Politics

Republican Governor Candidates Mount Strong Challenges

Audio commentary by John Zogby available now.

Reports earlier this year of the death of the Republican congressional majority in Washington may have been premature, but the GOP remains on its sickbed heading into the busy summer campaign season, new polling numbers from Zogby Interactive show.

But while Democrats appear to have the upper hand in Senate races, the GOP has a chance to steal two key races for governor. Freshmen Democrats Rod Blagojevich of Illinois and Jennifer Granholm of Michigan are both in trouble, deadlocked against GOP challengers who have climbed to near-parity. Meanwhile, in California, first-term Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is showing new signs of life.

Control of a state’s governor’s mansion is thought to help candidates in a presidential election, and Illinois and Michigan could play key roles in the 2008 race for the White House.

Democrats Hold the Advantage in Senate Races

In the closely watched battle for control of the U.S. Senate, GOP incumbents Mike DeWine of Ohio and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania remain in serious jeopardy of losing their seats, New Jersey finds incumbent Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez statistically tied with Republican challenger Tom Kean Jr., leading the Republican scion by a 41% to 40% margin.

New Jersey Senator

9-21-05

10-31-05

1-13-06

3-27-06

6-19-06

Menendez (D)

34%

37%

38%

40%

41%

Kean Jr. (R)

43%

41%

43%

40%

40%

Source: Zogby Interactive survey of 792 likely voters statewide, conducted June 13 through 19, 2006. MOE +/- 3.6 percentage points.

Meanwhile, incumbent Republican Senators Jim Talent of Missouri, Jon Kyl of Arizona, and John Ensign of Nevada, all of whom were once mentioned as vulnerable to challenges this year, all appear to be holding their leads. At least one Republican seat once thought not in play appears surprisingly vulnerable, however, with Memphis Democrat Harold Ford, Jr. within striking distance against the Republican field in the battle for the Tennessee seat currently held by retiring Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Dogfights for Governors’ Mansions

In the nation’s gubernatorial contests, meanwhile, Blagojevich, who faces a stiff challenge from Illinois Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, a moderate Republican who prevailed in a crowded primary field to take on the first-term incumbent, holds a tenuous three-point lead, but is far below the 50% mark in his race for reelection. Worse for the incumbent, though, is that his lead has been cut in half since late March. He is now leading Baar Topinka by a 41% to 38% margin, and his lead falls within the poll’s margin of error – a signal his campaign may be in trouble.

Granholm, whose election four years ago as Michigan’s first woman governor met great fanfare and marked her as a rising Democratic star, narrowly leads Amway heir Dick DeVos by a 48% to 46% margin. DeVos has surged from a ten-point deficit in January to a statistical dead heat just over four months from Election Day.

Michigan Governor

9-21-05

10-31-05

1-13-06

3-27-06

6-19-06

Granholm* (D)

51%

54%

50%

49%

48%

DeVos (R)

40%

36%

40%

43%

46%

Source: Zogby Interactive survey of 968 likely voters statewide, conducted June 13 through 19, 2006. MOE +/- 3.2 percentage points.

That two Democratic governors find themselves in serious electoral jeopardy comes as unwelcome bad news for Democrats expecting big gains in the fall’s elections. And, with Republican resiliency in some Senate contests, plus the cliffhanger election in New Jersey, early projections of major Democratic gains now appear in question. While the numbers still show likely net gains for the Democrats, the latest round of polling shows Democrats playing defense in unexpected places, while Republicans identified as vulnerable are moving out of the danger zone.

Nowhere is that shift more evident than in California. There, Schwarzenegger has regained the momentum in the contest for control in Sacramento. With the Democratic primary victory of the lackluster Phil Angelides, the state treasurer who has been derided as "wonkish" and a "nerd" by blogs and political pundits, Schwarzenegger has seemingly turned the race around. While Angelides led the body builder-turned actor-turned politician in hypothetical match-ups before the primary, the two are now deadlocked, and momentum seems to be on the incumbent’s side.

California Governor

9-21-05

10-31-05

1-13-06

3-27-06

6-19-06

Angelides (D)

49%

48%

45%

46%

45%

Schwarzenegger* (R)

41%

41%

41%

41%

45%

Source: Zogby Interactive survey of 1370 likely voters statewide, conducted June 13 through 19, 2006. MOE +/- 2.7 percentage points.

The online survey was conducted June 13 through 19, 2006, with polling in 25 key states. The margin of error and number of respondents for each statewide poll is given with the above tables. The full data from the surveys is offered to subscribers at zogby.com, and data on key races is released first in the online edition of the Wall Street Journal.

Click here for a detailed methodology statement on this poll. To subscribe to the Zogby 2006 Battleground Polling Series, go to www.zogby.com.


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