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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Polls Point in Both Directions

Those Democrats who think all the polling data is pointing in the wrong direction should read Sean Trende’s analysis today at the conservative-tilting RealClearPolitics site. It’s not all good news for Democrats, but it’s better than what you often read. Check this out, omitting the DE and NH races we’ve already talked about extensively here recently:

Connecticut Senate – Many race watchers had pegged the Connecticut Senate race as an “upset special.” After all, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal had committed what looked a self-inflicted wound when it was discovered that he had exaggerated his military service. Republican Linda McMahon was far from an ideal candidate, but she was the consummate political outsider in an outsider year, and she had infinite funds to spend on New York media. Rasmussen Reports showed a steadily tightening race, and Democrats became increasingly concerned.
So it had to come as a bit of a relief to Democrats when Rasmussen Reports showed Blumenthal back over 50 percent, and expanding his lead from 7 points to 9 points. He leads 53 percent to 44 percent. This could be statistical noise, but it also could be a signal that Blumenthal has bottomed out, and that McMahon has peaked after solidifying the 44 percent of voters that cast ballots for George W. Bush in 2004. Blumenthal leads by 9.5 points in the RCP Average.
South Dakota At Large – Herseth Sandlin was one of those members that observers were increasingly writing off for dead. She was consistently in the low forties in polling and her opponent, Kristi Noem, was above 50 percent. That’s a kiss of death for an incumbent. But Rasmussen Report’s latest polling shows those numbers reversing now, with Herseth Sandlin at 47 percent and Noem at 45 percent. This comes as Herseth Sandlin starts her ad buy, and as Noem has come under fire for her numerous speeding tickets (the last occupant of the seat resigned after a manslaughter conviction for killing someone while driving). There is a special importance here, because this has been a major Democratic talking point: that once Republicans’ records come under scrutiny, Democrats will rebound.
Nevada 3rd District – Likewise, Dina Titus (abetted by outside groups) has begun her ad barrage against her Republican opponent, Joe Heck. She’s increased her lead to 47/43, from 43/42. She’s still under 50 percent, and she’d like to see a bigger return on a one million dollar investment. But being an incumbent at 47 percent is much better than being one at 43 percent.
Iowa 3rd District – Leonard Boswell likewise looked like a dead man walking, having trailed his GOP opponent by double digits in several polls. Now, an independent polling firm, Voter/Consumer Research (commissioned by a conservative group), shows the Congressman leading his GOP opponent 48 percent to 39 percent. This comes as reports surfaced that the GOP’er, Brad Zaun, had shown up outside an ex-girlfriend’s house in the middle of the night and shouted obscenities at her and her new boyfriend. A word of caution: This was a poll of 300 adults; still, it is somewhat inconsistent with the earlier likely voter polls showing Zaun up by ten points and above 50 percent. There was a subsample of “certain-to-vote” voters that showed a 47.3-41.3 percent Boswell lead, but the margin of error here was likely huge.
Florida Governor – Sunshine/VSS polled the Florida Governor’s race, and finds Democrat Alex Sink leading Republican Rick Scott by two points, 44 to 42 percent. This is good news for Sink, because Sunshine/VSS also polled the Florida Senate race, and found Marco Rubio leading that three-way race by a fourteen point margin, the highest margin of any recent pollster. If we assume that this sample is on the high end for Republicans, then this confirms Sink’s lead. She leads by 4.2 in the RCP Average.
Nevada Senate – Harry Reid’s resurrection from the dead continues. Mason Dixon shows him doubling his lead over Republican Sharron Angle to two points. Okay, I’m being somewhat facetious, but the fact that Rasmussen Reports showed a 5-point swing last week suggests that Reid really could once again be opening this race up. He leads by 2.7 points in the RCP Average….
Oklahoma 2nd District – Dan Boren had shown some real weakness in earlier PPP polling, coming in right around 50 percent. This was terrible news for Democrats, suggesting that even very conservative Democrats could be in trouble this time around. He recently released a poll showing him leading his GOP opponent 65 percent to 31 percent. Even accounting for the fact that this is a campaign poll, it suggests that he is increasingly out of the woods.

Trende goes on to note unhappier polling news for Democrats in Pennsylvania, Oregon, North Carolina and Michigan (and potentially bad news in Iowa), but at a time when the zeigeist suggests an undifferentiated pro-GOP tsunami, it’s good to know that actual data indicates that candidate quality, message, and effort matter for Democrats.

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