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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Senators (Sort Of) Above the Fray

Last month SurveyUSA created a big political buzz by releasing a 50-state batch of polls with the approval/disapproval ratings of America’s Governors. Democrats did better than Republicans, and red-state Democrats did sensationally well. This week SurveyUSA released a similar batch of polls rating U.S. Senators, at a time when Congress as an institution, and Republican Congressmen in particular, are getting pounded in most public opinion surveys. Lo and behold, all 100 Senators have positive approval/disapproval ratings, in sharp contrast to Governors. Now, part of this result reflects the enduring reality that Governors, as chief executives of their states, are held responsible for general public attitudes about state government, while Senators can pretend they are bravely bringing home the bacon for the home folks while evading responsibility for general attitudes towards Congress, or even their party in Congress. Executives feel the heat for public unhappiness, while legislators deflect it elsewhere, anywhere. Still, the SurveyUSA ratings on Senators are interesting. Barack Obama is America’s most popular Senator in his own state, with a 72/21 approval/disapproval ratio. The least popular Senator is John Cornyn from Bush’s home state of Texas, who registers at 40/36. Notable 2006 target Rick Santorum actually has the highest disapproval rate of any Senator, with a 45/44 ratio. Ohio’s Mike DeWine continues to beg for a strong opponent in 2006, coming in at 44/43. Conrad Burns of MT is at a marginal 50/42 ratio. Supposedly vulnerable Democrat Ben Nelson is at a robust 64/26, while the other Nelson, Bill of Florida, is doing relatively well at 47/29. Among the bottom-feeders in the survey are, unfortunately, a bunch of GOPers who aren’t up in ’06, including the aforementioned Cornyn, Richard Burr of NC (42/36), Tom Coburn of OK (43/40), his colleague Jim Inhofe (44/42), and Mel Martinez of FL (43/39). In general, Senate Republicans are suffering somewhat from the plunging approval ratings of their party, but not as much as they should. And that’s something Democrats should accept as a party-wide challenge.

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