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ARIZONA (Strong Republican) Sen. Jon Kyl (R) v. Jim Pederson (D). The state of the Arizona Senate race largely remains as it was on the last map. On Sept. 22, Rasmussen reported a 11-point Kyl lead while SurveyUSA showed a narrower 5-point Kyl lead. Since then, polling data from two different polls have shown a similar spread. Kyl registered an 11-point and 7-point lead in polls by Arizona State on Sept. 24 and Zogby on Sept. 25 respectively. Although Pederson has a difficult road ahead of him, he has slowly but surely narrowed the 29-point deficit with which he began the new year. As I noted last week, Chris Cillizza of The Fix has deemed immigration the "X-factor" in the race. It is increasingly clear, however, that Kyl's views on immigration are considerably less controversial in Arizona. Be that as it may, the Arizona Republic writes that a long-overdue change in subject is now underway.
Prescription drugs. Gas prices. Immigration. Republican Sen. Jon Kyl and Democratic challenger Jim Pederson have spent months tangling over those and other issues. But like congressional candidates around the nation, they had largely avoided talking about Iraq until a leaked intelligence report this week forced the topic into the headlines. Now, Pederson has put the war on terror front and center, with a new ad blitz reminding voters that Osama bin Laden remains free and calling the Iraq war "another Vietnam." And Kyl, in a seeming shift from an administration stance that has downplayed a need for more soldiers, has acknowledged that Iraq will require more troops to achieve victory.The Arizona Republic reveals a measure of skepticism on the question of whether the debate-shift will benefit Pederson. My humble opinion is, as the song goes, "a change will do you good."
MARYLAND (Weak Democratic) Ben Cardin (D) v. Michael Steele (R). Last week, I emphasized the appreciable headway Steele made among African-Americans and opined that Cardin's foremost task between now and November should be recapturing some of African-American support he has lost ("Unless Cardin recaptures African-American support, this race will be a nailbiter.") Over the past 8 days, Cardin has done just that and a well-timed visit from Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) has certainly helped. As reported in the Washington Times:
Mr. Obama, the country's only black senator, dismissed the Republican Senate nominee - Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, the first black elected statewide in Maryland - as "the guy [with] that local news anchor style." "I bet he does like puppies," Mr. Obama said, referring to Mr. Steele's TV ads. "But that is not what this election is about. The election is about the future. The election is about health care. The election is about education. The election is about getting our troops out of Iraq."Zogby has the latest numbers on the race, wherein Cardin checks in 13-points ahead of Steele. Granted, Zogby's 2006 numbers have sometimes been exceptional and I myself regard internet polling with a measure of skepticism. However, Zogby's earlier Maryland numbers comported with other polling. In contrast, the 1-point Steele lead reported by SurveyUSA on Sept. 19 remains a clear outlier. One can wrestle with numbers, but a clear message emerges nonetheless: Cardin is back, if in fact he was ever absent at all. Corroboration of Zogby's results will likely see Maryland in the "Strong Democratic" category next week.
MICHIGAN (Strong Democratic) - Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) v. Mike Bouchard (R). Sen. Stabenow is a week closer to a decisive election victory while Bouchard largely remains he was a week ago. Again, Zogby has the latest numbers, which show Stabenow 7-points ahead of Bouchard. What at first glance seems like a Bouchard gain is, at second glance, more of the same. All 3 Zogby polls on the Michigan Senate race have understated Stabenow's lead relative to other polling. Their latest report of a 7-point lead, is a Zogby-best for Stabenow. Zogby's previous surveys reported 6-point (9/5) and 4-point (8/21) Stabenow leads. The latest polls from SurveyUSA (9/17), the Detroit News (9/12), Rasmussen (8/31) and the Detroit Free Press (8/31), respectively reported Stabenow leads of 13, 19, 8 and 13 points (the most recent Strategic Vision poll's unreliability, reporting a 7-point lead, is apparent on it's face). At present, Michigan is solidly Stabenow.
MINNESOTA (Strong Democratic) - Amy Klobuchar (D) v. Mark Kennedy (R). What was said about Michigan polling also holds true in Minnesota. Klobuchar registers 8 and 9-point leads in the most recent polls coming from SurveyUSA and Zogby. The current SurveyUSA survey marks a 3-point improvement for Klobuchar over SurveyUSA's last poll in late-July. By contrast, the latest Mason-Dixon (9/20) and University of Minnesota (9/18) polls peg Klobuchar's lead at 15 and 16-points, respectively. However, a recent development is likely to cut into Klobuchar's lead. A blogger obtained a leaked Kennedy and sent it to Klobuchar's communications director, Tara McGuinness, this past Wednesday. McGuinness, exercising poor judgment, looked at the ad. Klobuchar, for her part, handled the matter well. When she became aware of the incident, Klobuchar demanded McGuinness's resignation and, as Hennepin County's Chief Prosecutor, ordered that the incident be reported to the FBI for possible criminal investigation against those responsible for the leak. The blogger emerged, identified himself as the source and denied wrongdoing. Additionally, the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune reports:
Klobuchar also publicly apologized to Kennedy for what Goldfarb called McGuinness' `poor judgment'....[and] issued a statement saying that `what happened here was wrong. ... Some people may believe that this happens on campaigns all the time, but it is not acceptable on our campaign.'Notwithstanding Klobuchar's commendable handling of the incident, news coverage coupledwith partisan spin renders an adverse impact on Klobuchar's numbers likely. Although no polls have been released since the incident, my best guess is that the impact will be small (1-3 points) and temporary.
MONTANA (Strong Democratic) - Sen. Conrad Burns (R) v. Jon Tester (D). Although there are no new polls to report, Tester supporters have cause for concern. As Kos ("Talk about giving voters a choice") and diarist Georgia10 ("This is how a Patriot acts") suggest in a recent DailyKos entries, Tester exhibited a rare brand of political courage in his latest debate with. Since Tester's success to date can largely be attributed to such candor, the map reflects "no change" in Tester's standing relative to Burns. However, I would objectively expect Tester to pay a price for his courage. The New West Missoula reports the relevant exchange:
Tester, who showed a fuller range of emotion in the course of the evening, probably found a sound bite moment in response to a Burns charge that he is "soft on terrorism." Tester, Burns said, "doesn't understand this enemy" and would weaken the Patriot Act. "Let me be clear," Tester shot back sharply. "I don't want to weaken the Patriot Act. I want to repeal it."Montana, traditionally a red state, voted decisively for Bush in 2000 (58-33%) and 2004(59-38%). Only once since Lyndon Johnson carried the state in 1964 has Montana gone to the Democratic candidate. Montana's reaction will be better understood as more recent polling data becomes available.
MISSOURI (Weak Democratic) - Sen. Jim Talent (R) v. Claire McCaskill. If I were to heed Zogby's most recent poll (9/25), giving Talent a 1-point lead over McCaskill, Missouri would now be in the Weak Republican category; but I won't, and it isn't. First, the race is well-within Zogby's 3.1% margin of error. Second, the data shows Talent leading McCaskill 48-to-47% with 8% undecided? Third, Zogby's polling on this race has, to date, been repeatedly undermined by it's telephonic peers. McCaskill has not held the lead in any of 7 Zogby polls conducted since January. In fact, McCaskill's current 1-point Zogby deficit is an all-time best. At the same time, McCaskill leads the three most recent non-Zogby surveys (SurveyUSA, Rasmussen and Research 2000) and, in total, 11 of the 14 non-Zogby surveys in which a leader has been reported (McCaskill and Talent were tied in 3 relatively early polls). Needless to say, I am unimpressed. Having said that, I would re-emphasize an unrelated point made last week: as long as stem cell research (58-62% support) and minimum-wage (68% support) initiatives remain on the ballot.
NEW JERSEY (Weak Democrat) - Sen. Robert Menendez (D) v. Thomas Kean Jr. (R). This week's Rutgers-Eagleton poll not only gave Menendez a 1-point lead, but revealed that 8% of New Jerseyans have yet to receive my letter ("As you are undoubtedly aware, Tom Kean was the Governor of New Jersey, served honorably as Chairman of the 9/11 Commission and even has a university named after him...He is not, however, running for the United States Senate.") Apparently, another 8% believed Kean the incumbent. Of course, with Menendez's lead at 1-point, the margin of error at 5 and 16% of New Jerseyans utterly confused, one might wonder why New Jersey has moved from the "Weak Republican" to "Weak Democratic" column. The answer is all of the above coupled with a final, highly significant, Rutgers-Eagleton finding: "Bush's job approval rating was 30 percent, an all-time low for the president in this poll."
NEVADA (Strong Republican) - Sen. John Ensign (R) v. Jack Carter (D). Zogby, in what I am increasingly suspecting to be a conspiracy to get attention, has again rocked the boat in the state where walking the plank means a mouthful of sand. With Zogby's new poll (9/28) showing a 6.6-point Ensign lead between Jack Carter and Ensign, Mason-Dixon's latest poll putting Ensign a 23-point ahead and Rasmussen reporting a 9-point Ensign lead, it is difficult to assess Carter's chances in Nevada. According to Michael Mishak of the Las Vegas Sun, unreliable polling data is old news to Nevada. Mishak observes a steady leftward movement in Nevada.
[G]iven recent demographic shifts here, Nevada's red is shifting toward blue. Republicans are still in the majority, but the more the Democrats close the gap, the better the prospects that independent outside pollsters will begin surveying in the state.At present, however, the Nevada Senate race remains in the "Strong Republican" column.
OHIO (Weak Democratic) - Sen. Mike DeWine (R) v. Sherrod Brown (D). There is little to report since last week in the Ohio Senate race. Brown's lead currently stands at about 5 percent. Although DeWine trails in every poll, his deficit is pegged at anywhere between 1 and 10 points. Zogby's new poll (9/25) says 4-points, The Columbus Dispatch (9/22) says 5-points, the University of Cinncinati (9/17), Quinnipiac supplies the low-end estimate of a single percentage-point and SurveyUSA, the high-end of 10-points. Ohio's prospects of a debate over the President's controversial detainee legislation faded this past week as both Brown and DeWine signed on.
PENNSYLVANIA (Strong Democratic) - Sen. Rick Santorum (R) v. Bob Casey (D). While Santorum bet on his party's clout, Casey accumulated a few more chips this past week. Up 2, 4 and 8 points in the latest Zogby, Strategic Vision and Quinnipiac polls, Casey is making the American Spectator's Jeffrey Lord eat his words. Lord had previously written under the now-abandoned title, "Casey shows that he is out of his league," that ""Casey is emerging as a man out of his depth in this race." Lord, and other GOP-operatives turned writers, desperately fabricated a comeback. "Santorum is rapidly gaining in the polls," he reported. As the latest polling would seem to suggest, Lord and his colleagues are emerging as wolves in $3 sheep costumes.
RHODE ISLAND (Weak Democratic) - Sen. Lincoln Chafee v. Sheldon Whitehouse (D). According to Rhode Island's most recent poll by the American Research Group (9/19), Whitehouse's lead stands at 5-points. A day earlier, however, Brown University published the results of its latest poll, showing Whitehouse with a much narrower 1-point lead, well-within the 4-point margin of error. Chafee's defeat of the more conservative Stephen Laffrey was celebrated by . . . conservatives, who overwhelming concede that Chafee is their only chance at keeping Rhode Island's seat red; and when Whitehouse registered an 8-point lead Rasmussen's Sept. 13 poll, Democrats (myself included) did a dance or two at their expense. Lest there be any lingering doubt, neither party has claim to Rhode Island's seat. Although Whitehouse has scored a critical labor endorsement and prudently used Republican hunting season to air some positive ads, his campaign has heretofore focused on national politics. In my humble opinion, a campaign against Bush alone will earn him the silver medal; a message that defines national politics in Rhode Island terms will secure him the gold. "A Whitehouse you can trust in Washington" or I'm number 50 and I approve this message won't cut it.
TENNESSEE (Weak Democratic) - Bob Corker (R) v. Harold Ford (D). Ford's 3-point lead in Survey USA's Sept. 11 poll remains the current benchmark in Tennessee. In an article published in today's Tennessean ("Are the Wheels Falling of Corker's Wagon?"), Daughtrey blasts Corker's campaign performance to date. "There's a new political parlor game in town, rivaling the popularity of Mr. Mustard did it with a wrench, It's called: How Bob Corker got in the ditch."
As a respectable GOP candidate with a mostly good record in public office, Corker should be breezing toward the finish in a recently red state against a Democrat from a hotly controversial family, Rep. Harold Ford Jr. But this is a horse race; make no mistake about it. The trends have all been toward Ford, a five-term congressman from Memphis who seems defiant in the face of expectations.While SurveyUSA pegs Ford's lead at 3-points, the Ford campaign claims an 8-point lead by internal polling. Whatever the margin, Ford remains on top in the race to replace Frist.
VIRGINIA (Weak Republican) - Sen. George Allen (R) v. Jim Webb (D). According to the latest poll commissioned by the Virginia Pilot (9/29), Allen and Webb are dead-locked at 43.
Allen's lead disappeared this month amid his angry denial and subsequent acknowledgment of his Jewish ancestry, and allegations that he often used a racial epithet to refer to blacks when he was a student at the University of Virginia in the early 1970s. Allen says the reports about his language are false.Allen's ongoing trouble with allegations of racism took a marked downturn this past week when Larry Sabato, Virginia's premier political scientist and independent, confirmed allegations that Allen used the "N-word" in college. Perhaps the most significant revelation uncovered in the latest poll is a precipitous drop in Allen's favorability. Whereas 64% of Virginians had a favorable opinion of Allen in July, Allen's present favorability stands at 41%. With 5 weeks to spare, the Webb campaign has come upon the opening they've been seeking.
WASHINGTON (Strong Democratic) - Sen. Maria Cantwell (D) v. Mike McGavick (R). Over a week ago, Cantwell's lead fell to 6-points following the emergence of a story involving an unpaid loan to a lobbyist. According to polling data from Strategic Vision and SurveyUSA, Cantwell has rebounded, checking in with a 9-point leadin the former survey and a 12-point lead in the latter. Yesterday, Cantwell capped-off a strong week with an endorsement from the Veterans of Foreign Wars "based on her support for veterans', national security and defense, and military personnel issues."