In 2010, Senate Republicans had to be absolutely crestfallen on Election Day as they watched a trio of winnable Senate races (Delaware, Colorado and Nevada) fall by the wayside, courtesy of primary elections where the more electable Republican fell at the hands of a more ideologically pure, but less competent, candidate.
Welcome to 2012. And, one of the (few) new polls out today suggest that the same scenario may well be afoot in Wisconsin, not long after a GOP primary put Indiana from Safe R territory to a coin flip in one fell swoop.
On to the numbers:
PRESIDENTIAL GENERAL ELECTION TRIAL HEATS:
NATIONAL (Gallup Tracking): Obama d. Romney (48-44)
NATIONAL (YouGov): Obama d. Romney (47-43)
NC-GOV (SurveyUSA for Civitas): Pat McCrory (R) 46, Walter Dalton (D) 44, Barbara Howe (L) 7
WI-SEN—R (OnMessage for Hovde): Tommy Thompson 34, Eric Hovde 29, Mark Neumann 16, Jeff Fitzgerald 7
A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump ...
The poll from the campaign of conservative businessman Eric Hovde today was not the first poll released that hinted that the wealthy Hovde was emerging as the most legitimate alternative to former Gov. Tommy Thompson on the Republican side. But it does remind us that next month's Senate primary in the Badger State could have real implications on the balance of power in the Senate after November's elections.
Thompson, with a reasonable reservoir of goodwill built up after his years at the helm of Wisconsin during the 1990s, was far and away the most electable alternative for the GOP when paired with Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin in a recent poll conducted by the Marquette Law School. The least electable alternative? Hovde, who trailed Baldwin by the same nine-point margin that Thompson was in front of Baldwin. Ergo, there is an 18-point spread, at present, between the two leading Republican candidates. And no one would be shocked if GOP primary voters in Wisconsin went with the less-electable guy.
We've been here before, and quite recently. Polls in advance of the May primary in Indiana between veteran incumbent Republican Sen. Dick Lugar and state Treasurer Richard Mourdock showed that Lugar easily led Democratic nominee Joe Donnelly, while Mourdock was locked in a dead heat with the three-term Congressman. Not only did that not play into the calculus for Indiana Republicans, the final outcome wasn't even close—Lugar lost by double digits.
A similar thing happened last week in New York, though, in all candor, the GOP just replaced a candidate who would lose to Kirsten Gillibrand by 30 points with one that will lose to Kirsten Gillibrand by 35 points.
If the Democrats emerge from November with 50-51 Senate seats (a real possibility), while picking off Indiana and holding onto Wisconsin, Republicans are going to be absolutely stunned. Again.
In other polling news ...
- The new poll for the conservative-leaning Civitas Institute in North Carolina (conducted by SurveyUSA) begs an interesting question. The new numbers, which show a dramatic tightening in the state's gubernatorial election, are not an apples-to-apples comparison with previous Civitas polling. Not only is the pollster different (Civitas employed GOP pollsters National Research during the last go-round), but this poll included Libertarian nominee Barbara Howe. Which raises a question for debate—should presidential polling include Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson? And, if so, how would that impact the numbers? Worth noting—summer polling in the 2010 Senate race in North Carolina way overstated the eventual support for the Libertarian candidate—most polls showed Michael Beitler at 5-10 percent. He wound up with two.
- Very little, as one would expect, on the presidential front. Gallup remained unchanged, with Barack Obama up four points on Mitt Romney. Curiously, that four-point lead comes at a time where the job approval ratings for Obama through Gallup are actually pretty weak—an underwater 45/47 spread. When Obama's numbers head northward again on the job approval front (and they always do ... it's like a damned yo-yo), one has to wonder where the trial heat numbers will go. Also, YouGov has Obama +4. For reference, their numbers last week had Obama up by a single point.