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Blog Home Page --> Senate -- Maine

Poll: Snowe Vulnerable To Conservative Challenge

A new survey from Public Policy Polling (D) tested Sen. Olympia Snowe (R) against a generic conservative challenger in 2012. The result: the moderate may not survive such a fight.

2012 Primary Election Matchup
Conservative Challenger 59
Snowe 31
Not Sure 10

Snowe boasts a strong approval rating among the larger electorate, 51 percent vs. 36 percent who disapprove. But, PPP says:

"Snowe's numbers are steady with independents but down with both Democrats and Republicans compared to three weeks ago, an indication of the perilous political position she finds herself in. Republicans are mad at her for supporting any Democratic bill, while Democrats still are not completely happy with her because of her hesitance to support a public option."

Snowe is just halfway through her term, but these numbers suggest that Tim Pawlenty was not alone when he told MSNBC last week, "We want Olympia Snowe in the big tent but she can't say she's a Republican and vote against the Republican position much of the time." Still, any conservative challenger would need to amass considerable resources against the established Mainer.

The survey of 1,133 likely voters was conducted before last week's election, from October 31-November 1. The subsample of 415 likely GOP primary voters had a margin of error of +/- 4.8 percent.

ME Gap Closing?

A new independent survey in Maine shows Senator Susan Collins in the lead, but by a smaller margin than others before it. The Critical Insights poll, conducted 6/1-27, surveyed 602 registered voters for a margin of error of +/- 4% among a sample made up of 42% Democrats, 27% Republicans and 31% independents and other parties. Collins and Rep. Tom Allen were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Collins.......50 / 27 / 83 / 61
Allen.........40 / 65 / 9 / 27

Collins' people can make a credible case that the poll shows a serious oversample of Democratic voters; the Secretary of State's office reports that 31% of Maine voters are registered Democrats while 28% are registered Republicans.

Still, notice the time it took to take the poll: A period of nearly four weeks, which raises concerns about the accuracy of the results. Most pollsters agree that several nights, though no longer than a week, are ideal lengths for a reliable poll.

Collins Running Away?

Though Democrats have a good shot at winning several Senate seats this year, one of their top opportunities looks like it remains well beyond reach, a new poll shows. Despite picking up one of the toughest possible challengers, Republican Senator Susan Collins is still maintaining a big lead, giving the GOP hope that at least a few Northeastern Republicans will still be in office after this year.

The survey, conducted by the SMS Group from 6/10-18, polled 400 adults for a margin of error of +/- 5%. Collins and Rep. Tom Allen were tested.

General Election Matchip

The sample of adults is less reliable than a sample of registered or likely voters, who have to go through more screening questions to be included in the pool. But the results track with an April poll that also showed Collins with a lead of more than twenty points.

Voters in Maine are not pleased with the direction of their state -- 60% say Maine is off on the wrong track, while just 23% say it's going in the right direction. But Collins has always been popular, if not as popular as the state's senior senator, Olympia Snowe.

Unless something changes, Collins is headed towards re-election. Democrats have the money, both nationally and in Allen's bank account, to make a significant investment in the state, but starting down more than twenty points is not a position that leads to a lot of electoral victories.

Spinning ME Wheels

Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, is not supposed to be where she is today. Facing Democrats' top candidate in her bid for a third term, polls for months have shown her leading by a wide margin, and though she's running for re-election in what looks like a favorable year for Democrats, in an increasingly Democratic-leaning state, Collins is one of the top Democratic targets to remain a heavy favorite to keep her job.

Polls this Fall showed Collins with double-digit leads, hovering near 20-point margins. A McLaughlin & Associates poll, conducted for the Coalition for a Democratic Workforce 3/6-9, surveyed 400 registered voters on horse race matchups and questions about the rights of union workers to vote on organizing by secret ballot. Collins and her Democratic rival, Rep. Tom Allen, were surveyed, with a margin of error of +/- 4.9%.

General Election Matchup
Collins 54
Allen 31

Both congressional districts in Maine are seen as safely Democratic; the winner of the crowded Democratic primary to replace Allen is highly likely to be sworn into Congress next year. But Collins, like several other targeted Republicans, has successfully distanced herself from the Bush Administration, and her close working relationship with Independent Senator Joe Lieberman bred an endorsement that will help her among independent voters.

An overlooked factor working in Collins' favor is the state's senior senator, fellow Republican Olympia Snowe. Together, the two are among the most popular senators in their home states.

Allen, though, has a chance to make this race competitive. He's well-funded, and if he can bring Collins' favorable ratings down while tying her to the White House and Republicans as a whole, he should benefit from higher turnout during a presidential year, especially as the Democratic nominee is expected to take the state's four electoral votes. Still, his strategy at this point has to be taking votes away from Collins, and getting her below 50% has to be Allen's top priority.

Updating The Exchange

We're updating our Senate race rankings today, which we have failed to do since late September. If you take one lesson from the list, it's that Democrats are in even better position than they were a few months ago: More seats are open, more pickups are possible and the party is still outraising its Republican counterparts.

Still, watch the middle tier races: Sens. Norm Coleman (R-MN), Susan Collins (R-ME) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) are in trouble, but they seem with each passing day to be getting safer. All three are bucking Republican leadership at times, and while Democrats have good candidates against each, the difference between a bad year for the GOP and a terrible year will be the difference between these three surviving or failing.

Races we considered for the number 10 spot: Kentucky, where Democrats are hungry for the potential to knock off Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell has a lot of money, though, and in a presidential year, as Kentucky goes for the GOP nominee, it's hard to imagine any but the best candidate (Rep. Ben Chandler?) having so much as a snowball's chance of beating McConnell. Polls show Chandler and State Auditor Crit Luallen performing well against the incumbent, but both have said they won't run. South Dakota, where Sen. Tim Johnson is still recovering from a stroke, should be a good opportunity for Republicans. So far, though, they have only managed to recruit a State Representative who reported just $37,000 in the bank at the end of the third quarter, nowhere close to Johnson's $2 million account. Because of his health troubles, Johnson had been a retirement threat. But he announced his re-election bid in mid-October, and with an underfunded challenger, he will likely sail to another six year term in 2008.

(Correction: We wrote that State Representative Joel Dykstra had raised $37,000 in the third quarter. In fact, he raised $82,000 in the third quarter and retained $37,000 cash on hand. We regret the error and any resulting confusion.

Races we dropped from the Exchange: South Dakota, Nebraska.

Races we added to the Exchange: New Mexico, Mississippi

As always, agree? Disagree? Share your thoughts. And don't forget to head over to RCP's Fantasy '08 to trade contracts based on your own rankings.

10. Mississippi (R-Open): Resigning Sen. Trent Lott is leaving big shoes to fill, and Republicans might actually have some trouble filling them. As Gov. Haley Barbour looks around for a Republican to hold the seat, Rep. Roger Wicker is seen as the front-runner. Wicker has plenty of cash on hand, giving him a lead over any potential Democratic opponent. Democrats are working on former Attorney General Mike Moore and former Gov. Ronny Musgrove, both of whom would be top picks to steal the seat. But any Democrat will find it difficult, if not impossible, to win in this most ruby red of states. If someone like Hillary Clinton is at the top of the ticket, subtract five more points from the eventual Democratic nominee. (Last: Not ranked)

9. Alaska (R-Stevens): If your home is raided by the FBI, guilty or not, it's probably time to call it a career. Indeed, if Ted Stevens is actually the GOP nominee, this race will move higher up on Democrats' priority list. The DSCC is doing all it can to recruit Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich. Other Republicans are said to be interested in a run for the seat, whether or not Stevens makes a bid. If Stevens is no longer in office, the state will have lost both its long-time Senators since 2002, while Rep. Don Young is tied up in the same scandal involving VECO Corp. Without Young, the state's position in Congress will be significantly impacted. In fact, should Stevens and Young run for re-election, that's likely to be a central tenant of their campaign. But will voters want seniority or new elected officials, like Gov. Sarah Palin, who aren't viewed as corrupt? (Last: 10)

8. Maine (R-Collins): Susan Collins was supposed to be this year's Lincoln Chafee: Popular and moderate, but a Republican in a very blue state. Democrats got their best possible candidate in Rep. Tom Allen, but polls in October have showed Collins holding consistently huge leads of twenty points or so. The race is going to tighten, and Allen is going to have the money to compete. But to the NRSC's relief, Collins is in great position a little less than a year out. Watch her rely heavily on her friend and colleague, independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, if the race narrows. (Last: 6)

7. Minnesota (R-Coleman): Comedian Al Franken and wealthy attorney Mike Ciresi both say they will abide by the results of a convention among Minnesota Democrats. But several times over the last few years, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party has faced nasty fights in post-convention primaries as candidates fail to live up to their promises. If Franken and Ciresi duke it out in a primary, Franken is likely to win but come away severely wounded. In a general, many will say that Franken is simply too goofy to be a Senator. But he's acting serious, and Minnesota is the same state that elected Jesse Ventura as governor. Incumbent Republican Norm Coleman, to his credit, is apparently taking the threat seriously. One thing to watch: The Democratic convention in Denver will likely help Mark Udall (see number 5, below). With a badly damaged GOP brand, will the Republican convention being held in Minneapolis be a good thing or a bad thing for Coleman? The answer might determine whether he gets re-elected. (Last: 8)

6. Oregon (R-Smith): Democrats are coalescing around House Speaker Jeff Merkley, though he still faces attorney Steve Novick in a primary. Merkley, who has his sights set on incumbent Gordon Smith, faces an uphill battle: Smith is doing all he can to inoculate himself from charges that he might, in fact, be a Republican. Smith has turned against the war in Iraq, recently voted for cloture on the farm bill, something 45 Republicans voted against, and makes his opposition to the Bush Administration known at every turn. But he is a Republican in a blue state during a presidential year. Merkley will need some national help if he is to compete with Smith on a financial level, but this year, that is not impossible. (Last: 5)

5. Colorado (R-Open): Rep. Mark Udall is hoping to build on a Democratic foundation that has overtaken this increasingly purple state in recent years. Democrats now control the state legislature, the majority of the Congressional delegation and the governor's mansion, and Udall hopes to take back a second Senate seat from retiring Sen. Wayne Allard. Republicans recruited previous Senate candidate and former Rep. Bob Schaffer, and while he's not the party's perfect candidate, he spent the summer raising good money and, to the surprise of many, was within one point of Udall in a mid-September poll. Still, with the Colorado landscape favoring Democrats so much, Udall remains the favorite. This is a district where the DSCC's huge money advantage over the NRSC could come into serious play. (Last: 3)

4. Louisiana (D-Landrieu): Down on the Bayou, incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu is undeniably in trouble. A Zogby poll taken for the two-term senator's challenger, Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy, a former Democrat, shows Kennedy up by seven points. That's not a huge margin for an internal poll, but any survey that shows an incumbent trailing a challenger is significant news. Landrieu had more than $3.4 million cash on hand after the third quarter, while Kennedy hadn't begun raising money. Still, the Democrat who lost several hundred thousand members of her base remains the Republicans' best target for a pickup. (Last: 4)

3. New Hampshire (R-Sununu): A poll in early October showed the rematch between Republican Sen. John Sununu and former Gov. Jeanne Shaheen overwhelmingly favoring Shaheen, the Democrat. Shaheen faces no primary and will benefit from her organization, which has stayed largely intact since her departure from the governor's mansion. Gov. John Lynch, a close ally, has kept that organization in good practice, winning with a higher percentage of votes than any governor in the state's history in 2006. Lynch is unlikely to get a strong challenger in 2008, and after the Democratic wave that swept the state last year, Shaheen remains a favorite to take the seat back for Democrats. (Last: 1)

2. New Mexico (R-Open): If Republicans can get bad news about New Mexico, bet that they will. When Sen. Pete Domenici announced his retirement, moderate Albuquerque Rep. Heather Wilson looked like a great candidate to retain the seat for the GOP. Then, dominoes started falling: Conservative Rep. Steve Pearce joined Wilson in the GOP primary. Rep. Tom Udall, a popular Democrat who will be well-funded, reconsidered his earlier decision not to run and jumped into the race, giving the party their strongest candidate to take the seat. But Udall's path wasn't entirely clear: He faced Albuquerque Mayor Martin Chavez in the primary. Until, that is, Chavez dropped his bid, giving Udall a clear shot. News can't get any worse for Republicans in New Mexico. But if it can, it probably will. (Last: Not ranked)

1. Virginia (R-Open): Mark Warner seems headed straight for the Senate, even if he faces another former governor in the general election. Polls repeatedly show Warner beating Jim Gilmore by twenty points or more, and there's a simple reason: Gilmore was elected when Virginia was a Republican state. Warner helped nudge the state to purple status, where it currently resides. After Gilmore forced Northern Virginia Rep. Tom Davis, a moderate, out of the race, Virginia Republicans will struggle to appeal even to GOP-leaning independents. The party can all but kiss the Senate seat goodbye. (Last: 2)

Field Report: Two Approaches

Three incumbent Republicans seeking re-election are taking an approach markedly different from a Republican challenger who hopes to join them in the upper chamber. For Oregon Sen. Gordon Smith and Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, the farm bill this week offered them the latest chance to vote against their party and join Democrats in trying to pass what will doubtless be a popular bill in their home states. Meanwhile, Smith and Maine Sen. Susan Collins are moving to inoculate themselves against criticism on the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq.

Smith and Coleman both voted with Democrats to invoke cloture on the measure on Friday, joining every Democrat and two other Republicans. The measure attracted 55 votes, short of the 60 votes required.

Smith and Collins, who also faces a tough battle in 2008, voted against their party to support a war funding bill that would have required troops begin leaving in 30 days. That bill, too, failed to gain enough votes for cloture. But while Smith, Collins and Coleman have grown closer to Democrats this year, Rep. Heather Wilson, the New Mexico Republican hoping to replace retiring Sen. Pete Domenici, is taking the opposite tack. "Sen. [Charles] Schumer only wants to fund pay, body armor and chow for the troops if he can put conditions on the money so that they cannot do the mission they have been ordered to do," she told the AP.

Wilson, a veteran herself, will have to take some strong anti-Democratic positions if she can make her way through a competitive primary against Rep. Steve Pearce. While turnout in GOP primaries has been low of late, some in New Mexico are expecting a much higher showing after a barn-burner of a race, writes the Albuquerque Tribune.

Finally, in Maine, where Collins will most likely face Democratic Rep. Tom Allen, the Kennebec Journal has a message for both candidates: They "want to engage us for an entire year. It's a big race and one that already has national eyes on it because it could help tip the balance of the Senate toward a more favorable Democratic margin ... but six to nine months of that would be just fine, thank you. Call us back in April."

Another Collins Lead

Tom Bevan writes this morning on a Critical Insights poll showing Maine Republican Susan Collins leading by a wide margin in her re-election race against Rep. Tom Allen. The incumbent senator, who many thought among the most vulnerable up for re-election next year, holds a 54%-34% lead over her Democratic rival, virtually identical to the 56%-33% lead she held in a Research 2000 poll two weeks ago.

While Beltway Democrats remain confident that they recruited the best possible candidate to go after Collins, many Republicans, even those skeptical of their own party's chances next year, think their incumbent will breeze to re-election.

Critical Insights, a Maine-based firm, conducts quarterly polls testing various public officials' favorability rating -- Gov. John Baldacci's rating was a net negative, at 44% favorable and 47% unfavorable, for the first time in his five-year tenure -- and issues of import to Mainers. State residents cited taxation as their top concern, as is common for Critical Insight polls, but to a much smaller 18% plurality than last year, when 34% named it as their biggest concern. Unemployment, the economy and health care all came in just under taxation as priority issues for state residents.

The poll also found that 65% of the state's residents agree with the state's tourism motto, "The Way Life Should Be." Perhaps unsurprisingly, those most inclined to agree were those making more than $75,000 a year and people over the age of 55. Those most likely to disagree included the always cranky 18-34 year old demographic.

Collins Shows Big Lead

Facing the prospect of major pickups in the U.S. Senate, Democrats worked early to try to recruit Rep. Tom Allen as their candidate against Maine Senator Susan Collins. They got Allen, but early polls have showed Collins leading by a wide margin, showing the DSCC has a long way to go to catch up.

A Research 2000 poll, conducted 10/15-17 for DailyKos, surveyed 600 likely Maine voters and tested Collins and Allen, with a margin of error of +/- 4%.

General Election Matchup
Collins 56 / 37 / 75 / 57 / 55 / 57
Allen 33 / 54 / 11 / 33 / 35 / 31

While President Bush's job approval rating sits at a miserable 28%, 56% approve of the job Collins is doing, while just 36% disapprove. Currently, 55% would vote to re-elect Collins, while 20% would consider voting to replace her and 21% will definitely vote against the incumbent.

Both candidates have raised huge amounts of money so far. Through the end of the 3rd Quarter, Collins had $3.1 million cash on hand, while Allen held $2.1 million in reserve. Both should have ample resources to wage war, and if national Democrats make a significant investment here, this is one state where the DSCC's cash advantage over the NRSC could make a big difference.