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Sunday, December 4, 2016

As the 2014 midterm elections draw closer, an avalanche of polling data will emerge on the key races that will decide who controls the House of Representatives, the Senate, and statehouses across the country. What follows is a brief summary of some key polls from the week of April 13:

Arkansas
Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) is one of the most vulnerable incumbents in the nation, but polls keep finding that he’s hanging tough in his re-election battle against Republican congressman Tom Cotton.

The latest survey of the race — which was conducted by Republican firm Harper Polling, on behalf of conservative SuperPAC American Crossroads — shows Pryor and Cotton deadlocked among likely voters at 39 percent, with 30 percent undecided.

Although the poll’s sample tilts right — 48 percent of respondents self-identify as conservative, compared to 31 percent moderate and 17 percent liberal — Pryor has stronger personal ratings than his opponent. Respondents view Pryor favorably by a 42 to 37 percent margin, while they view Cotton unfavorably 39 to 31 percent.

Pryor’s approval rating is lower — 38 percent approve of his job performance, while 44 percent disapprove and 17 percent are unsure — but it greatly outpaces President Barack Obama’s 36 to 60 percent rating. This suggests that Pryor’s conspicuous efforts to distance himself from the White House may be working.

It has now been more than two months since a poll found Cotton leading Pryor. The incumbent currently holds a razor-thin 43 to 42 percent lead in The Huffington Post’s polling average.

Iowa
According to a Washington Free Beacon poll released Monday, the Iowa’s Republican Senate primary is now essentially a two-way race between state Senator Joni Ernst and former energy executive Mark Jacobs.

The poll, which was conducted by The Polling Company Inc. and WomenTrend, finds Ernst leading Jacobs by a 23 to 20 percent margin. Four other candidates trail in the low single digits, and 40 percent are undecided. That result lines up identically to The Huffington Post’s poll average.

Both of the top candidates have a trump card that could help them score the Republican nomination. Jacobs has loaned his campaign over $1 million from his personal fortune, allowing him to outspend Ernst by a staggering 10-1 margin. Ernst has significant backing from the Tea Party activists who would play a critical role in determining the nominee at a state convention that would take place if no candidate wins 35 percent of the vote in the June 3 primary.

Whoever wins the nomination will face U.S. Representative Bruce Braley (D-IA) in the general election.

Kansas
On Wednesday, The New York Times reported that outgoing Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius was considering running for Senate in her native Kansas. On Friday, a spokeswoman denied her interest. And shortly thereafter, a new poll confirmed that a Senate bid may not be a very good idea.

The survey, from Republican-leaning Rasmussen Reports, finds that incumbent Republican senator Pat Roberts would lead Sebelius 54 to 37 percent in a hypothetical matchup.

Roberts’ huge lead is to be expected; Kansas is a deeply conservative state (Mitt Romney won it by over 20 percent in the 2012 presidential election), and Sebelius is now closely linked to President Obama and the Affordable Care Act, both of which Kansans overwhelmingly dislike. Although Sebelius was very popular while she served as governor, in February a Public Policy Polling survey found that Kansans disapprove of her by a 55 to 38 percent margin.

Texas
Democrats had high hopes for state Senator Wendy Davis’ 2014 gubernatorial campaign, but the latest poll of the race suggests that the rising star is on the ropes.

A Public Policy Polling survey released Tuesday found Republican attorney general Greg Abbott leading Davis 51 to 37 percent, with 13 percent undecided. That 14-point lead is essentially unchanged from PPP’s previous poll in November, which showed Abbott up 15.

Since she rocketed to political stardom by filibustering an anti-abortion bill in June, Davis has seen her popularity erode in the Lone Star State. Just 33 percent now view Davis favorably, while 47 percent view her unfavorably and 21 percent are not sure. By contrast, Abbott is viewed favorably by 40 percent, while 27 percent view him unfavorably and 33 percent are not sure.

Abbott may be benefiting from Governor Rick Perry’s improved standing. Texas’ outgoing governor now holds a 48 to 44 percent approval rating, marking the first time that PPP has ever found him with a positive rating, and an 18-point improvement from his nadir at the end of his failed 2012 presidential bid.

Photo: uacescomm via Flickr

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