Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Governors on the Edge

In Election Analysis on June 19, 2013 at 10:22 am

Some newly released polling shows three individual governors in serious re-election danger. Recording poor approval ratings for an extended period of months, governors Rick Scott (R-FL) and Pat Quinn (D-IL) were known to be in obvious trouble, but a Quinnipiac University poll from last week (June 5-10; 1,065 registered Colorado voters) also indicates that Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper (D) is beginning to teeter. The Q-Poll projects that former Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO-6) is pulling to within just one-point (42-41 percent) of the Rocky Mountain chief executive. Such a result puts this governor, who was previously thought to be almost politically invincible, into a potentially competitive race.

In Florida, Republican Scott continues to trail two key Democratic potential opponents, but his standing is improving. To the northwest in Illinois, Democrat Quinn is also behind his top rivals — in this case fellow party members attempting to deny him re-nomination — and, he too, is on the upswing.

Florida

Quinnipiac just published the results of their new Florida poll (June 11-16; 1,176 registered Florida voters). They find that Gov. Scott has fought back to an almost even standing on his job approval rating (43:44 percent favorable to unfavorable), but still trails former Gov. Charlie Crist (D) and Sen. Bill Nelson, both by a substantial 10-point margin. Crist, the former Republican-turned-Independent-turned-Democrat, holds a 47-37 percent lead over the incumbent. Sen. Nelson, fresh from winning election to a third term this past November, scores an almost identical 48-38 percent margin against Scott. The senator claims he’s staying in his current job, but never fully closes the door on the issue of challenging the governor. It is unlikely he will do so, but such rhetoric certainly keeps his name and profile at the political forefront.

Crist is a different story, however. He will almost assuredly run, and his favorables are surprisingly high considering his ignominious temporary exit from Florida politics in 2010. You will remember that Marco Rubio, at the time a former state House Speaker, was building such strong momentum that Crist, even as a sitting Republican governor, was forced out of the Republican Party, and then chose to run for the Senate as an Independent. In the three-way contest, with his two opponents being Rubio (R) and then-Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-FL-17), Crist managed to score just 29.7 percent of the vote, placing second. Today, the Q-Poll posts him to a favorability index of 48:31 percent, which is an impressive rebound.

Illinois

The Illinois situation is totally different. Largely an intra-party affair, Gov. Quinn may now be facing two very well-known opponents, Attorney General Lisa Madigan and former US Commerce Secretary and ex-White House chief of staff (for President Obama), Bill Daley. Daley is also the son of legendary Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, and the brother of the city’s longest-serving mayor, Richard M. Daley. He recently formed a gubernatorial exploratory committee. Madigan, while saying she intends to run for governor, still hasn’t formally entered the race.

The We Ask America (WAA) organization ran an automated interview poll on June 13 of 1,322 Illinois registered Democrats. The data reveals Quinn to be trailing both Madigan and Daley. The survey forecasts Madigan at 32 percent; Daley claims 22 percent; and Quinn garners 21 percent. Though still in third place, the new polling does represent a significant improvement in the governor’s standing. But, an incumbent placing third in a party primary poll is never a good thing regardless of the margins, hence Gov. Quinn remains highly endangered.

WAA then segmented the race into individual contests between the incumbent and his two opponents. When Quinn and Madigan are isolated, the attorney general leads 44-33 percent. In a hypothetical contest between Quinn and Daley, the governor trails in this instance, too, but only 37-38 percent.

Colorado

The Colorado poll is a stunner. Not only does Hickenlooper fare poorly against Tancredo, but he is in equally poor shape if Secretary of State Scott Gessler were to become the Republican nominee. In this latter pairing, Hickenlooper leads only 42-40 percent.

The segmentation reveals the governor’s weakness. Though leading within most demographic and geographic categories, he trails badly among voters 65 years and older (down 38-48 percent to Tancredo and 36-46 percent to Gessler), and amongst those not residing in the Denver metropolitan area. Hickenlooper only breaks even in the region known as the western slope (of the Rocky Mountains), trailing both Tancredo and Gessler 41-42 percent, and gets pummeled in the area Quinnipiac labels “the rest of the state.” In these rural areas of Colorado, Tancredo leads the Governor 50-29 percent, and Gessler tops him at 50-31 percent.

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