Congressional polls, and happy incumbents

  • KY-Sen: Is McConnell still vulnerable?
Few incumbents have done more over the past few months to improve a precarious situation than Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. After poll after poll showed his approval rating collapsing and his barely leading potential Democratic opponents in head-to-head matchups, McConnell started began to run ads touting his record and his tenure as Minority Leader.

Boosted by the millions he has in the bank (and that he can raise easily given his high-profile position in DC), McConnell realized he needed to move fast to quash speculation that he was vulnerable. And he got his first success when the two challengers that were being the most talked-up, Treasurer Luallen and AG Stumbo, both announced that they would not run. Attorney Andrew Horne followed that up by jumping in the race, but he still has to show he has what it takes to defeat a Senate Minority Leader.

Now, McConnell has released an internal poll that shows him with a booming approval rating at 61%. Furthermore, McConnell would beat four Democrats by at least 15%, including Andrew Horne and other potential candidates. Those results are not entirely depressing for Democrats given the low name recognition of McConnell's rivals, but it is obviously very difficult for a little-known challenger to raise his profile against a powerful opponent who has a lot of money at his disposal.

Yet, there are questions as to how SUSA also just released its own approval rating poll . It shows the incumbent at only 49% -- definitely dangerous territory for an incumbent, albeit a small improvement from the fall. So it will all depend on how much resources the DSCC is willing to devote to the race; with other second-tier contests like Nebraska falling through for now, Senate Democrats are looking to expand the map beyond the contests that are already competitive to force the GOP to defend seats it hoped would be safe and abandon more marginal states.

The situation does not look as good for Democrats than it did in October-November, but this is a state we will be watching closely.

  • PA-10: Carney surprisingly strong
PA-10 is one of the most Republican districts picked-up by a Democrat in 2006; Rep. Chris Carney surged ahead because of allegations against the incumbent Republican that he had choked his mistress. The GOP has vowed to reclaim the seat this year and to make Carney one of its prime targets. Yet, a poll taken in December suggests that Carney is in better shape than we would expect.

He not only gets high approval rating (58%) but he also beats his two rivals (Chris Hackett and Dan Meuser) by at least 30%. The poll was conducted by a Democratic firm but not for Carney himself, so it does not appear to be what is commonly called an "internal poll."

The reason for Carney's strength in a district Bush won with 60% in 2004 is the president's unpopularity, as his approval rating is only at 45%. And this is a dynamic the GOP will have to deal with across the very red districts Democrats picked-up in 2006. Whether OH-18, TX-22 CA-11, or PA-10, the NRCC cannot just expect these seats to come back to them given that the national mood is still as toxic for the GOP than it was during the midterms, and that could allow incumbents most people expected to be one-timers to survive.

The problem for Democrats, however, is that by next November the Republican Party will be defined less by Bush than by the presidential nominee. And why the GOP will not escape from its current unpopularity that easily it could still provide a boost to Republican candidates in districts like this who need to find a way to not look like Bush's ground soldiers. In a presidential year with a new leader of the party, Republicans are hoping they will succeed in doing just that. It's up to Democrats to not let the GOP get away with that and to hang Bush's tenure around their neck.

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  • Daniel, Sen. McConnell ist the Senate MINORITY Leader, not the Majority Leader (that's Harry Reid) but except of this another good post.

    By Anonymous Cass, At 11 January, 2008 17:28  

  • Thanks cass, this wasn't even a typo considering I repeated it three times. I apparently wanted to stress how important a role McConnell has in the Senate a bit too much.

    By Blogger Taniel, At 11 January, 2008 18:49  

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