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Blog Home Page --> Senate -- Mississippi

KY, MS, OR: KosBomb!

DailyKos has sure kept our year interesting with myriad polls. Here's the final look at three top races, all conducted by Research 2000 for the leading liberal blog:

Kentucky Senate

Conducted 10/27-29, surveyed 600 likely voters, margin of error +/- 4%. Senator Mitch McConnell and businessman Bruce Lunsford were tested.

(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
McConnell....47 / 14 / 87 / 46 (+1 from last, 10/16)
Lunsford.....44 / 77 / 6 / 41 (+2)

McConnell seems to have turned a corner after the economic stimulus package brought him into a virtual tie with Lunsford, and he looks far less endangered than he did only a week ago. Still, his 45% favorable to 49% unfavorable rating gives Democrats reason to hope.

Mississippi Senate

Conducted 10/27-29 among 600 likely voters. Margin of error +/- 4%. Senator Roger Wicker and Democratic ex-Gov. Ronnie Musgrove were tested.

(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Wicker......51 / 8 / 90 / 49 (+4 from last, 10/15)
Musgrove....44 / 87 / 5 / 47 (-2)

Unlike McConnell, most of Wicker's constituents -- 54% -- see him favorably, with 43% seeing him unfavorably. The early race everyone thought would be a sleeper looks like it's trending toward Wicker.

Oregon Senate

Conducted 10/27-29 among 600 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Senator Gordon Smith and state House Speaker Jeff Merkley were tested.

(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Merkley.....48 / 83 / 6 / 46
Smith.......42 / 6 / 86 / 42

Smith hasn't led a live-call poll since the middle of September, putting him dangerously close to losing his seat. Merkley spent his final Sunday on the trail campaigning with Howard Dean and the state's senior senator, Ron Wyden.

MS: Wicker (R) +1

The number of African American voters will determine the winner of one of the state's Senate seats, a new poll shows. The DailyKos/Research 2000 poll surveyed 600 likely voters between 10/14-15 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Senator Roger Wicker, the Republican, and ex-Governor Ronnie Musgrove were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Wht / Blk)
Wicker.....47 / 6 / 85 / 45 / 72 / 5
Musgrove...46 / 88 / 7 / 49 / 24 / 83

Black voters made up 37% of the sample size, a slightly higher percentage than they made up in 2004. If excitement over Obama boosts turnout, Musgrove could snag the seat.

MS: Wicker +5

It may be buried at the bottom of the ballot, as Josh wrote on Tuesday, but the race for the final four years of retired Senator Trent Lott's term is going to be closer than Republicans would like to admit. Ruby-red Mississippi, it turns out, is going to see a great race, according to a new poll.

The poll, conducted by Research 2000 for DailyKos, surveyed 600 likely voters 9/8-10 for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Interim Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican, and former Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove were tested. The sample was made up of 40% Democrats, 45% Republicans and 15% independents and others.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Wicker......48 / 7 / 86 / 46 / 52 / 44
Musgrove....43 / 84 / 6 / 45 / 40 / 46

McCain......52 / 12 / 89 / 50 / 55 / 49
Obama.......39 / 79 / 4 / 39 / 37 / 41

The race for Senate is neck and neck, with both parties' bases firmly entrenched where they should be. Like Obama, Musgrove will take the vast majority of African American voters while losing white voters by a three to one margin. That's how a Democrat wins in Mississippi, and Musgrove has won statewide before (Though he did lose his 2003 re-election race, the last time he appeared on a ballot).

This is Wicker's first statewide race, and both he and Democrats are racing to define the former congressman. Wicker has proven an effective fundraiser, but Democrats have been running their own ads. It helps, too, that buying television time in Mississippi is very inexpensive, giving both parties ample opportunity to get their messages out.

Though both Wicker and Musgrove will be well-known by the time voters get their ballots, coattails could play a positive role for both candidates: Wicker will benefit from John McCain's big winning margins, while Musgrove will benefit from increased African American turnout.

But it seems odd that McCain is doing better in North Carolina than he is in Mississippi (See our earlier post, below) according to Research 2000. That's probably not going to be the case come Election Day; President Bush won North Carolina by 12 points and Mississippi by 19 in 2004.

MS: Wicker +1

A new survey, conducted 7/21-23 by independent pollster Research 2000 on behalf of the Democratic-leaning blog DailyKos, polled 600 likely Mississippi voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Those voters were 45% Republican, 40% Democratic and 15% independents or others, while the sample was 63% white and 37% African American. Appointed Senator Roger Wicker, a Republican, and former Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove were tested.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom / Wht / Blk)
Wicker........45 / 6 / 81 / 43 / 49 / 41 / 67 / 8 (-2 from last, 12/07)
Musgrove...44 / 85 / 6 / 46 / 41 / 47 / 26 / 75 (+5)

McCain.......51 / 10 / 89 / 51 / 54 / 42 / 78 / 4
Obama........42 / 84 / 5 / 40 / 37 / 47 / 19 / 81

Wicker is polling ahead in both his base, in the Northeast corner of the state, and in the Southeast, where he leads Musgrove by a 47%-41% margin. That's good news for his campaign, which has been concerned about his relative lack of name recognition along the coast, thanks to his years representing the northern First District in the House. Musgrove owns a big lead in the Mississippi Delta and around Jackson.

Democrats have long held out hope for stronger than expected turnout among African American voters they think could help boost them in key Southern states. Mississippi is 36% African American, while those voters made up 34% of the state's electorate in 2004, according to national exit polls. If turnout among such a reliable Democratic voting bloc doesn't grow much beyond the 37% within this sample, Musgrove is going to have serious work to do among white voters if the party has any shot at winning Wicker's seat.

Dem Leads In MS?

As hard as it might be to believe, former Mississippi Governor Ronnie Musgrove, a Democrat, leads incumbent rookie Senator Roger Wicker, according to a new poll conducted by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. A week after Democrats captured Wicker's old House seat in the northern part of the state, the poll shows good news as Democrats look for new ways to expand the playing field.

The survey, conducted 5/15-18 by Hamilton Campaigns for the DSCC, polled 600 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Musgrove and Wicker were tested.

General Election Matchup

Musgrove has a higher favorable rating, of 57% compared with 30% who see him unfavorably, than Wicker does, at 42% favorable and 14% unfavorable. Having represented the Senate only since the end of 2007, that shouldn't surprise Wicker's people. In fact, the DSCC polling memo points out that Musgrove is much better known in the Southern part of the state, far away from Wicker's home base of Tupelo.

But the upper chamber's most junior member is taking nothing for granted, either: He raised more than $2.5 million in the First Quarter alone and transferred another $500,000 from his House committee, giving him plenty of funds to use to bolster his name identification.

But the poll is bad news for Republicans, already dealing with a cycle in which most expect the party to lose between four and six seats. Just 23% of Mississippians see the country heading in the right direction, while 58% think the country is going in the wrong direction, and voters are blaming Republicans, the DSCC concludes. "Last week, Mississippi voters showed they are tired of business as usual in Washington and ready for a change, and this poll shows that they are ready for a new Senator to replace Roger Wicker," DSCC spokesman Matt Miller said.

Wicker remains a favorite for retainment at the moment, given his cash advantage and the state's GOP tilt, both for federal offices and in presidential years. But beating Musgrove in a second-tier race could suck up still more resources that national Republicans simply don't have. On the other hand, if similar poll results continue to leak out of the state, perhaps the depth of the pit in which the GOP finds itself hasn't yet been reached.

No Shows In MS

Former Congressman Ronnie Shows has dropped his bid for Senate, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reports. Shows cited his inability to raise the millions he thinks is necessary to steal the seat from interim Senator Roger Wicker, who replaced Trent Lott as the state's junior senator last month.

Shows, who represented the state in Congress until 2002, lost his seat to Republican Rep. Chip Pickering when the state lost a seat after redistricting and the two members were drawn into the same district. In his statement announcing his withdrawal, Shows heaped praise on former Governor Ronnie Musgrove, the remaining Democrat in the race.

Musgrove lost his bid for re-election as well, in 2003, when former RNC chairman Haley Barbour returned home and won the governor's mansion for Republicans. Musgrove has another uphill battle ahead of him in a state in which President Bush won almost 60% of the vote in 2004. No Democrat has been elected to the Senate from Mississippi since 1982, when John C. Stennis won his last term.

FEC reports show Musgrove is also in a financial tight spot. Wicker, a member of the House before being elevated to the upper chamber, ended 2007 with more than $550,000 in the bank. Musgrove has some time to build his own warchest, though. While Democratic Attorney General Jim Hood had wanted the special election to take place in March, Barbour interpreted state law differently and won the subsequent court battle, meaning the special election will take place on November 4.

The state's senior senator, Thad Cochran, is running for re-election as well, making Mississippi one of two states in which voters will cast ballots for both Senate seats in November.

Wicker To Replace Lott

Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour today announced he will officially name Rep. Roger Wicker to replace Senator Trent Lott, who resigned as the first session of the 110th Congress came to a close. Barbour made the announcement at an 11 a.m. news conference in Jackson, the Clarion Ledger reported, while another press conference will be held in the Southern part of the state, in Gulfport, later today.

After two terms in the Mississippi Senate, Wicker has served in the House since 1994, when he succeeded retiring Democratic Rep. Jamie Whitten. A former aide to Lott, Wicker has not faced a truly competitive race in any of his six re-election campaigns, meaning national Republicans have little to fear from the new vacancy. The district, which covers the north and northwest part of the state, gave President Bush about 60% of the vote both times he ran.

When the new senator has to run for retainment is unclear. Barbour says the election can be held in November, when the state's other Senate seat, held by Senator Thad Cochran, is also up. Attorney General Jim Hood, a Democrat, thinks Mississippi law dictates an election be held within 90 days of the appointment. The matter looks headed for a courtroom.

No matter the date of the election, WIcker looks like a safe bet to keep the seat in Republican hands. A recent poll taken by Research 2000 shows Wicker leading former Democratic Governor Ronnie Musgrove, 47% to 39%. Former Attorney General Mike Moore, another Democrat the party hoped to lure into the race, has already said he will not compete for the seat.

Dems' Tough Road In MS

Republicans can breathe a sigh of relief today as new numbers out of Mississippi show Sen. Trent Lott's resignation opens a seat they have an excellent chance at retaining. The poll, another in a series taken for DailyKos by Maryland-based Research 2000, shows possible GOP candidates running well ahead of any Democrat with whom they are matched.

Taken between 12/10-12, the poll tested former Gov. Ronnie Musgrove and former Attorney General Mike Moore, who has since said he will not run. On the GOP side, Reps. Roger Wicker and Chip Pickering were tested. Six hundred likely voters were included in the sample for a margin of error of +/- 4%.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind)
Wicker 47 / 8 / 79 / 48
Musgrove 39 / 78 / 7 / 37

Wicker 46 / 8 / 78 / 47
Moore 39 / 77 / 7 / 37

Pickering 45 / 6 / 78 / 45
Musgrove 39 / 78 / 7 / 37

Pickering 45 / 7 / 77 / 46
Moore 41 / 80 / 8 / 40

Wicker 49 / 17
Pickering 46 / 19
Moore 45 / 27
Musgrove 41 / 28

Gov. Haley Barbour is unlikely to choose Pickering, many believe, because he had already declared he would not seek re-election in 2008. And given that Moore is out, a Wicker-Musgrove matchup looks more likely. In that contest, Democrats might have a shot, but it would be a long one, and Wicker, who looks like the front-runner to be appointed to Lott's seat, would have an added boost of sort-of-incumbency.

Democrats could use their financial advantage over the NRSC to run a few advertisements in Mississippi, but Republicans have to be happy with the way the seat looks for now.

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)

Long Day In Mississippi

Washington Post's Cillizza has been following the Mississippi Senate developments all day. His findings:

-- Gov. Haley Barbour says he will set the special election to fill Trent Lott's seat for November 4, coinciding with next year's General election. That's good news for Republicans -- not only will the appointed Senator have longer to establish him or herself, he or she will also be able to tag their opponent with the Democratic presidential nominee. In Mississippi, that's a huge plus for the GOP. It also means, if Politics Nation understands Mississippi election law, that Lott will not offer his resignation before January 1st.

-- Retiring Rep. Chip Pickering is unlikely to be Barbour's appointee, according to Cillizza's sources. Pickering has made little secret of his hope to end up in the Senate some day, but his shot may come in six years when Thad Cochran, who is running for re-election this year, is up again. Cochran was a retirement threat earlier this year, and six years from now he would be even more likely to hang it up.

-- With Pickering seemingly out of the running, Rep. Roger Wicker seems like the front-runner for the seat. Wicker has about $570,000 cash on hand, giving him a big head start over any potential challenger.

-- On the Democratic side, while early speculation centered on another pass from former Attorney General Mike Moore, a candidate Democrats have pined for over the years but failed to woo. But, Cillizza finds, Moore is actually interested in the race. He would still be an underdog, but he would give Democrats their best shot at stealing the seat. Former Gov. Ronny Musgrove remains Democrats' back-up plan.