Red State Weekly Political Update for Period Ending March 27, 2009

Key Political Developments

Senate Update

Arkansas: A new Public Policy Polling survey (3/20-22; 600 registered AR voters) shows some surprising vulnerability for so-called moderate Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D). Against former US Attorney Tim Griffin (R), she leads only 46-37%. Paired with state Sen. Gilbert Baker (R), her advantage is a similar: 48-37%. The Senator’s job approval number is a lackluster 45:40.

California: Confirming previous speculation, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) stated publicly that he will not challenge Sen. Barbara Boxer (D) next year. Boxer now becomes a heavy favorite for a fourth term.

Connecticut: Research 2000, for the ultra-leftwing Daily Kos national blog, released the results of their Connecticut survey (3/23-25; 600 likely CT voters), and it shows ethically challenged Sen. Christopher Dodd in a bit better position than from last week’s Q-Poll (Quinnipiac University; Dodd trailing Simmons 43-42%). Here, Dodd leads former Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT-2) 45-40%, with a job approval rating of 47:40. The Senator has a much bigger lead when paired with another potential GOP candidate, state Sen. Sam Caligiuri: 51-30%. CNBC business news commentator Larry Kudlow ended speculation that he would run for the Senate via public announcement earlier in this week.

Florida: Gov. Charlie Crist (R) may soon take his most definitive step toward running for the state’s open Senate race next year. Insiders claim that he will now form a Senatorial exploratory committee before the state legislature’s scheduled recess on May 1. Democrats will virtually concede the Senate seat to Crist in order to try and win what promises to be a competitive gubernatorial race.

Kentucky: Attorney General Jack Conway (D) is telling supporters that he will soon announce a challenge to Lt. Gov. Don Mongiardo (D) for their party’s US Senate nomination. This could turn into a war for the Democrats and leave their eventual nominee battered and bruised. Retirement speculation continues to swirl around GOP Sen. Jim Bunning. Mongiardo, before being chosen the state’s Lt. Governor, came within two points of unseating Bunning in 2004.

New York: The release this week of Siena College’s poll (3/16-18; 626 registered NY voters) continues to show that former Gov. George Pataki (R) would be appointed Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D) toughest competitor. The ballot question between the two is tied at 41%. Gillibrand has a much easier time against Rep. Peter King (R-NY-3), beating him 47-23% in a hypothetical pairing. Gillibrand is also likely to face Democratic primary opposition.

North Carolina: Tel Opinion Research for the John W. Pope Civitas Institute released a survey (3/16-19; 600 NC voters) that shows Sen. Richard Burr (R) and Attorney General Roy Cooper (D) locked in a tight battle. According to their monthly NC DecisionMaker study, Cooper leads Burr 41-38%. Both men’s name ID, however, is surprisingly low, thus bringing the methodology of the poll into question. Only 50% of those sampled could express an opinion of Burr (37% favorable; 13% unfavorable), while just 35% had familiarity with Cooper (29% favorable; 6% unfavorable). Burr is a strong campaigner and will be tough for Cooper, or any other Democrat, to unseat regardless of early polling results

Pennsylvania: Two widely divergent polls were released into the public domain about the impending Sen. Arlen Specter/Pat Toomey GOP primary re-match. Quinnipiac University (3/19-23; 1,056 registered PA voters) shows the conservative challenger trouncing the incumbent among Republican voters, 41-27%. Franklin & Marshall College (3/17-22; 211 GOP voters), with a small sample size, thus potentially accounting for the huge disparity in results when compared with the Q-Poll, has Specter leading 33-18%. Interestingly, the Quinnipiac data reveals Specter to have a 71% approval rating among Democrats, and a 37:52 upside down favorability score from Republicans. The Franklin & Marshall poll is not credible. Specter is in deep trouble against Toomey.

House Update

CA-10: Several potential candidates are making moves to replace Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA-10) now that she will be moving on to the Obama Administration. State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D) is certain to run, as is Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan (D). Former San Francisco Examiner political editor Adriel Hamilton, the most extreme left winger within their extreme group of potential aspirants, is already an announced Dem candidate. Republicans will have several potential contenders, but the eventual D-nominee will win the special election. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) will scheduled the replacement vote when Tauscher officially resigns.

CA-45: First term Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet (D), yet another ultra-liberal, is filing a congressional exploratory committee for the purposes of opposing Rep. Mary Bono Mack (R-CA-45) next year.

Governor Update

Colorado: Former Rep. Scott McInnis (R-CO-3), after several times turning down the opportunity to run statewide, is now publicly saying he will challenge Gov. Bill Ritter (D). McInnis is said to be the CO Republican establishment’s first choice. Ritter is weak, so this is a legitimate race.

Georgia: The reported comeback of defeated Gov. Roy Barnes (D) looks rather anemic according to an Insider Advantage poll (3/17; 550 registered GA voters). Barnes fails to break 40% against three potential GOP candidates: Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, state Insurance Commissioner Mark Oxendine, and Secretary of State Karen Handel. He actually trails Cagle 39-35%. Barnes is a one-term Governor who lost his seat in 2002 to current incumbent Sonny Perdue (R). Perdue is term-limited in 2010.

Massachusetts: Add Deval Patrick (D) to the growing list of vulnerable Governors. A new Suffolk University survey (3/17-20; 400 MA voters) reveals that state Treasurer Tim Cahill would lead Patrick 35-30% in a Democratic primary match-up. Cahill says he’s not running. Patrick’s job approval is an upside down 40:49, meaning the Governor can expect a tough re-election campaign next year. Don’t forget, until Patrick’s victory in 2006, Republicans won the Massachusetts Governor’s chair four consecutive times.

New York: The Siena College poll referred to in our Senate column above, again confirms that Gov. David Paterson (D) is hemorrhaging politically. He loses 67-17% to Attorney General Andrew Cuomo in a proposed Democratic primary, and 56-33% to Rudy Giuliani in the general election. The Cuomo-Giuliani match-up is a surprisingly close 51-41%, in favor of the Democrat.

Rhode Island: Defeated Sen. Lincoln Chaffee (R) is reportedly set to announce a campaign for Governor, as an Independent. Gov. Don Carcieri (R) is term-limited. Chafee, always a liberal, officially left the GOP after he was thrown out of office in 2006 by Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse.