Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

NRCC Spending Targets Perceived Opportunity; Polls Show a Surly N.C. Electorate

In House, Polling, Senate on June 18, 2014 at 11:35 am

The National Republican Congressional Committee just released their upcoming media buys, which total $18 million across 26 different districts. Much more will be spent, but this opening public salvo provides us a window into where the committee sees opportunity or the need to defend.

The top incumbent defense is found in Colorado’s 6th District, where three-term Rep. Mike Coffman (R) faces former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff (D) in a battle where the combined candidate fundraising total already exceeds $6 million. The NRCC bought media time in the Denver broadcast market worth $3.3 million.

The 6th District race is turning into the most expensive congressional campaign in the country. Located in the eastern and northeastern Denver suburbs, the 6th is now a marginal political district that is beginning to trend more Democratic despite it electing a Republican congressman. Coffman was re-elected in a post-redistricting 2012 campaign, but with only 48 percent of the vote. The midterm turnout model should help the congressman, but he faces a much tougher opponent this year in Romanoff than he did two years ago.

The top offensive spending target is a “two-fer” – the NRCC is spending $3.2 million in Minnesota to help support GOP challenges to Democratic Reps. Collin Peterson (D-MN-7) and Rick Nolan (D-MN-8). The two congressional districts touch the Twin Cities metropolitan area, but the combined districts occupy the state’s entire northern sector. Republicans are likely fielding state Sen. Torrey Westrom against Rep. Peterson, and businessman Stewart Mills versus Rep. Nolan. Both are underdog candidates with major upsides.

Finally, the top open seat defense is in Northern Virginia where Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA-10) is retiring after 34 years in office. The NRCC looks to spend $2.8 million in media expenditures to back state Delegate Barbara Comstock (R) as she attempts to succeed Wolf. Democrats see a very active candidate in Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust. The district should remain Republican, particularly in a midterm election year, but Democrats, searching desperately for conversion opportunities, appear ready to force the action in this politically changing region.

North Carolina’s Surly Senate Race

Raleigh-based Public Policy Polling (June 12-15; 1,076 registered North Carolina voters) conducted their monthly survey of the North Carolina electorate and, aside from finding Sen. Kay Hagan (D) leading state House Speaker Thom Tillis yet still having less than 40 percent respondent support, they detect that Tar Heel State voters are in a foul mood. From the perspective of job approval ratings, this particular group of respondents doesn’t appear to like anybody.

When asked whether they approve of the job President Obama is doing, a majority, 53 percent, disapprove (41 percent approve). In terms of Sen. Hagan’s job performance, 42 percent approve and 46 percent disapprove. The state legislature is least popular of all. Only 18 percent think the aggregate performance of the state House and Senate is positive, while 54 percent disapprove. Finally, Speaker Tillis, largely because he is a state legislative leader, finds himself with an upside-down approval ratio of 23:45 percent.

Within this context, the ballot question yields a Hagan lead of just 39-34 percent over Tillis with 11 percent going to Libertarian nominee Sean Haugh. The high percentage for an unknown Independent candidate is yet another indication that this respondent base is sour on traditional politics. Independents such as Haugh can sometimes poll in double-digits as an expression of frustration, but the feeling rarely translates into votes on Election Day. Additionally, both major party candidates, especially when one is the incumbent, falling below 40 percent in a post-primary poll is highly unusual. It suggests that this poll could be an anomaly and should likely be discarded from serious consideration.

Sen. Hagan has been considered possibly the most vulnerable of all Democratic senators standing for re-election and this poll should do little to dissuade political observers from maintaining such a conclusion.

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