Sunday, December 27, 2009

Scouring the World for Rare Senate Polls, Terrorism in the Air, Obama Approval Holds In Its New Range

If They Are Out There, I Will Find Them....2010 Senate Updates

A break from the House and the Senate gave me a much-needed chance to search far and wide for polling data on the upcoming Senate races. If you have never attempted to assemble polling data, it's a bit like a treasure hunt. Some of the data, the stuff that I rely on the most, is easy to find. The big polling houses: Gallup, Rasmussen, Research 2000, Quinnipiac, they all make their polls very easy to locate and this is sufficient for 80% of the races. Come November of next year they will probably all be polling all of the competitive races. But the far harder finds are the Des Moines Register and WHAS polls that I present today. It isn't that it is hard to find a poll from's that who knew to look for it -- I had no idea WHAS did polling. This also presents some risk around the quality of the poll performed, as I have no idea what the credentials of the pollster who conducted these polls is, but in the absence of other data, you go with with you've got.

All of this background explained, I'm going to first go through every race for which I could not locate ANY polling. In almost every case this appears to be due to the fact that the race is not expected to be competitive:
Oregon, Vermont and Washington -- rated "Safe Democratic Holds"
Indiana -- rated "Likely Democratic Hold"
(not rated safe due to the redish purple battlefield in Indiana)
Georgia -- moved from "Lean Republican Hold" to "Likely Republican Hold" -- no serious opposition has been mounted against Isakson.
Kansas -- Likely Republican Hold
(this is not categorized as "Safe" because the seat is open)
South Dakota -- moved from "Likely Republican Hold" to "Safe Republican Hold" -- Republican state, Republican incumbent, likely Republican year = Republican victory
Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah -- all rated Safe Republican Holds

Now, we'll run through all the states that DID have at least some polling data. I'll give you the rating, if it's a change and the most recent poll or two:
Safe Democratic Holds (6)
Massachusetts - moved from LIkely Democratic Hold to Safe Democratic Hold for the January special election to replace Ted Kennedy. Democrat Coakley is up by 30 points in the latest poll from Suffolk.
Maryland -- Incumbent Barbara Mikulski is up by 36 points against a generic opponent in a September Gonzalez Research poll.
New York (Schumer) -- popular incumbent Chuck Schumer leads by a whopping 76 points in a November Sienna poll. Not likely to be a real competitive race.
(Oregon, Vermont and Wisconsin listed above)

Likely Democratic Holds (4)

Wisconsin -- moves down from Safe Democratic Hold to Likely Democratic Hold as a Public Policy Polling report shows ex-Governor Tommy Thompson within 9 points of Feingold in a hypothetical match-up. No word on if Thompson is running.
Hawaii -- moves down from Safe Democratic Hold to Likely Democratic Hold as a December 17th Research 2000 poll shows longtime incumbent Daniel Inoyue's lead at only 11%.
California -- latest Rasmussen poll from November shows incumbent Barbara Boxer with a 9 point lead.
(Indiana listed above)

Lean Democratic Holds (3)
Illinois -- moved from a Toss-up to a Lean Democratic Hold as December 11th Rasmussen poll shows Giannoulis up by 3 points. You have to go all the way back to April to get an earlier poll, which showed the race a tie.
New York (Gillebrand) -- latest match-up vs. Pataki shows Gillebrand at +5 points (Mason Dixon -- November). She trailed Guliani, who has declared he is not running and is up by 30 points or so on Rep. Peter King.
Arkansas -- a series of just-released Rasmussen polls show incumbent Blanche Lincoln anywhere from down 7 points to up 16 points against a whole host of potential opponents. I'll need more clarity around the field before feeling good about rating this race, but keeping it at a Lean Democratic Hold feels like it makes the most sense for now.

Lean Democratic Pick-up (2)

Missouri -- A December 17th Rasmussen poll shows Carnahan up by 2 points. Two other recent polls have shown 1 points and 3 points respectively as the margin.
New Hampshire -- really old data here...the most recent poll I could find from July 15th (a Research 2000 poll) shows Hodes up by 5 points. Two other polls around that time showed similar margins, but a heck of a lot has changed in 5 months, so I'd like some new numbers to feel good about projecting this race.

Toss-ups (2 -- both Democratically controlled)

Delaware -- Biden leads Castle by 5 points in a November 11th Susquehana poll. Other polls around the same time, most notably the Rasmussen poll, showed Castle with a modest lead (2 points.) Feels like a toss-up to me.
Pennsylvania -- still far too close to call between Specter and Toomey, in a rematch of the Republican primary from 5 years ago. The latest poll, a December 18th Quinnipiac survey, showed it dead even.

Lean GOP Pick-Up (3)

Colorado -- A December 11th Rasmussen poll shows possible challengers to Sen. Bennett leading him by margins ranging from 4 to 9 points, confirming early polls that show him trailing in the low to mid single digits.
Nevada -- more trouble for Majority Leader Harry Reid as he trails two possible opponents by 6 points in a December 12th Rasmussen poll.
North Dakota -- the shocking move of the week as this falls all the way from a Likely Democratic Hold to a Lean GOP Pick-up and if the poll I saw is right, it probably should move further. A December 21st Rasmussen poll shows Hoeven leading Dorgan by a stunning 22 points. Byron Dorgan may be among the most at-risk Democrats this year, in an utter surprise given his long service.

Lean GOP Hold (4)

Kentucky -- GOP candidates lead Democratic candidates by 2 to 7 points in a series of possible match-ups to replace embattled Sen. Bunning, according to an August 19th WHAS poll.
Ohio -- Portman leads by 2 to 7 points against possible Democrats in a December 10th Rasmussen poll.
North Carolina -- This goes from a Likely GOP Hold to a Lean GOP Hold. Burr leads in his bid for re-election by 5 to 7 points against possible challengers in December 17th polls from Public Policy Polling and Citivas. Both are partisan polling houses, which I normally ignore, but since I have PPP (a Democratic house) and Citivas (a Republican house) saying almost exactly the same thing, it stands to reason that they are fairly accurate.
Arizona -- This also moves down from Likely GOP Hold to Lean GOP Hold. McCain leads in his re-election bid by 2 points in a
November 20th Rasmussen poll. There are several polls that show him trailing by double digits to Janet Napolitano, but it is highly unlikely that she will run, given her gig at Homeland Security.

Likely GOP HOld (5)

Alaska -- Lisa Murkowski leads by anywhere from 8 to 29 points according to a December 18th Research 2000 poll. Actual opponent will determine if this race is competitive, but she will likely win either way.
Louisiana -- incumbent Vitter leads by 10 points in an October 7th Rasmussen poll.
Florida -- Crist leads by 6 and Rubio leads by 14 in a December 17th Rasmussen poll. It is amazing how as Rubio has attacked Crist, Crist's numbers have fallen not only against Rubio in the primary but by some 20 points in the general election.
(Georgia and Kansas mentioned above)

Likely GOP Pick-Up (1)

Connecticut -- Dodd trails by 6 to 13 points against likely opponents in a December 10th Rasmussen poll, confirming earlier polls.

Safe GOP Hold (7)

Iowa -- moves from a LIkely Hold to a Safe Hold as Charles Grassley leads by 27 points in his re-election bid, according to a November 16th Des Moines Register poll.
(South Dakota, Alabama, Idaho, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Utah mentioned above)

So with all of this movement, what is left when we sort all this out?

Projection: GOP +2 to 4 Seats
GOP Best Case (Win All Leaners): GOP +9 Seats
DEM Best Case (Win All Leaners): DEM +2 Seats

Same old story, even with all those movements -- no path to 51 votes yet for the GOP (this would require a pick-up of 11 seats)

In the House, still projecting a near even split. No significant new polls since my last update -- my next update, I'll relook at the projecting, but for now it is still GOP +41 seats, or a 218-217 majority for the GOP.

Obama Not Dropping Anymore

President Obama's approval polls seem to have leveled out at an approve minus disapprove of 3 to 5 points. The latest couple weeks of tracking is below.

Similarly, his monthly number for December has stabilized in the mid-4's. Much has been made of how his numbers are among the worst of Post-World War II Presidents...and they are. Only Clinton and Reagan had comparably bad numbers at this point in their Presidencies. It's worth noting that all 3 (Obama, Clinton and Reagan) came into office during recessions. It's also worth noting that Clinton and Reagan's parties got whacked in the mid-term elections, but that the Presidents then both went on to easy re-election. We'll see if history repeats itself.

Next Up -- 2009 Year in Review.

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