Polling in VA & MD Governor Races and Blackburn to run for TN Senate

October 11, 2017

This article originally appeared on BIPAC's blog. Written by BIPAC Political Analyst Jim Ellis.

Senate

California Sen. Dianne Feinstein who, at 84 years of age is the body's oldest member, announced that she will seek re-election to a fifth full term next year. It is possible that she will draw a challenge from her left, however. State Senate President Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) has been making public statements about opposing the Senator, incensed by some positive comments she made about President Trump while also saying that new gun laws would not have stopped the Las Vegas massacre. Should de Leon run, it is likely that we will see a campaign lasting through the general election because members of the same party can advance through the state's June qualifying election system. In any event, Sen. Feinstein will be a heavy favorite to win again in 2018.

Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley (R), the Republicans' top Senatorial prospect, announced that he will challenge Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) next year. The Show Me State has moved considerably to the right since the Senator last sought re-election in 2012, so this campaign likely becomes the GOP's top challenge race in the country. Mr. Hawley was elected Attorney General in November under the theme that too many politicians start running for the next office once they obtain the first one, and now he, himself, will be in that category. Therefore, Sen. McCaskill will brand him an opportunist guilty of hypocrisy, while Mr. Hawley will attack the liberal Senator for being out of step with her constituency. This race must be rated an early toss-up.

Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood) announced that she will seek the state's open Senate seat now that incumbent Bob Corker (R) will not run for re-election. Simultaneously, Gov. Bill Haslam (R), who had been considering making his own Senate bid, stated that he will not enter the race. Also looking at declaring candidacies are former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Crockett County) and ex-state Rep. and US Senate candidate Joe Carr. Andy Ogles, the Tennessee director for Americans for Prosperity who had declared a primary challenge to Sen. Corker, remains in the race. Four Democrats took themselves out of consideration for the Senate: former Gov. Phil Bredesen, US Rep. Jim Cooper (D-Nashville), Nashville Mayor Megan Barry, and businessman and former Nashville mayoral candidate Bill Freeman.

The recently often-cited poll credited to Delphi Analytica that posts rock star Robert Ritchie (Kid Rock) to a 30-26% lead over Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) appears to be bogus. No trace of the poll can be found on any website, and a three-term Senator with generally favorable approval scores having only a 26% preference figure is suspect to say the least.

House

Scandal-ridden Pennsylvania Congressman Tim Murphy (R-Pittsburgh) announced that he will resign from office effective October 21st. This means the southwestern PA seat will go to special election likely after the first of the year. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) will call the vote once the seat officially becomes vacant. Under Pennsylvania election law, the local political party committee members will choose a nominee to run in one special general election. After Gov. Wolf schedules the vote, the parties will announce their nomination procedure and timetable. With President Trump scoring a 58-38% win here last November and Rep. Murphy running unopposed in the last two elections, the eventual Republican nominee will be a prohibitive favorite to hold the seat.

Already, western Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn's (R-Brentwood) newly open House seat has drawn a major candidate. State Sen. Mark Green (R-Ripley), who was President Trump's choice for Secretary of the Army before he withdrew when the confirmation process turned problematic, immediately announced that he will enter the open House contest. The 7th District sits between Nashville and Memphis, touching the outer suburbs of both communities. It is a safely Republican seat that will almost assuredly be decided in the Republican primary. Former Tennessee Republican Party chairman and ex-presidential campaign manager Chip Saltsman is also a potential congressional candidate as is Nashville Songwriters Association president Lee Thomas Miller.

Governor

A new poll was released in the upcoming Maryland Governor's race that features Republican Gov. Larry Hogan seeking re-election in this most Democratic of states. The Mason-Dixon Polling & Research organization published their latest results (9/27-30; 625 MD registered voters) and found Gov. Hogan to be leading all of his announced opponents with varying levels of strength. Opposite Prince Georges County Executive Rushern Baker, the Hogan margin is 46-39%. He records a 48-35% spread over Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, 49-33% over former NAACP President Ben Jealous, and 49-30% against state Sen. Richard Madaleno (D-Montgomery County). Though Gov. Hogan enjoys some of the strongest approval ratings in the country, 61:26% favorable to unfavorable according to this M-D survey, his ballot test standing is not as strong.

The Washington Post/Schar School poll was released this week (9/29-10/2; 720 VA likely voters) and the data shows Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam (D) now holding a commanding 53-40% lead over former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie. But, the poll may be skewed. The Republican segment is low based upon voter history, and the Democratic percentage seem to arbitrarily increase four percentage points over their last several poll releases. Furthermore, the final 2013 version of this same poll going into that year's election projected a twelve point Democratic win for Terry McAuliffe, a race that was decided with only a 48-45% margin.

Additionally, Christopher Newport University published their latest poll (10/2-6; 928 registered voters; 616 likely voters) and finds Northam also holding a comfortable lead. Their ballot test results find the Democratic nominee ahead 49-42%. The Virginia Governor's race is scheduled for November 7th.

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