Fox News Polls: Democrats Face Tough Job Building Senate Firewall

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Published September 28, 2010

| FoxNews.com

When President Obama arrives in Wisconsin for a campus rally on Tuesday, he'll be visiting a state where his party and his policies are in big trouble with voters.

Democrats are hoping to build a firewall with cash infusions and special attention from the president around a group of incumbent senators to preserve a majority in the upper chamber.

But the latest round of Fox News battleground state polls suggests Democrats have their work cut out for them, especially in Wisconsin where incumbent Sen. Russ Feingold is trailing his Republican challenger badly.

The latest surveys were conducted on Sept. 25 in Wisconsin, Washington, Colorado, Ohio and Illinois by Pulse Opinion Research for Fox News. Each survey included 1,000 likely voters and has a margin of sampling error of three percentage points for the total sample.

The surveys will be conducted weekly until the election.

Feingold Sinking in Wisconsin Amid Voter Anger

First-time candidate Ron Johnson seems poised to knock off three-term Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in Wisconsin as voters place blame for a sour state economy on Democratic policies.

Johnson, who owns a plastics company in Oshkosh, leads Feingold 52 to 44 percent with a scant 3 percent undecided in the latest Fox News battleground state poll. In the survey of likely voters, only 10 percent said that they could still change their minds in the remaining five weeks.

Democrats are pulling out all the stops to try to save Feingold, who won reelection in 2004 by an 11 point margin and explored a 2008 presidential run. Obama is holding a rally at the University of Wisconsin in Madison today and has visited the state four times this year. The first lady is also scheduled to hold a fundraiser for Feingold next month.

But the president may have a limited capacity to help Feingold. Obama, who won 56 percent of the vote in Wisconsin in the 2008 election, carries a job approval rating of just 41 percent and 45 percent believe Obama’s policies have hurt the state’s economy. Fifty-three percent favored repealing Obama’s national health care program.

This may help explain why Feingold is not scheduled to appear with Obama.

Feingold has long been a favorite of liberals nationally, but that reputation may be costing him in the state. Forty-seven percent said he was too liberal, compared to 41 percent who thought him “about right.” Johnson, meanwhile, was seen as too conservative by 35 percent and “about right” by half of respondents.

In the race for governor, Republican Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker holds a 4-point lead over Democratic nominee Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, 49 percent to 45 percent.

Wisconsin voters were divided on the Tea Party movement. Forty-two percent were supportive and 38 percent were opposed.

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One GOP Outsider Fares Well in Colorado While Another Collapses

Colorado Republican Ken Buck is well positioned to unseat incumbent Democrat Sen. Michael Bennet as voters express anger at the federal government and strong disapproval for President Obama’s job performance.

In a new Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters, Buck leads Bennet 47 percent to 43 percent, with 5 percent preferring a minor party candidate and 5 percent undecided. Voters who decide late in elections usually favor challengers over incumbents.

The survey found 56 percent of voters disapproved of Obama’s job performance and 53 percent supported repealing Obama’s national health care program. Forty-one percent classified themselves as angry about the way the federal government works --the angriest state in this week’s battleground surveys.

This wave against the party in power, though, has not been enough to salvage Republican hopes for governor.

Candidate Dan Maes, a Tea Party backed candidate who grabbed the nomination following a plagiarism scandal that sank the hopes of the GOP frontrunner, garnered just 15 percent of the vote in the three way contest with Democrat John Hickenlooper and former Republican Congressman Tom Tancredo, running on the American Constitution Party line.

Hickenlooper took 44 percent of the vote and Tancredo garnered 34 percent. Without Tancredo in the race, Maes would still trail Hickenlooper by 14 points. Maes, who has been dogged by financial problems and claims he fabricated parts of his resume, has defied repeated Republican calls to drop out of the race.

While respondents generally favored the Tea Party movement -- 46 percent in support and 36 percent in opposition -- strong support and strong opposition was almost evenly split, 26 percent to 28 percent.

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Voters Don’t Like Their Choices in Tossup Race for Obama’s Former Seat

Voters seem dissatisfied for their choices in the Illinois Senate battle for the seat formerly held by Obama.

Republican Mark Kirk took 42 percent and Democrat Alexi Giannoulias 40 percent in the latest Fox News battleground poll of likely voters. As evidence of voter dissatisfaction, 9 percent were undecided and 7 percent back Green Party candidate LeAlan Jones.

Kirk and Giannoulias both suffer from trust issues with voters. Fourteen percent of respondents said neither was honest and trustworthy and 27 percent weren’t sure.

Giannoulias has suffered for the closure of his family’s bank following risky loans, including to mob figures and big losses to state accounts as state treasurer. Kirk has suffered since exaggerations of his military service and teaching career were discovered on his resume.

Moderate Kirk may also be suffering from a lack of Republican enthusiasm.

Conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Brady holds a sturdy-looking 10 point lead over Democratic incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn, 46 percent to 36 percent.

Giannoulias is counting on lots of help from the Obama White House to take him over the top and convince disenchanted Democrats to not cast a protest vote for the Green Party or stay home. And Obama will be more use in his adopted home state than in most places on the map.

Obama’s job approval rating came in at 46 percent, better than his national standing in most polls. But even so, more respondents said that Obama’s policies had hurt the state economy (36 percent) than those who said Obama had helped (30 percent).

Respondents divided equally on the question of repealing the president’s national health care program, 45 percent in favor, 45 percent opposed.

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Washington State Senate Heading Down to the Wire

Washington State promises to deliver an exciting finish for the battle for the Senate, with Republican challenger Dino Rossi trailing incumbent Sen. Patty Murray by just one point in the latest Fox News battleground state poll.

Just six months ago, the race wasn’t even on the national radar. Three-term incumbent Murray won reelection in 2004 by 12 points over Republican Rep. George Nethercutt and she enjoys a powerful post on the Senate appropriations committee.

But Rossi, a businessman and former state Senator who lost his 2004 gubernatorial bid by just 133 votes after two recounts, may be headed for another nail biter. He and Murray are in a statistical dead heat. She got 48 percent in the survey of likely voters while Rossi took 47 percent.

Washingtonians went for President Obama in a big way in 2008, giving him 57 percent of their votes. But the battleground poll shows Obama lagging on job approval. Only 44 percent approved of his job performance and 49 percent disapproved.

The problem seems to be the economy. Forty seven percent of respondents said the state’s economy was “not so good” compared to 18 percent who said it was “good.” A strong plurality (39 percent) said that Obama’s policies had hurt the state’s economy. Another quarter said the Obama agenda hadn’t done much at all for the state’s economy.

The Tea Party movement divided respondents almost evenly -- 42 percent were fans, 40 percent were detractors.

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Portman Strong in Ohio, Kasich Slips Against Strickland

Ohio Republican Rob Portman is steamrolling Democratic Senate nominee Lee Fisher by 13 points, but the race for governor in the bellwether Buckeye State is getting tighter.

Portman’s lead in this week’s Fox News battleground state survey held steady. The former congressman and budget boss to President George W. Bush garnered 50 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Lt. Gov. Fisher.

But Republican John Kasich’s bid to unseat incumbent Democrat Gov. Ted Strickland has run into some bumps. Kasich’s lead of six points last week was cut down to 2 points, 45 percent to 43 percent, well within the poll’s margin of error.

Kasich can’t blame the slip on soften attitudes about the Democratic agenda either. President Obama’s Ohio job approval rating hovered at a sickly 39 percent and a large plurality (42 percent) continue to believe that the Obama agenda has hurt the state’s economy.

One way that Portman has helped stay on top of Fisher is by focusing on the economy. Forty three percent of respondents said that Fisher lacked a clear plan on the economy and jobs while 29 percent said the same thing about Portman.

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