POLITICS
08/06/2013 06:22 pm ET Updated Aug 15, 2014

HUFFPOLLSTER: New Challengers Could Pose A Threat In Two Senate Races

A newly-announced Republican challenger could shake up the U.S. Senate race in Arkansas. A new Democratic entrant to the Georgia U.S. Senate race could do the same. And the “hot or not” debate over Chris Christie - and cronuts - continues . This is HuffPollster for Tuesday, August 6, 2013.

DUELING SENATE POLLS RELEASED IN ARKANSAS - Two partisan surveys have tested the 2014 U.S. Senate race in Arkansas since Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) announced his plans to challenge incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) While both show Pryor polling at roughly the same level, they differ on the level of support Cotton receives.

Union-backed poll gives the lead to Pryor - In a poll from the public employees union AFSCME, Mark Pryor led Tom Cotton by 8 points, 43 percent to 35 percent. The survey was apparently conducted internally by the union. The firm Clark Research is referenced in the toplines, but pollster Phil Clark told HuffPollster in an email that “[t]his looks like one of our boilerplate political polls….but it wasn’t conducted by us.” An AFSCME spokesman didn’t immediately return a request for comment. [Arkansas Times, toplines]

A GOP poll gives Cotton a narrow edge - David Freddoso, writing on a survey conducted by Harper Polling: “A new Conservative Intel Poll of 587 likely Arkansas voters finds that even though 40 percent of Arkansas voters don’t know enough about [Cotton] to form an opinion about him, he still leads incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor, D, by a narrow two-point margin — 43 percent to 41 percent. The result is within the poll’s four-point margin of error, and so the two are technically in a statistical tie. But it’s a bad sign for Pryor, a two-term incumbent in the U.S. Senate, that he is polling so poorly against a relatively unknown opponent — 40 percent of Arkansans don’t know enough about Cotton to form an opinion. The low numbers for Pryor are roughly consistent with a poll released earlier this week by the public employees’ union AFSCME, which showed the incumbent with a similarly low level of support (43 percent).” [Conservative Intelligence Briefing]

An earlier GOP poll also showed a close race - A Basswood Research poll taken in June for the Senate Conservatives Fund (which was aiming to recruit Cotton) found the two candidates neck-and-neck, with Pryor at 41 percent and Cotton at 40 percent. [Senate Conservatives Fund]

Sean Trende thinks the race is a tossup, leaning toward Cotton - “In 2008, the state was 14 points more Republican than the country as a whole. It was 14 points more Republican than the country again in 2012....What this means is that the state is a very different place than when it elected Pryor over a wounded Republican incumbent in 2002, or when he was re-elected without opposition in 2008....If we assume that the polls for conservative groups represent a best-case scenario for Cotton, and that the poll for AFSCME represents a best-case scenario for Pryor, the candidates are probably tied in the low 40s. This is a precarious position for a two-term incumbent, especially when a majority of the undecided voters probably disapprove of the president. So Republicans should be happy that Cotton ran, and should feel good about their position. At the same time, this is a tough race, and they shouldn’t pop the champagne bottles just yet.” [Real Clear Politics]

A Cotton victory would set some new precedents - Eric Ostermeier: “Since states began electing U.S. Senators via popular vote a century ago, there have been 142 contests in which only one major party candidate appeared on the ballot. A total of 88 of these Senators ran in the subsequent general election and all 88 were reelected....Among incumbents like Pryor who did not face major party competition in the previous cycle, the average victory margin in the subsequent cycle for these U.S. Senators has been 72.0 points, with just three decided by less than 10 points.” [Smart Politics]

POLL FINDS MICHELLE NUNN TO BE COMPETITIVE CANDIDATE - HuffPost: “Democrat Michelle Nunn is still little known to most in Georgia, but she is narrowly leading or tied with seven possible GOP rivals in the 2014 United States Senate race, a new poll finds. According to a survey released Monday by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling, Nunn and Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) were tied with 41 percent of the vote, while Nunn also tied with businessman David Perdue, both with 40 percent. Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), who is on leave from her job as CEO of volunteer organization Points of Light, led both former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel and Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), 40 percent to 38 percent for each. She had wider margins in matchups with Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), 41 to 36 percent; minister Derrick Grayson, 42 to 36 percent; and businessman Eugene Yu, 42 to 35 percent. A 60 percent majority of Georgia voters said they don't have an opinion on Nunn. The remainder were split, with 20 percent viewing her favorably, and 19 percent unfavorably. Opinions of her father, however, were decidedly positive, with 56 percent viewing him favorably, and 12 percent unfavorably.” [HuffPost]

PPP pollster Tom Jensen says the race could still change - “Democrats are a lot more unified around Nunn at this point than Republicans are around their candidates, and that's a big part of why the race starts out so surprisingly competitive. Whether it will remain that way depends a lot on how things shake out with the GOP primary field - but it's pretty clear that this along with Kentucky is one of Democrats' 2 best pick up opportunities next year on a map pretty barren of opportunities to play offense.” [PPP]

AJC’s Jim Galloway sees both challenge and opportunity for Nunn - “Nunn’s work is cut out for her. President Barack Obama’s disapproval rating in Georgia is 54 percent, and Republicans will do everything in their power to tie her to him....A couple things are likely to be turning heads in the Michelle Nunn camp: Her father, former U.S. senator Sam Nunn, is still rated favorable by 56 percent of those surveyed. White voters rated him higher, at 62 percent. In each of the above hypothetical match-ups, Michelle Nunn peeled away between 8 and 12 percent of those voters who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012. Both of those are crucial points in a Georgia electorate that has been increasingly split by race over the past six voting cycles. Another thought: In a Nunn/Handel match-up – two female statewide candidates running against each other would be a Georgia first – Nunn polls better among women, 46 to 32 percent.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution]

IS CHRIS CHRISTIE THE NEW GIULIANI? - Following the Monday release of a poll showing Christie topping Quinnipiac’s “national thermometer” as the “hottest” candidate, Atlantic Wire’s Philip Bump noted: “Big day for Chris Christie, with a New York magazine profile hitting shelves and Quinnipiac University identifying him as the "hottest" politician in America. If history is any guide, that combination means that he will finish tied for last among Republican presidential candidates in 2016. Because once upon a time, Rudy Giuliani had his own New York profile and led in the same poll.....Christie's problem is with Republican voters. Among Republican respondents, Christie drops to eighth — behind Rep. Paul Ryan, Cruz, Sen. Marco Rubio, Wisconsin governor Scott Walker. He even trails 2012 also-ran Rick Santorum. This was Giuliani's problem, too. As a national candidate, Giuliani peaked too early and was never able to position himself as sufficiently conservative to win a single primary.” [The Atlantic Wire, Quinnipiac release]

Nate Cohn thinks Christie’s stronger - “In August 2007, a whopping 84 percent of Republicans had a favorable impression of Giuliani. Romney skated by with favorability ratings in the mid-fifties. But even then, respectable political analysts recognized that Giuliani had huge weaknesses. Giuliani’s positions on gay marriage and abortion were prohibitively liberal for a full wing of the party....Chris Christie is in exactly the opposite position. Republicans start out skeptical of his candidacy. He’s at 47 favorable, 30 unfavorable—worse than Romney ever had. That’s presumably because he’s perceived as a pro-Obama, blue state moderate. But unlike Giuliani, he's actually conservative enough to win the nomination.” [TNR]

More on the history of the thermometer - Paul Waldman and Jaime Fuller: “Lest anyone get carried away, the presidential candidate who got the highest feeling thermometer ratings in the National Election Studies over the last 40 years was … you guessed it: Richard Nixon. Go figure.” [American Prospect]

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TUESDAY'S 'OUTLIERS' - Links to more news at the intersection of polling, politics and political data:

-Harry Enten doubts Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell will lose their Senate primaries. [The Guardian]

-The Detroit Free Press previews Tuesday’s mayoral election. [Detroit Free Press]

-E.J. Dionne highlights the results of a study on religion and partisanship. [Real Clear Politics]

-Seth Masket examines the nature of ideology. [Pacific Standard]

-Democracy Corps’ pollsters doubt that health care reform will be a wedge issue during the midterms. [Democracy Corps]

-PPP’s Tom Jensen explains why he included George Zimmerman as a possible Republican 2016 contender. [The Blaze]

-Most Americans don’t want to live to 120. [AP]

-Americans support most baseball sanctions, but not a lifetime playing ban. [Monmouth]

-A study finds direct mail can aid Hispanic turnout. [Campaigns & Elections]

-The Bureau of Labor Statistics releases charts of its June numbers. [BLS]

-The Oxford Internet Institute charts the most controversial articles on Wikipedia. [The Economist]

-Just 19 percent of Americans are willing to wait in line for a cronut. [YouGov]

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