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.