Going into the 2014 election the Democrats (at least the ones being honest about it) knew that they had a problem. They were defending far more seats than the Republicans, their approval ratings were in the tank and youth turnout in the midterms is always lower than in presidential years. With those factors in mind, there were Democrats who were already talking about an Empire Strikes Back scenario for 2016 before they’d even finished drying their tears last November. Two of those factors were going to be reversed and, presumably, moving in their direction. The GOP will be defending the larger number of seats this time and having Hillary on the ballot will allegedly bring those big Obama turnout numbers back into play. So the GOP has good reason to be worried, no?
We definitely want to be cautious and the work never lets up, but some early digging into attitudes in the swing states by Quinnipiac shows some promising signs for Republicans who will stand before the wheel, even in states where Obama does fairly well. The tally starts in Florida, where Marco Rubio may not be above 50% in the perennial battleground state, but assuming he isn’t busy running for the White House people seem to like the job he’s doing in the Senate.
Florida voters approve 47 – 35 percent of the job U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is doing and say 44 – 37 percent that he deserves reelection in 2016.
The next most fought over state is Ohio, and Rob Portman seems to be in about the same shape.
Ohio voters approve 40 – 21 percent of the job U.S. Sen. Rob Portman is doing and say 37 – 28 percent that he deserves reelection in 2016.
And finally there’s Pennsylvania, which always teases the Republicans in presidential elections, but then runs back to the Democrats like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown.
U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey leads possible Democratic challenger Joe Sestak 45 – 35 percent in an early look at a possible rematch in 2016. Toomey gets a 43 – 25 percent approval rating from Pennsylvania voters, who say 37 – 29 percent that he deserves reelection. His favorability rating is 37 – 21 percent.
All of these numbers have one less than positive thing in common: none are over 50%. But this early in the cycle that’s not any sort of death knell to a campaign. Simply being right side up in the numbers – even with a plurality – is a solid sign. Of course, there is a political eternity between now and then where things can change on the turn of a single news cycle, but it’s better than having to dig your way out of a hole before the game even gets going.
One reason all three of these swing state senators might be enjoying some better than expected numbers is that the residents of each state responded to Quinnipiac by saying that they think things are looking up in their home stomping grounds. 67 percent of voters in Floriday said they are “very satisfied” or “somewhat satisfied” with the way things are going, with similar numbers giving a thumbs up to the condition of the state’s economy. An even larger 72% in Ohio like the current conditions, while a still respectable 54% in Pennsylvania were satisfied. It’s true that your Senator doesn’t have a direct role in the state government, but incumbents always enjoy a bit of a bump when the natives are less restless.
Opportunities for additional Senate pickups by the GOP will be few and far between next year, but it will still be a good days work if they can at least hold on to what they have. Looking at these numbers in what might be considered some of the most vulnerable spots, you could be doing a lot worse coming out of the starting gate.