Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Three New Senate Polls Show Rocky Roads Ahead for Incumbents

In Polling, Senate on February 7, 2014 at 11:43 am

Colorado

We now have confirming data that Sen. Mark Udall (D) must traverse a rocky political road to secure re-election.

Last December, Public Policy Polling (Dec. 3-4; 928 registered Colorado voters) released a surprising survey that showed the senator leading a potential general election Republican opponent by a mere four points, 46-42 percent. The result occurred when pairing Udall with 2010 Republican nominee and Weld County District Attorney Ken Buck. As you will remember, Buck lost to Sen. Michael Bennet (D) 46-48 percent even though they faced each other during the Republican landslide of 2010.

Yesterday, Quinnipiac University made public their latest Colorado poll (Jan. 29-Feb. 2; 1,139 registered Colorado voters) and the result verified PPP’s pre-Christmas finding. In fact, the current Q-Poll’s 45-42 percent cut is actually one point more favorable to Buck.

A pair of polls arriving at a virtual identical conclusion over a long two-month period is clear evidence that Sen. Udall will have a competitive re-election bid this fall. In reality, one finds that the incumbent’s polling standing is actually weaker when delving deeper into the data to observe how he performs against the lesser known Republican candidates. Opposite those contenders, state senators Randy Baumgardner (41-43 percent), Owen Hill (39-44 percent), and state Rep. Amy Stephens (41-43 percent), the numbers portend that Sen. Udall is similarly vulnerable, even though voters are not particularly familiar with any of them.

One of the key Republican strategic tenets toward re-claiming the Senate majority is to expand the political playing field. With the Udall numbers now holding steady in close formation against weak or unknown opposition, it is clear that the Colorado campaign must now be considered highly competitive. Therefore, the current Centennial State political situation helps Republicans achieve their maximization goal, keeps Democratic resources more confined to their defensive states, and enhances GOP prospects of becoming the majority party when next year begins.

Arkansas

It’s been several weeks since we’ve seen an Arkansas Senate poll, but rest assured they will be coming fast and furious in the many months remaining before Election Day.

Yesterday, Rasmussen Reports kicked-off the Natural State polling year by releasing their latest survey (Feb. 4-5; 500 registered Arkansas voters). The results project challenger Tom Cotton (R-AR-4) to again be leading two-term Sen. Mark Pryor (D), this time 45-40 percent. Cotton running ahead here has been a familiar trend since Thanksgiving, so the results of this poll are not particularly surprising.

The troubling point for Sen. Pryor, in addition to the obvious point that he is trailing the consensus Republican candidate, is consistent weakness throughout the survey research universe. Consistently, the senator only registers in the low 40s. In fact, his average standing in the past five polls beginning in September and ending with this Rasmussen study is 43.8 percent, paltry numbers for an incumbent, and particularly so for one who ran unopposed in his last election.

Nebraska

We’re now also seeing our first Republican primary data for the open Nebraska Senate race. What originally looked to be an interesting three-way race is being confirmed as such.

Harper Polling (Feb. 3-4; 565 registered Nebraska Republicans) tested the Cornhusker Republican electorate and found former state Treasurer Shane Osborn clinging to a one-point 30-29 percent edge over Midland University president Ben Sasse. The latter had a stellar fundraising quarter, bringing in $1.4 million to his campaign coffers, of which just $38,000 was self-contributed. Osborn, for his part, has raised just under $1 million and had more than $582,000 cash-on-hand at year’s end.

In third place, registering 13 percent in the Harper poll, is banker Sid Dinsdale, a first-time candidate. He attracted just under $684,000 at year’s end, all from people other than himself.

With the Nebraska primary scheduled for May 13, this campaign will soon begin to hit its stride. Expect a very active effort from each of these three major candidates. With the Democrats putting more of their limited Nebraska political muscle into the open governor’s race, the eventual GOP nominee should be a lock in the general election.

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