The prelude to Wisconsin’s August 14 Primary Election keeps getting more interesting–especially in the GOP race for U.S. Senate. The upcoming retirement of Democratic Senator Herb Kohl has led Republicans hopefuls into a true donnybrook for the chance to face Democrat Tammy Baldwin in the fall.

For months, former governor and HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson was the frontrunner, but hedge fund manager and political newcomer Eric Hovde has brought deep pockets and an “outsider” brand to the race. It seems to be working, due in part to outside forces.

Thompson, the most moderate of the field, has become a punching bag for the other Republicans on the ballot, Jeff Fitzgerald and Mark Neumann. National conservative groups have embraced Neumann and have relentlessly attacked Thompson for his support of some health care reforms. The onslaught is having its effect, and Thompson has seen his lead shrink remarkably fast.

Last night, we asked 1,237 likely GOP voters in Wisconsin who they would vote for if the election were held today. Here’s what they said (results have been weighted):

Poll type:: Automated Date: July 30, 2012 - Participants: 1,237 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 2.8%
Jeff Fitzgerald12.11%
Eric Hovde23.20%
Mark Neumann16.66%
Tommy Thompson22.79%

Similar to what we saw earlier this year in Nebraska’s GOP Primary, the outside forces that are pummeling away on the presumed frontrunner are allowing a relative newcomer to take a lead down the stretch. However, in Nebraska the shift in favor of Deb Fischer happened very quickly and just days before the election–leaving little time for Jon Bruning to strike back. In the Dairy State, Thompson has the time to re-group and claw his way back into the lead–especially in light of the relatively high number of undecided voters.

But he better get clawing. Right now, Hovde has the mojo.


We wrap up the first round in our Big 10 series with Ohio–perhaps the quintessential and, arguably, most important swing state. The closeness of recent presidential elections certainly makes the Buckeye State a battleground, and with good reason. With a single exception (1960) Ohio has gone with the presidential winner every election since 1944.

So, as in our other polls in this series, we asked each participant: “If the election for president were held today, for whom would you vote?” We’ve included Libertarian Gary Johnson to test the impact of a third-party candidate on what may be a very tight race. Here are our results:

Poll type:: Automated Date: July 24, 2012 - Participants: 1,115 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 3%
 Barack ObamaMitt RomneyGary JohnsonUndecided
All voters (weighted)47.84%40.20%2.04%9.93%

What pops out immediately is the high percentage of self-described Republicans who say they will vote for Barack Obama over Mitt Romney.  An outlier?  Perhaps.  But we went back into the field last night to test it again. The results: almost identical.  Hmmm.  We going to keep an eye on that.

Since Independents are leaning toward Romney, if the “wayward” GOP electorate come back home to roost, this will tighten up considerably and quickly. And a rumored choice of Ohio Senator Rob Portman as Romney’s VP running mate could reverse what we’re seeing today.

Then again, maybe those GOP voters leaning toward Obama are the result of the President working Ohio like Rocky Balboa on a side of beef…breaking a few political ribs while he’s at it.

And those take a long time to heal.

MO Big 10

[box type=”info”] We wrap up the first round in our Big 10 presidential series with Missouri (today) and Ohio (tomorrow). Once again, we’ve added Libertarian Gary Johnson to our poll to test how third-party candidates will affect the end results. As [/box]

Missouri is viewed by some as a toss-up state for president, but the tea leaves aren’t real promising for President Obama in the Show Me State. He narrowly lost Missouri in 2008, and the electorate in the Show Me State was an early and vocal critic of his health care reforms. In addition, Missouri will feature a marquee battle for the U.S. Senate featuring Democratic incumbent Claire McCaskill–a candidate pundits claim is vulnerable due to her support for initiatives such as the stimulus bill and health care reforms (in addition, or course, to the problems she faces over not paying taxes on a jet her husband owns).  The Obama issue-related attacks against McCaskill that will ensue after the August primary won’t help the President in Missouri, where Mitt Romney will undoubtedly pound away like Harry Carey used to pound Budweisers during Cardinal games. Holy cow!

Sure enough, when we asked 1,172 likely Missouri voters their opinion, here’s what they said:

Poll type:: Automated Date: July 24, 2012 - Participants: 1,172 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 3%
All voters (weighted)39.73%49.01%2.12%9.14%

We included the crosstabs for Party ID for one reason: we want to track where the third-party candidates are “draining” votes. In Missouri, it appears that Independents and Democrats are looking for an alternative to the main stream. We’ll see if that continues.

Next up–THE pivotal state: Ohio.


[box type=”info”] Our “Big 10″ series continues today with presidential polls in two states that have gone through turmoil: Nevada (economic) and Wisconsin (political).[/box]


Nevada was chosen as our first poll to include a third-party candidate for President: Libertarian Gary Johnson. With many predicting a presidential race that will end in a photo finish, third-party candidates may certainly play an important role in deciding the eventual winner by siphoning off enough votes to count. We’ll include his name on state polls where he is documented to have qualified to be on the ballot. (He hasn’t been blessed for Wisconsin yet.) Hint to those who want to talk pollsters into including their candidate: the Johnson backers who contacted us were extraordinarily civil and reasoned in their request to include the Libertarian. That type of approach doesn’t work every time, but you have a much better chance of success if you keep the snark in check.

Nevada is a swing state in every sense of the term. In 2010–a good GOP year most places–Democrats won most statewide offices, but Republicans captured the Governor and Lt. Gov’s offices. While the GOP picked up some state House and Senate seats, they are still in the minority in the state legislature.

The Silver State has gone through some very hard economic times over the past few years with higher-than-average unemployment rates and a housing market that rolled craps. Bad times must produce discontent for the incumbent among the electorate, right? Not so much:

Poll type:: Automated Date: July 17-18, 2012 - Participants: 1,092 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 2.95%
All voters49%43%2%6%

As with all our public polls, these topline (all voters) results have been weighted by 66 different criteria to arrive at the final figure (the weighting seldom moves the numbers by more than a point or two). We’ve included the crosstabs for self-described Party ID which we found intriguing. More than a quarter of Republicans said they would vote to re-elect the President–the highest total we’ve seen in any public or private state poll we’ve conducted. Yet, in this state that has been whacked by a wobbly economy and has a large Mormon population, Independents are leaning more toward Gov. Romney than most other states. It remains to be seen whether the four percent of Independents who said they were for the Libertarian candidate are a current protest statement or will  translate into an actual siphoning of votes to the frontrunners.


Ah, the Badger State…one of our favorites. The hubbub brought on by Gov. Scott Walker’s election, controversial reforms, recall effort and subsequent re-election were fascinating political fodder. The surprising margin of Walker’s recall victory has many believing that Wisconsin is play for Mitt Romney, but the relatively late Primary Election here (August 14) has focused the attention of the political hoi polloi more on a hotly contest Republican Senate Primary featuring four candidates, including former Governor and  HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann, state House Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, and  Eric Hovde, a wealthy businessman with ancestral political roots.

Will Walker’s surprising margin of victory and the intense interest in the GOP Senate race translate into a bump for Romney?

Poll type:: Automated Date: July 17-18, 2012 - Participants: 1,162 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 2.93%
All voters49%42%9%

Frankly, the Dairy State hasn’t budged much from our last poll there, although the Party ID numbers have shifted a bit. We’ll see after their Primary if the presidential race heats up.


[box type=”info”] Our “Big 10” series continues today with two divergent states: Pennsylvania & New Mexico–where in addition to the presidential choice we find intriguing races for the U.S. Senate.[/box]


Democrats have fared well in the Keystone State up until 2010 when the GOP won a Senate seat, picked up the governor’s office and netted five new Congressional seats. A tightening presidential race has Republicans hopeful of knocking Democrat Senator Bob Casey out of office, but that won’t be an easy task. According to The Cook Political Report, “as critical as some Republicans are of Casey’s voting record, many acknowledge that it is hard not to like him.” The son of a former PA governor, Casey is hard to peg on the political spectrum. He supports and strongly defends his vote in favor of “Obama-care,” but is opposed to same-sex marriage and supports gun owners’ rights. A pro-life stance did not stop him from opposing efforts to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. Although affable, these wide-ranging stances on a number of issues has made it tough for some to fully embrace or reject Casey, although Republicans are clearly hoping such issues as health care will do the trick.

Opposing Casey is newcomer Tom Smith, a former coal-mine worker who eventually became a coal-mine owner. Smith surprised many when he won the Pennsylvania Primary, and has made some rookie mistakes along the way. However, Smith makes hay by being proud of his self-made, pro-business background, and has a bankroll that can strike fear into the heart of most candidates. And Republicans are counting on the tightening presidential numbers to help unseat the one-term Casey.

As in all of the series of states we’re polling by automated means, after qualifying each individual in regards to ability (registered) and intention to vote this fall, we asked the following straightforward questions:

If the election for president were held today, for whom would you vote?
And:  If the election for U.S. Senator were held today, for whom would you vote?

Here are our weighted Pennsylvania results:

Poll type:: Automated Date: July 9-10, 2012 - Participants: 1,227 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 2.8%
PRESIDENTBarack Obama (D)Mitt Romney (R)Undecided
U.S. SenateBob Casey (D)Tom Smith (R)Undecided

New Mexico:

New Mexicans are fiercely independent and wildly divergent in their political views: on a trip to the artist/ski town of Taos you may run into actress Julia Roberts or former Bush-43 hot-button Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Beyond the political dichotomies, the Land of Enchantment (yeah, that’s really their official state nickname) has struggled with ongoing poverty, a terrain that is beautiful but prone to severe droughts and wild fires, and an occasional Keith Morrison-worthy small-town scandal. Although viewed by many as leaning to the left, New Mexico is considered a swing state for presidential races.

The retirement of NM 30-year Senator Jeff Bingaman (D) moves the race for U.S. Senator from a shoo-in for Democrats to a possible toss-up. Democrat U.S. Representative Martin Heinrich will be facing Republican former U.S. Representative  Heather Wilson in this state that–like it’s neighbor Colorado–is tough to categorize. Democrats have enjoyed success in New Mexico in recent years, but 2010 elections resulted in a GOP governor (Susana Martinez) in term-limited New Mexico.

Heinrich is an engineer and former Albuquerque city council member who won Wilson’s congressional seat after she stepped down. He points to his role in saving 1,000 National Guard jobs at Kirtland Air Force Base and fighting for continued funding for Los Alamos and Sandia national laboratories as his major achievements. Wilson, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and Rhodes Scholar, won a 1998 special election to replace the late Republican Steve Schiff. She earned a reputation of a very good campaigner by winning re-election in a swing district targeted by national Democrat forces and funds.

Will New Mexico follow the trend we’ve seen with a tight presidential race that scooches the candidates for Senate closer? Not yet, as it shows in these weighted results:

Poll type:: Automated Date: July 9-10, 2012 - Participants: 1,295 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 2.8%
PresidentBarack Obama (D)Mitt Romney (R)Undecided
U.S. SenateMartin Heinrich (D)Heather Wilson (R)Undecided


Tight in Florida

We continue our “Big Ten” series by heading to Florida, viewed by many Americans as the quintessential swing state–and with good reason. The voting population of the Sunshine State continues to grow (Florida gains two new congressional seats from the 2010 census) with all makes and models of voters arriving daily to enjoy the warm weather, affordable retirement communities and burgeoning family entertainment complexes. The state is more diversified socially and politically than many other parts of the south, and has earned a reputation for close, highly scrutinized elections that have added such phrases as “hanging chads” to America’s lexicon.

Ironically, the Supreme Court, which played a pivotal role in the ultimate victory of George W. Bush in 2000, may once again play a role in the 2012 election in Florida where demographics and politics produce a melange of strongly voiced views concerning the government’s role in health care.  Retirement communities, already prone to worries over any changes in health care, have seen the value of nest-egg homes decline, and foreclosures remain high. And to stir the primordial political pot even more, let’s include Florida Senator Marco Rubio in the mix for GOP veep.

So, with other polls here showing Barack Obama with a small lead over Mitt Romney, will the first post-health-care-decision poll show any movement?

As in all of the series of states we’re polling by automated means, after qualifying each individual in regards to ability (registered) and intention to vote this fall, we asked the following  question (with rotated options as response):

[box] If the election for president were held today, for whom would you vote?[/box]

Here are the weighted results:

Poll type:: Automated Date: July 1-2, 2012 - Participants: 1,127 Likely Voters - Margin of Error: ± 2.9%
Barack Obama46.1%
Mitt Romney45.3%

Since no question was asked concerning health care, concluding that the race is tightening over that issue would be conjecture. We may just be witnessing Florida being Florida, and that means a super-close margin in a state that neither candidate can afford to lose.