MO-Sen: PPP Finds Paper-Thin Margins for McCaskill

Public Policy Polling (PDF) (11/29-12/1, Missouri voters, no trendlines):

Claire McCaskill (D): 45

Sarah Steelman (R): 44

Undecided: 12

Claire McCaskill (D): 45

Jim Talent (R): 47

Undecided: 8

Claire McCaskill (D): 44

Peter Kinder (R): 46

Undecided: 10

(MoE: ±4.3%)

With Sarah Steelman’s surprise announcement today already declaring her candidacy for the 2012 Senate race, PPP rushed out some numbers for the race (apparently cutting their sample a little short — note that the sample period extends as far as today!). In a state that’s polarized deeply between urban and rural voters and has become accustomed to extremely close races — this was the narrowest Obama/McCain margin of any state, and Claire McCaskill’s 2006 defeat of Jim Talent was by only 2% — it looks like we’re on track for yet another close one. McCaskill has a statistically insignificant lead over Steelman and a similar deficit against Talent (and also against Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder, who is pretty well committed to the gubernatorial race at this point).

The innards show pretty much what you’d expect in this light-red and deeply-split state: McCaskill’s popularity is pretty middling (43/44, with 77% of Dems approving and 77% of GOPers disapproving), though better than Barack Obama’s (43/52). The main problem for the GOPers is that they aren’t especially well-known and are basically functioning as Generic Rs (even ex-Sen. Talent, who may not have made much of an impression in his initial four years). Talent is at 36/32, while Steelman is 59% unknown at 22/19. McCaskill should feel lucky she’s running in 2012, a presidential year when turnout by casual Dem voters is likely to be high, instead of having had to run in 2010.

196 thoughts on “MO-Sen: PPP Finds Paper-Thin Margins for McCaskill”

  1. Both of those two must have weaknesses – well Talent McCaskill probably already knows all about, but what of Steelman, what are her flaws? Sounds like she needs to go the route of Reid and define the crap out of these two as early as possible. How are her fundraising numbers?

  2. Remember that Obama lost Missouri in ’08 (albeit by virtually nothing), but will have a very tough time doing better in ’12. His numbers in STL city & county & KC will hold, but he’ll get killed in the rest of the state (including Columbia where the kids won’t come out like they did in ’08), so Claire will have to seriously out perform Obama in the hinterlands and ex-uburbs to have a chance. She has taken some stances to do this (like voting with Coburn on a Earmark ban), but unless Talent-Steelman turns into a bloodbath her task is almost impossible.

  3. These numbers aren’t too bad when you consider that. McCaskill has enough time to focus on soft support and the Republicans will have to battle it out in a primary before they can focus directly on the general.

  4. Should Talent opt against running and Cornyn manage to clear the field for Steelman, I think McCaskill will face a fairly uphill climb. I suspect Obama probably wins about 46% in Missouri, and, though he’ll help her w/ GOTV in St. Louis and Jackson, he might hurt her in the rural areas where she needs 40%+ and he only garnered 30-35% in ’08.

  5. Interesting thought that just popped into my head regarding this. We have seen PPP poll VA, MT and now MO all of which represent freshman Senators running for re-election (or at least we hope/think so). Of these 6 who are the most vulnerable?

    I’ll go with:

    1. MO – This poll while not great definitely shows a tight race. Given that Obama didn’t win it in 2008 this will be a tightly contested race in 2012. Toss up.

    2. MT – I rate this as lower than MO as Tester seems to have a likeable personality with his farming background and his persona fits in well with state voters. Now how they judge his voting record and who his opponent is will be interesting factors. State will likely go Republican so he is going to need cross over voters. Bauchus hasn’t had that problem so voters are not opposed to splitting their tickets. Toss up.

    3. VA – If Webb runs for re-election he is going to be aided by Obama a lot. If Kaine steps in if Webb retires he is going to be aided by Obama a lot. Demographics of this state and the potential for a damaged opponent in George Allen/far right insurgent challenger (run Corey/Cooch/Bob Marshall/my dream in Dick Black run!) should help team blue. Leans Democrat for now based on the decent PPP numbers a few weeks ago. Feel free to call me out for bias here.

    4. OH – Brown had a very nice margin in 2006 but just ask Ted Strickland how times can change. Surely will be a battleground state and a lot will depend upon his opponent. Brown seems likeable and I am just waiting for the advertisements of him being the most liberal Senator. Leans Democrat for now.

    5. PA – Casey is a household name in the state and I hope the GOP goes hard after him thinking that they can beat him as its fools gold. Likely Democrat for now.

    6. RI – unless some major scandal pops up get used to the name Senator Whitehouse. Solid Democrat.  

  6. What Claire has going for her:

    * INDEPENDENTS: She has a centrist brand and narrowly wins their approval in PPP’s poll 43/40.

    * EARMARKS: Her crusade against them may endear her to fiscally conservative independents.

    * OBAMA: He will help drive up urban turnout while she can focus on the rural areas of the state, where she did fairly well in 2006.

    * GOV. NIXON: Nixon won in 2008 with 58% and also is up for reelection in 2012.

    * STEELMAN: The most likely nominee today and probably the weakest. Recent loser–just lost the GOP Gov primary in 2008 after running a very negative campaign. May be too extreme for independents, especially with Claire’s moderate profile.

    * CAMPAIGN: Runs a fairly solid campaign, winning all of her races from State Rep, County Prosecutor, State Auditor to U.S. Senator, with the only exception–although a pretty big one–being the Governor’s race in 2004, a fairly strong Republican year in MO (that same year, she became the only person to defeat a sitting MO governor in a primary). Very effective and heralded user of Twitter.

    What she has going against her:

    * OBAMA: One of Obama’s earliest and most visible supporters, and he’s fairly unpopular in MO, which he will lose by a wider margin in 2012. She has been a solid vote for his agenda.

    * HEALTHCARE REFORM: She voted for HCR, and shortly thereafter Missourians overwhelming voted to reject it (by something like 75-25).

    * THE BASE: She, like Obama, is a mild disappointment to the base. Enthusiasm for either of them may not be there.

    * MO DEM PARTY: Some have suggested there’s a rift between her and the state party over the 2004 Governor’s race, which she lost after taking out the sitting Dem governor who was going to lose anyway.

    If 2012 is like 2010, she loses handily, for her healthcare vote alone. If 2012 is more like 2008, she would outperform Obama and win handily. Since it’s most likely to be a cross between the two, the race will probably be within 2-3%, like most statewide races are in MO. Unless Obama magically finds a way to defend his own agenda during his reelection, Claire is probably going to end up with the 49% instead of the 51%.

  7. PPPolling hasn’t released any numbers on the MO gubernatorial race (I think they didn’t poll it), but they did just post numbers on Scott Brown.

    All the people advocating going all in to save Claire and hope to try to carry the state for Obama, take a look at Scott Brown’s numbers – this is what a candidate needs to survive in enemy territory.


  8. So here we go from bad to worse, I have it on VERY good authority (friend & neighbor who works for Heritage) says Talent is NOT running for Senate (wants to be SecDef in some future GOP administration), clearing the way for Steelman to challenge McCaskill.

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