Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Surprising Midwest, South Polls

In Governor, House, Polling, Senate on August 15, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Polls are coming fast and furiously now, and will continue to do so throughout the remaining portion of summer and onto Election Day. Four post-primary surveys were just released that project flat ties or close contests between the various Democratic and Republican nominees, and each fit at least tangentially into the surprise category.

Kansas

A poisonous political atmosphere exists between Kansas conservative and moderate Republicans, which is partially responsible for veteran Sen. Pat Roberts winning an underwhelming 48-41 percent primary victory over physician Milton Wolf. A new Rasmussen Reports poll (Aug. 6-7; 750 likely Kansas voters) gives the incumbent only a 44-40 percent lead over newly nominated Democratic candidate Chad Taylor, the Shawnee County District Attorney. Taylor, too, scored an anemic primary win (53-47 percent), but his standing right after the Aug. 5 vote is much better than Kansas voting history would suggest.

The Rasmussen numbers also reflect Republican weakness in the governor’s race. Despite a better-than-expected showing in his primary (63 percent), Gov. Sam Brownback (R) continues to show vulnerability against Democratic nominee Paul Davis, the state House Minority Leader. The same Rasmussen poll posts Davis to a full 10-point advantage, 51-41 percent. Considering the context of the governor’s race, the Roberts numbers are an improvement but a weakened Brownback campaign could conceivably depress Republican turnout, thus adversely affecting the senator. Even with this post-primary glimmer of Democratic hope, expect both Republicans to soon right their political ship and improve their standing.

Iowa

Another new poll provides further evidence that Rep. Bruce Braley’s (D-IA-1) originally predicted smooth sailing into the Senate is falling by the wayside. A just-released Rasmussen Reports Iowa poll (Aug. 11-12; 750 likely Iowa voters) again finds Braley and Republican nominee Joni Ernst, a rural southwestern Iowa state senator, tied, this time at 43 percent.

A series of Braley gaffes and a much stronger campaign effort than expected from Ernst places this race near the top of the toss-up charts in what is traditionally a swing state. The Iowa contest, so far, is the surprise Republican campaign.

Georgia

Perhaps the most astonishing Republican gubernatorial re-election campaign outside of Kansas can be found in Georgia. Here, Gov. Nathan Deal (R) continues to have trouble putting away state Sen. Jason Carter (D), the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.

The Hicks Evaluation Group, a project of the Truman National Security Project (Aug. 8-10; 788 regular Georgia voters), found the two major party candidates tied at 45 percent. This, while simultaneously projecting GOP senatorial candidate David Perdue to a 48-41 percent advantage over Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn.

There have been too many polls, for too long, revealing Deal’s weakness for the GOP not to take this race seriously. Expect to hear much more about this campaign in the coming weeks. It may eventually even overshadow the state’s Senate campaign if the present trends continue.

IA-2

The 2nd District of Iowa is a likely Democratic seat, but four-term Rep. David Loebsack (D) typically appears somewhat vulnerable. The Tarrance Group (Aug. 3-5; 400 likely IA-2 voters), surveying for Republican nominee Marianette Miller-Meeks and the National Republican Congressional Committee, projects their client to be trailing the incumbent by only a 45-42 percent margin.

This is not the first time that Tarrance has returned close polling data involving the college professor turned Democratic congressman. In the 2012 election cycle, the firm posted Republican candidate John Archer to be trailing only 43-48 percent in August of that year. Loebsack went onto win by 13 percentage points. In 2010, the congressman’s closest re-election battle, Tarrance projected Miller-Meeks behind by just one point after Labor Day, but the incumbent pulled away to win 51-46 percent.

Redistricting changed the 2nd District, removing the liberal city of Cedar Rapids and replacing it with the more conservative Quad Cities area. This should give Miller-Meeks a more favorable constituency, the inclusion of the University of Iowa town (Iowa City), notwithstanding, and her reported improved campaign ability objectively increases her victory chances. Rep. Loebsack is still the clear favorite, but this campaign could be a race to watch if the seeds of a Republican wave develop.

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