Gallup: Obama's going to be an anchor in key states

Gallup’s look at Barack Obama’s approval ratings in battleground states shows that Democrats face some mighty headwinds — especially in states where they hope to hang onto Senate seats. In six states with tight races, the President’s unpopularity may provide the difference in control of the upper chamber:

In an election in which President Barack Obama’s mediocre approval ratings have cast a shadow on Democrats’ efforts to maintain their slim Senate majority, his image has remained generally weak in six states featuring competitive races. This includes sub-40% approval ratings over the last several months in Iowa (38%), Kansas (33%) and Arkansas (29%). In two other states, North Carolina (42%) and Georgia (41%), Obama’s approval ratings have been about equal to his national average. Among these six states, only in Colorado has Obama’s approval rating (46%) been higher than his national rating.

These results come from aggregated Gallup U.S. Daily tracking data collected July 1 through Oct. 15, 2014, among adults living in six states featuring high-profile Senate races this year. Sample sizes range from 513 in Kansas to 1,744 in North Carolina. Each state sample is weighted to be demographically representative of the state.

Obama’s enervated approval rating has undoubtedly benefited Republican candidates across the country, particularly in terms of motivating turnout, but in a few key states, Democrats’ association with the unpopular president has the potential to be particularly troublesome. In Iowa and Arkansas, where fewer than two in five residents approve of the president, Republicans have strong possibilities of taking Senate seats from Democrats. In Kansas, another state with a sub-40% Obama approval rating, one reason the Republican incumbent is having a hard time profiting from the anti-Obama environment is because there is no Democrat in the race, rather an independent challenger whose ultimate partisan allegiance is unclear.

But even in states where Obama’s approval rating is higher — like in North Carolina and Georgia, where it matches the national average, or in Colorado, where Obama scores slightly better than the national average — Democratic candidates are still fighting an uphill battle.

The argument for Obama’s approval ratings being an issue isn’t novel, but the depth of the problem might be news to some. For instance, in Arkansas, Obama’s approval rating has dropped to an average 29% from July 1st to mid-October. That can’t help Mark Pryor in his re-election bid against Tom Cotton, especially since Pryor has done next to nothing to distance himself from Obama’s agenda, aside from some cheap talk on the campaign trail. The amazing story in Arkansas may not be that Pryor now trails Cotton by seven in the RCP average, but that he only trails by seven. Pryor hasn’t led in the RCP average since the spring, and the last poll showing him with a lead was a Suffolk poll almost two months ago.

Interestingly, Arkansas is the only state in which Obama’s approval has dropped outside of the margin of error. Colorado is the only state where Obama’s approval has improved outside the MoE, going from 41% in the first half of the year to 46%. Yet Cory Gardner appears ready to win that state for the GOP, with a narrow RCP average lead of 2.5% and the lead in all but two of the last 20 polls taken in the state. The gubernatorial race is much closer, but John Hickenlooper hasn’t been at 50% in any poll since mid-September. It’s not all about Obama, if Colorado is any indication.

The other four states have worse news for Democrats:

  • Iowa – Obama 38%; Ernst +2.3, lead or tie in last six polls (and got 51% in final DMR poll)
  • Kansas – Obama 33%; Democrat dropped out of race, independent Orman up 0.8% but both declining
  • North Carolina – Obama 42%; Hagan +0.7 but has never hit 50% in polling (three way race, though)
  • Georgia – Obama 41%; Perdue +3.0, led nine of last ten polls (other a tie)

The final Georgia poll by WSB-TV/Landmark puts Perdue just shy of 50%, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal just over it:

Monday shows both Gov. Nathan Deal and Senate candidate David Perdue may have enough votes to avoid a runoff in their respective races.

Deal leads Democrat Jason Carter by a margin of 50.8 percent to 44.5 percent in the poll. Libertarian candidate Andrew Hunt has fallen to 2.5 percent.

Perdue is just short of the 50 percent threshold to avoid a runoff in the U.S. Senate race. The poll shows Perdue leading Democrat Michelle Nunn by 49.8 percent to 45.6 percent.

Landmark Communications conducted the poll on Sunday evening following the U.S. Senate debate on Channel 2.

Even if this goes to a runoff, Obama’s overhang and the turnout for special elections will sink Nunn’s candidacy. There is a better chance than previously thought that this race won’t go to a runoff, though, with Nunn fading in the stretch. Obama’s unpopularity, even though milder in Georgia, is likely to produce a turnout model that would get Perdue over the finish line tonight.

We shall see soon enough, of course, but Republicans have to be encouraged by the signals so far.