Poll: McMahon Leads Shays, Trails Dems in Connecticut

Poll: McMahon Leads Shays, Trails Dems in Connecticut

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - September 16, 2011

As she prepares to officially launch her second U.S. Senate bid next week in Connecticut, former World Wresting Entertainment CEO Linda McMahon leads her expected Republican primary opponent, former Rep. Chris Shays, by 15 points, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Friday.

McMahon, who lost in her first attempt at a bid for statewide office to now-Sen. Richard Blumenthal last fall, is expected to enter the 2012 race to succeed retiring four-term Sen. Joe Lieberman on Tuesday. Shays, a former 10-term moderate ousted in 2008 by Rep. Jim Himes, is also poised to throw his hat into the ring.

According to the Quinnipiac survey, Shays will enter as the underdog for the GOP nod: McMahon leads, 50 percent to 35 percent. Having run for this office before, McMahon’s name recognition gives her an advantage. But she struggles in hypothetical general election matchups against her potential Democratic opponents, and by a seven-point margin voters have an unfavorable opinion of her. Comparatively, Shays receives a net favorability rating of positive 27 percent, but 44 percent still don’t know enough about him to decide whether they like the former congressman.

Shays fares better than McMahon when pitted against the potential Democratic nominees. Three-term Democratic Rep. Christopher Murphy trumps McMahon by 11 points in a hypothetical matchup and leads Shays by six points. Democratic Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz beats McMahon by eight points, but when paired against Shays, she trails by a slim two-point margin. Murphy leads Bysiewicz by 10 points in the race for the Democratic nomination, but about a third of Democrats remain undecided.

Having President Obama’s name also appear on this ballot in 2012 would historically seem to benefit the Democrats in the Senate contest. Obama won the state, which trends blue, by 23 points in 2008. But this survey shows voters now divided, 48 percent to 48 percent, on whether they think the president is doing a good job in the White House. Three months ago, Obama attracted a positive 53 percent to 44 percent approval rating. Perhaps more troubling for Obama is that voters in the state say he deserves a second term only by a slim 49 percent to 46 percent margin.

At this early stage, Connecticut Republicans favor former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the GOP presidential primary. Romney leads his rivals by double digits, attracting 37 percent of the support. Texas Gov. Rick Perry comes in second with 19 percent. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann places a distant third with 8 percent support. None of the remaining candidates receives more than 4 percent.

Despite his low approval, the president still leads his Republican rivals in Connecticut. When matched head-to-head against Romney, Obama leads, 49 percent to 36 percent, and edges the former governor among independents by four points. The president enjoys a wider margin of support against Perry, 52 percent to 33 percent, and leads among independents by 12 points.

Quinnipiac surveyed 1,230 registered voters, including 332 Republicans, from Sept. 8-13. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.8 percentage points. The sampling error for Republicans is plus or minus 5.4 percentage points. 

Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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