to meet-and-greet supporters as union members protest his policies at the 2012 Illinois State Fair. Photo courtesy of the A.P.

There have been twenty-two surveys of the 2014 Illinois Governor race since Republican businessman and challenger Bruce Rauner captured his party's nomination in March. Governor Pat Quinn has led in only two of them, averaging 39% across all twenty-two polls (a number that should strike fear in the heart of any incumbent).

The Huffington Post Pollster average puts the challenger ahead 46-44%, and gives Rauner a 53% chance of defeating Quinn in November - again, making it very clear that Quinn is receiving no benefit whatsoever from the power of incumbency. In fact, from a purely polling perspective, Quinn is one of the most vulnerable Governors and/or Senators in the country. His job job approval rating is awful (see here, here, & here as well). Only Tom Corbett, Sam Brownback, Dan Malloy, and Mary Landrieu trail their opponents by a larger margin on Pollster.

Fortunately for Democrats, Pat Quinn has proven himself quite resilient in the face of awful polling and brutal political headwinds before.

Look no further than four years ago, when after a bitter contest and razor-thin victory in the Democratic primary, Pat Quinn was elected to his own full term as Governor, having stepped into the role in 2009 after former Gov. Blagojevich was famously removed from office. His job approval ratings that year were disastrous, even on the eve of the election. The general election head-to-head numbers were horrendous. Of the thirty-three publicly released polls following the Feb 2, 2010 primaries, Quinn trailed his Republican challenger in ALL but two. The final Pollster average in 2010 found Bill Brady (R) ahead by eight points. The final RCP average found Brady up five points. Pollster and Real Clear Politics even picked up on a last minute surge for Brady! They were obviously wrong, as Governor Quinn went on to win 47-46%. And it was arguably the largest polling miss of the 2010 cycle (ranking right up there with the infamously incorrectly polled Nevada Senate race between Harry Reid and Sharon Angle).

Further complicating things for Republican chances at picking up this Governorship this year, the most prolific pollster to date in the Illinois race, We Ask America, has somewhat of a problematic track record, particularly in Illinois. Not to mention the fact that they make up 36% of all Illinois Governor polls taken since the March 18th primary. To date, their results have been highly favorable to Bruce Rauner. Out of their eight surveys taken since the March 18 primary, Rauner has led in all of them, by as little as three points, and as much as fourteen.

Great news for the GOP, right? Well, not when you consider that We Ask America's only two surveys of the 2010 Illinois Governor race found Republican challenger Bill Brady ahead by ten and fifteen points, the latter of which was Brady's largest poll lead of the entire cycle.

This isn't to pick on We Ask America. As noted above, all of the pollsters were off in this race in 2010. Rasmussen Reports final poll on October 20, 2010 found Brady ahead of Quinn by eight points, which also happened to be the final Pollster average. PPP, Fox News, YouGov, the Chicago Tribune, and literally every other pollster in the final weeks of the 2010 campaign missed the mark, and none of them projected the actual winner.

So while the Democrats are again in the position of having to defend an unpopular Governor and unpopular President in an unfriendly political environment, history would suggest you should not underestimate Governor Pat Quinn. In 2010, polling that consistently favored the Republican challenger the entire time wound up being wrong. Given that, Governor Quinn may be the happiest (and luckiest) vulnerable incumbent running this year.

One final note: the three most recent surveys are all good news for Gov. Quinn. The first Chicago Tribune poll of the cycle finds Quinn surging into an eleven point, 48-37% lead over Rauner - easily his largest lead of both the 2014 and 2010 elections. A Global Strategy Group poll done on behalf of the Democratic Governor Association also finds a rare Quinn lead of 43-40%. Finally, a nearly brand-new We Ask America survey actually finds Rauner ahead 44-41%, but notes that the new figures represent a significant tightening from their last poll just three weeks ago when Rauner led Quinn 46-37%.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How D.O.A. Is Governor Tom Corbett? Very, If Recent History Is Any Guide

PA Gov. Tom Corbett (left) will likely soon have much in common with fmr. PA Sen. Rick Santorum (right). Like Santorum, Republican Corbett looks poised to loose his statewide reelection bid in a big way. Photo on the right is courtesy of Jeff Swensen/Getty Images.

You almost have to feel sorry for Governor Tom Corbett (R) of Pennsylvania. After a near double-digit victory in 2010, he's trailed every potential Democratic challenger in every survey taken for the better part of eighteen months now.

And while a number of articles have been written about his deep unpopularity, none seem able to settle on a single reason as to why he is likely to lose his job this November. There's the argument that Corbett is simply too far right in a decidedly blue-leaning state. Or that unpopular education cuts have alienated moderates. Even lingering resentments over his involvement (or lack thereof) in the Sandusky/Paterno scandal has been implicated.

Whatever the reason, the data is clear - Gov. Corbett is the most vulnerable incumbent in the country, by a mile.

As noted in a previous post on this blog, out of a host of vulnerable incumbent governors and senators, Corbett is in the weakest polling position. His best polls since challenger Tom Wolf captured the Democratic nomination on May 20 came from a pair of consecutively released surveys finding him down eleven points, one of which was from a GOP polling firm.

Yes... an ELEVEN POINT deficit is the BEST Corbett has managed against Tom Wolf, and even those polls look like overly favorable outliers.

One PA Gov poll out Monday found Corbett down 54-33%. Less than two weeks before that, Quinnipiac University found him down 59-35%. The current Pollster average gives Tom Wolf a twenty-two point lead.

Is there anything Corbett can do to pull this one out, given the size of his polling deficit, and the amount of time left in the campaign? No, not if you consider incumbent Senate and Gubernatorial polling data from back to 2004.

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).


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.