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Claire McCaskill
Claire McCaskill
Public Policy Polling (PDF). 1/27-29. MoE ±4.1%. Missouri voters (9/9-12 results):
Claire McCaskill (D-inc): 43 (43)
Sarah Steelman (R): 43 (42)
Undecided: 13 (16)

Claire McCaskill (D-inc): 43 (45)
Todd Akin (R): 43 (43)
Undecided: 14 (12)

Claire McCaskill (D-inc): 43 (46)
John Brunner (R): 43 (37)
Undecided: 13 (17)

Missouri's first-term Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill keeps looking like one of the most vulnerable incumbents going into 2012, although it's a situation a bit like the presidential race in that she'd probably be in worse shape if she were runnning against more appealing Republican opponents. Public Policy Polling's first look at the Missouri race in four months has McCaskill with an ominous approval rate (42/49) and losing ground against her opponents and falling back, unusually, into a tie with all three of them.

What's keeping her alive is that nobody's very thrilled about her opponents, either (22/24 favorables for ex-state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, 19/28 for Rep. Todd Akin, and 18/18 for businessman John Brunner... and they're all turning out to be stiffs on the fundraising front, with $231K last quarter for Akin and $84K -- which would be bad even for a House candidate -- for Steelman). Brunner is the only one among the three for whom McCaskill's drop is more than a blip, and that's because Brunner was a nobody at the point of the last poll but, dipping into his own cash, has been the main presence on the TV airwaves in this race since then. Steelman leads the GOP primary at 32, with 23 for Akin and 18 for Brunner, though, again, those numbers show a big Brunner increase since last time.

One detail from PPP's last poll that was troubling, though, seems to have resolved itself somehow, and that was that, then, the large majority of undecideds identified as Republicans, making it likely they'd break against McCaskill. If you delve way into the crosstabs this time, though, it looks like the "undecided" voters split are a pretty even split between Democrats and Republicans (for instance, in the Akin race, 13% of Dems and 12% of GOPers are undecided, parallel to the 14% overall).

Instead, McCaskill losing ground since the last poll is because she's lost the support of some Dems since the last one (getting 78-82% among Dems now, as opposed to 87-90% then). Those changes may all be small-sample-size random noise, but they give something for McCaskill to focus on: getting her numbers among Dems back up. (Of course, what we PPP's crosstabs don't have enough detail to tell us is whether the centrist McCaskill is losing Dems from the left of her or the right of her, the latter certainly being a possibility in the state's rural portions.) [UPDATE: I take that back; the crosstabs do shed some light on that. Against Akin, McCaskill leads 57-30 among moderates, 77-9 among 'somewhat liberals,' and 66-12 among 'very liberals,' suggesting erosion at both ends of the Dem coalition's bell curve. On the other hand... who the heck is that 12% of 'very liberals' voting for Todd Akin, and could someone please smack them for me?]

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Wed Feb 01, 2012 at 02:35 PM PST.

Also republished by Show Me Kos.

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