Senate 2006: GOPers Burns, Kyl Struggling in the West

While the keys to the Senate were in the hands of Southern voters in 2004, with Republicans cementing control of the chamber by picking up five seats in the region that fall, it increasingly looks like the West could play a similar role in the 2006 midterms. Already, many GOP strategists believe that Maria Cantwell in Washington state is the Democrat most easily unseated next year, and similarly, Democratic strategists are looking to Arizona, Montana and Nevada to help their party retake the Senate in 2006.

New polling seems to buttress Democratic optimism about the West. First, Charles S. Johnson writes up the results of the latest Mason-Dixon poll out of Montana for the Billings Gazette.

Republican U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns' lead over two top Democrats has eroded, with a majority of Montana voters voicing concern over his taking campaign funds from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff's clients, a new Gazette State Poll shows.

One Democratic challenger, state Auditor John Morrison, is within striking distance of Burns.

If the election were held today, Montana voters favored Burns over Morrison by a 46 to 40 percent margin, with 14 percent undecided, the poll showed. In a Gazette State Poll conducted in May, Burns enjoyed a 49 to 34 percent lead over Morrison, with 17 percent undecided.

Among men, Burns leads Morrison, 49 to 40 percent in the recent poll, with 11 percent undecided. Results among women show Burns at 43 percent to Morrison's 40 percent, with 17 percent undecided.

Burns leads the other top Democrat, state Senate President Jon Tester, by a 49 to 35 percent margin, with 16 percent undecided, in the December poll. The May poll showed Burns over Tester by a 50 to 26 percent margin, with 24 percent undecided.

By gender, Burns tops Tester by a 51 to 36 percent margin among men, with 13 percent undecided. Burns has a 47 to 34 percent lead among women, with 19 percent undecided. [emphasis added]

Note that three-term incumbent Burns cannot crack 50 percent against either leading Democrat in the race despite the fact that relatively little is known about his relationship with indicted GOP superlobbyist Jack Abramoff. As more leaks out about Burns' ties to Abramoff -- which is highly possible given the reported investigation into the alleged "corruption scheme involving at least a dozen lawmakers and their former staff members" -- Burns' numbers aren't likely to jump up.

Burns is not the only Republican Senator in the West facing a difficult reelection bid. Today, Rasmussen Reports released numbers out of Arizona showing second-term GOP Senator Jon Kyl stuck at 50 percent against his well-funded Democratic challenger, Jim Pederson.

The latest Rasmussen Reports Election 2006 poll finds Kyl with 50% of the statewide vote. Jim Pederson, who currently chairs the state's Democratic Party, earns 30% of the vote.

Kyl, seeking his third term in the Senate, is viewed favorably by 53% of the state's voters and unfavorably by 35%. For Pederson, the numbers are 40% favorable and 34% unfavorable. [emphasis added]

While a 20-point lead at this stage in the game is somewhat enviable, Kyl's inability to rise above 50 percent in a head-to-head matchup against Pederson -- coupled with his subpar approval rating (his approval spread has been halved from fourteen to seven points in just three months) -- means that this race is still wide open.

Though these races provide the Democrats with a great opportunity to retake the Senate in 2006, each of these Democratic candidates -- including multi-millionaire Jim Pederson -- stand at cash-on-hand disadvantages against the Republican incumbents.

The winter fundraising period ends on New Years Eve, meaning that every donation turned in before midnight Saturday will boost candidates' FEC filings (which, to an extent, are a gauge of a candidate's viability). So if you're even considering giving some of your Christmas money or Hanukkah gelt to a Democratic candidate -- in the West or anywhere across the country -- try to get it in before the end of the year.

Tags: Senate 2006 (all tags)



Tough race
If Morrison wins the primary, it is hopeless unless Burns goes to jail.

Go Tester go.

by blogswarm 2005-12-26 04:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Tough race
What evidence do you have to support this given that every poll has shown Morrison performing better than Tester against Burns? In addition, for what it's worth, Morrison has raised more money than Tester.
by UKLIB 2005-12-26 05:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Tough race
Take another look at his signature. Answer your question?

I think it's a teensy bit arrogant to assume that the only way Morrision could win is if Burns goes to jail. Can't someone just say you they prefer Tester and then tell us why?

by zt155 2005-12-26 06:47PM | 0 recs
Sailboat Fuel
I can't help but wonder if this isn't just all Halliburton sailboat fuel.  How often can we get excited about barely losing?  I remember, as a John Edwards supporter, that one night Tweety made the comment that sooner or later he had to win.  That's how I feel about all this tonight.

I'm sick of being in second place, sick of catching up.  How about we take it to them for a change.  Can we just once take the attack to them, stop being so happy about 10 points back, and attack, attack, attack.

by Robert P 2005-12-26 04:40PM | 0 recs
Been There, Done That
In a small way, I helped to elect Tim Kaine Governor of Virginia. If you don't want to be forever No. 2, get your ass in gear and your pocketbook open.
by jlmccreery 2005-12-26 05:57PM | 0 recs
Good news in ND
Although I definetly wouldn't put AZ in the same category. There are plenty of incumbent Democrats hovering around 50%, and we breathe a sigh of relief if they're leading someone by 20 points. Let's not go nuts with these numbers.
by zt155 2005-12-26 06:51PM | 0 recs
How can any Republican strategist claim Cantwell is vulnerable?  She has raised the most funds, and her ANWR filibuster cemented key endorsements and a flood of contributions.  I really wish these strategists would supply some empirical evidence to support their ridiculous claims.

And why are we never discussing Claire McCaskill.  She is my favorite challenger of the 2006 cycle.  Claire means business.  Check yourself.

by ilyayavitz 2005-12-27 02:01AM | 0 recs
kyl approval
you say it's a 7% spread, but it looks like plus 18% to me.  that's pretty good, isn't it?
by snaktime 2005-12-27 05:54AM | 0 recs
Re: kyl approval
I posted the wrong link, apparently. Thanks for the catch.
by Jonathan Singer 2005-12-27 07:37AM | 0 recs


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