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Good News For Democrats In The South?

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A new NBC News/Marist College Poll seems to indicate that Democratic hopes in 2014 may not be all doom and gloom after all:

Democratic candidates are holding their own in three key Senate races despite a daunting political environment for their party in the upcoming midterm elections, according to new NBC News-Marist polls of Arkansas, Georgia and Kentucky.

And in one race in particular, Democrats are more than just competitive.

In Arkansas, with less than six months until Election Day 2014, incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., leads Republican challenger Tom Cotton by 11 points among registered voters, 51 percent to 40 percent. (That finding is largely in line with other polling from that race since April showing Pryor either leading or tied.)

In Georgia, Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn is running neck and neck against all of her potential GOP opponents in November.

And in Kentucky, Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes is within one point of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell among registered voters, 46 percent to 45 percent.

“These are competitive states as far as the general is concerned,” says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist College Institute for Public Opinion. “Arkansas, which was once thought to be Democrats’ most vulnerable [contest for an incumbent], may not be the most vulnerable.”

Still, these three Democratic candidates face a situation where President Barack Obama’s approval rating is stuck in 30s or low 40s in these states, and where strong majorities believe the nation is headed in the wrong direction – hardly a good position for the party controlling the White House.

(…)

While Pryor leads the Senate general election contest in Arkansas, Republican Asa Hutchinson has a seven-point advantage in the state’s gubernatorial contest over Democrat Mike Ross, 49 percent to 42 percent.

The reason why both Pryor and Hutchinson are ahead in their statewide races: Both men are leading among independents – Pryor has a seven-point edge over Cotton here (48 percent to 41 percent), and Hutchinson has a 15-point advantage (52 percent to 37 percent).

In addition, Pryor (with a 50 percent to 35 percent favorable/unfavorable rating) is viewed in a more positive light than Cotton is (38 percent to 39 percent) among voters.

Pryor also is getting the support of 32 percent of voters who disapprove of President Obama’s job in Arkansas.

Meanwhile, in Georgia, Democrat Michelle Nunn finds herself running competitive against all the major Republicans in the race:
  • Nunn gets the support of 41 percent of registered voters, versus 45 percent for businessman David Perdue;
  • It’s Nunn 42 percent against 43 percent for Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga;
  • It’s Nunn 43 percent against 43 percent for Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga.;
  • It’s Nunn 44 percent against 42 percent for Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga.;
  • And it’s Nunn 42 percent versus 39 percent for former Secretary of State Karen Handel.

But just like in Arkansas, one Democrat’s standing in Georgia’s Senate contest doesn’t translate to the state’s gubernatorial race, with incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal leading likely challenger Jason Carter, 50 percent to 40 percent. (Carter is the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.)

It’s pretty early in the election process, of course, and in Georgia at least we don’t know who the Republican nominee is even going to be this year, and likely won’t know until after the July 20th runoff election. However, at the very least a poll like this shows why it’s worthwhile to be cautious when it comes to those predictions of Republican victory in 2014 that many people are tossing around so casually. Looking at the midterm elections as a whole, it’s easy to conclude that this is potentially a very good year for the GOP, of course. The President’s job approval numbers are down and don’t seem inclined to head back north any time soon. The Affordable Care Act remains relatively unpopular despite the Administration’s efforts to spin a tale of success. On the foreign policy front, the U.S. is facing challenges in places such as Eastern Europe that may require the President to act notwithstanding the fact that the American public is generally opposed to the idea of foreign activism of any kind at this point. And, while the economy does seem to be showing some signs of improvement, there are enough signs of economic sluggishness to suggest that the voting public will be in a bad mood in November. Add into this the fact that Republicans generally tend to do better in midterms than Democrats because of turnout, and there are plenty of reasons to believe that Republicans have a better than even chance of retaking the Senate this year.

Despite all of that, these polls remind us that the battle for the Senate remains a state-by-state battle in the end, and that its outcome is going to depend on the quality of the candidates in each state and how the campaign progresses. In Arkansas, for example, there’s little doubt that the Republicans have found a well-qualified candidate in Congressman Tom Cotton. However, Mark Pryor has long shown that he has an ability to survive as a Democrat in a state that trends Republican, at least on the national level. Six years ago, when John McCain won Arkansas by 20 points over Barack Obama, Pryor essentially ran unopposed. So, it was perhaps naive to count him out completely even if the current polling doesn’t necessarily relect where the race will end up in November. In Georgia, Michele Nunn’s standing in the polls at the moment is no doubt helped both by her famous last name and because the GOP has yet to select a candidate and won’t have one for another two months. Once that happens, though, I suspect that the race will take an entirely different turn. As for Kentucky, it’s been apparent for some time that Mitch McConnell’s General Election race against Alison Lundergan Grimes was going to be a close one, so these numbers aren’t entirely surprising. The real question is going to be whether she’s going to be able to sustain this race against the Majority Leader down the wire, especially once McConnell and the NRSC start pouring money into the race.

For the moment, then, it doesn’t look like doom and gloom for the Democrats if you go by these three races. Whether that will sustain itself through November, of course, is another question entire

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    But, BENNNGGAZZZI!!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 4

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    . Add into this the fact that Republicans generally tend to do better in midterms than Democrats because of turnout, and there are plenty of reasons to believe that Republicans have a better than even chance of retaking the Senate this year.

    I wonder if, in Arkansas at least, the recent court decision re: gay marriage will help boost Democratic turnout and close the enthusiasm gap.

    While its doubtful all three of these races will go D (I just don’t see Grimes pulling it out), it does mean that the NRSC has to pour money into defending these seats, rather than helping Republicans win new seats. That is great news for Democrats.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  3. stonetools says:

    The Affordable Care Act remains relatively unpopular despite the Administration’s efforts to spin a tale of success

    The latest polls :

    A new CNN poll illustrates the situation nicely: It finds that far more Americans want to keep Obamacare than repeal it. At the same time, only majorities of Republicans want repeal and only majorities of Republicans think the law is already a failure.
    The CNN poll finds that 49 percent of Americans want to keep the law with some changes, while another 12 percent want to keep it as is — a total of 61 percent. Meanwhile, only 18 percent want to repeal and replace the law, and another 20 percent want to repeal it, full stop — a total of 38 percent. That’s 61-38 for keeping rather than repealing the law. Among independents, that’s 55-44.

    Right now, the Republicans are giving up on attacking Obamacare and trying to resuscitate the BENGHAZI! scandal.The reason is because Obamacare is succeeding, despite the Republican (and your) attempts to spin a tale of failure. IT will most likely look a lot more successful (and be more popular) by November.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 18 Thumb down 2

  4. al-Ameda says:

    The Affordable Care Act remains relatively unpopular despite the Administration’s efforts to spin a tale of success.

    I believe it reads more accurately in this form:

    The Affordable Care Act remains relatively somewhat unpopular despite because of the Administration’s the Republican Party’s efforts to spin a tale of success unprecedented failure, when in fact, enrollments are nearing 8 million, and a majority of Americans are pleases with ACA provisions that permit people to purchase coverage despite pre-existing conditions, and allow parents to cover their children through the age of 25.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Keep in mind that what matters is what polls well in the states with competitive senate races. We don’t elect senators at large.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  6. Ron Beasley says:

    With Obama’s unpopularity it just goes to show how much the Republicans have tarnished their brand.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  7. stonetools says:

    Here’s some more “bad news” for Obamacare:

    Jason Millman has been listening in on earnings calls for publicly traded hospital chains, and he says they all report a big difference in admissions between states that expanded Medicaid and those that didn’t:

    The Hospital Corporation of America…saw a 22.3 percent growth in Medicaid admissions, compared to a 1.3 percent decline in non-expansion states. The company also had a 29 percent decline in uninsured admissions in the expansion states, while non-expansion states experienced 5.9 percent growth in uninsured admissions, chief financial officer William Rutherford said.

    Yeah, those Republican governors who refused Medicaid expansion look like real geniuses about now. Meanwhile, Grimes’ championing of Medicaid expansion just might make the difference for Grimes in Kentucky against McConnell.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  8. michael reynolds says:

    @stonetools:

    Democrats who run from Obamacare remind me of Al Gore’s deeply stupid efforts to distance himself from Bill Clinton. Had Gore embraced Clinton and asked for him to campaign, he’d very likely have won and we’d have been spared the George W. Bush disaster.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 14 Thumb down 0

  9. edmondo says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Democrats who run from Obamacare ….

    Yes, please run on the “accomplishment” of passing a law that 12% of the public thinks you got right the first time around! Please, pretty please!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 15

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @edmondo:

    We are in North Carolina and Kentucky. And our candidates there seems to be doing pretty well.

    Meanwhile Republicans are running on. . . Um. . . Hating the outgoing president? Did I miss something or is that literally all you people have?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 20 Thumb down 1

  11. stonetools says:

    @edmondo:

    Obamacare is succeeding. The imperfect law you don’t like is working and is going to help Democrats, despite them not trying to pass that perfect but unpassable law you say you were in favor of . You mad, bro?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  12. edmondo says:

    @michael reynolds:

    If it’s working so well, why is Allyson Schwartz running a poor third in the Pennsylvania DEMOCRATIC primary when her entire campaign revolves around her support for Obamacare?

    The Democrats will be running on Obamacare all right – as far away as they can by November

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 8

  13. Tyrell says:

    Democrats in the South are still doing very well: those who are in the Southern wing of the party.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  14. An Interested Party says:

    If it’s working so well, why is Allyson Schwartz running a poor third in the Pennsylvania DEMOCRATIC primary…

    Perhaps for reasons other than the one you are trying to push…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 2

  15. anjin-san says:

    @ edmondo

    So you have not noticed that Republicans have become fairly quite about Obamacare? Not so long ago they could not shut up about it.

    Obamacare is working. You can deal with it, you can stick you head in the sand, or you can cling to right wing fantasies. I really don’t care.

    One thing I do know for sure – it’s a good feeling knowing that you can’t be denied coverage because of pre-existing conditions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  16. Tyrell says:

    But not such a good feeling to find your doctor is not on the list of AHA. So for some that has meant changing doctors that they have had for some time, changing doctors in the middle of on-going treatment and therapy, or facing a two hour drive to the nearest doctor who will treat them.
    See: http://www.benningtonbanner.com/news/ci_25757331/consumers-losing-doctors-new-insurance-plans
    http://www.weeklystandard.com/blogs/hundreds-ohio-lose-their-doctor-due-obamacare_775213.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  17. al-Ameda says:

    @Tyrell:

    But not such a good feeling to find your doctor is not on the list of AHA. So for some that has meant changing doctors that they have had for some time, changing doctors in the middle of on-going treatment and therapy, or facing a two hour drive to the nearest doctor who will treat them.

    So, prior to ACA, many of the writers at the Weekly Standard never had to change healthcare insurance, or find out that when they changed insurance to a PPO or HMO that their current physician is not on the list of approved physicians, or travel many miles to meet with a referred physician or specialist? None of this EVER happened prior to passage of ACA. The Weekly Standard is pointing out problems that have ALWAYS inhabited our health insurance and health care environment. None of this is new, nor endemic to ACA.

    All this is exactly what I (and many other folks) have experienced many times in the past 25 years because of the highly inflationary price environment in health insurance plan, and the pressures that cause employers to change their benefit plan offerings regularly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0