Fox News Polls: GOP Poised to Gain or Hold Senate Seats in Key States

Democrats have a mountain to climb in West Virginia.

The latest Fox News battleground state surveys of five key states shows Republicans in good position to gain two seats and hold two seats left open by GOP retirements. Democrats, meanwhile, are well-positioned to hold only one.

The polls in West Virginia, Connecticut, Nevada, Missouri and Ohio show varying degrees of success for Democrats in dealing with low approval ratings for President Obama and his policies.

In West Virginia, even a popular governor cannot escape the gravity of Obama's bad numbers, while in Connecticut lukewarm ratings for Obama seem to do little harm to the well-known Democratic attorney general's Senate bid.

The latest surveys were conducted on Oct. 2 by Pulse Opinion Research for Fox News. Each survey included 1,000 likely voters and has a margin of error of 3 points.

The surveys will be conducted weekly until the election.

Obama Angst Pulls West Virginia Into GOP Column

Deep resistance to Obama's agenda has put a West Virginia Senate seat once thought to be safe territory for Democrats in serious jeopardy.

A new Fox News battleground state poll on the race for the seat held by the late Sen. Robert Byrd for 51 years shows Republican businessman John Raese with a 5-point lead over Democratic Gov. Joe Manchin among likely voters -- 48 percent to 43 percent.

In what may be the year’s clearest case of Obama’s downward pull on his party’s candidates, Manchin gets high marks from voters – 66 percent approved of his job performance and 65 percent had a positive view of him personally -- but they still prefer Raese.

The survey was conducted before new reports that the head of the state’s Democratic Party, Manchin’s former chief of staff and business partner Larry Puccio, is under scrutiny by federal investigators for state contracts obtained under Manchin.

Manchin’s most obvious problem is Obama’s 29 percent approval rating in the state. Only 12 percent believe that Obama’s policies have helped the state economically, while 55 percent in the coal-rich state believe they have hurt. That is borne out in the slim 28 percent of respondents who supported a plan to address global warming like the one Obama favors.

Raese has hit Manchin hard for his support of the president’s national health care law and Manchin has played up his opposition to certain aspects of it and is now calling for the legislation to be repealed. One can see why. Sixty three percent of respondents favored repealing the legislation.

Even among Manchin supporters, 18 percent still said they hoped their vote would register their dissatisfaction with the Obama agenda. Raese drew a quarter of all Democrats and 54 percent of independents.

Also worrisome for Manchin: Of the 6 percent still undecided in the race, more than two thirds hoped their eventual decision would register their disapproval for Obama.

West Virginia also showed some of the strongest support for the Tea Party movement of any of the states surveyed so far in the Fox News battleground poll: 53 percent were supportive, including 31 who were strongly behind the movement. Only 30 percent were opposed.

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McMahon Still Trailing in Connecticut

Republican hopes to pick up a Democratic Senate seat in Connecticut face a tough reality on the ground.

Democrat Richard Blumenthal holds a 10-point lead over Republican Linda McMahon in a new Fox News battleground poll in the race to replace retiring Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT).

Blumenthal -- elected five times as attorney general -- took 52 percent support compared to 42 percent for McMahon, who built a professional wrestling empire with her husband, Vince. The survey was taken before the fiery first debate between the two, moderated by "Special Report" anchor Bret Baier, on Monday night.

Blumenthal was helped by relatively strong support for President Obama. Forty eight percent supported the job he was doing as president and only a slim plurality favored repealing Obama’s national health care law. Forty seven percent were in favor of repeal and 43 percent were opposed – the best showing for the plan in any of this week’s surveys.

In the race for governor, Democrat Dan Malloy, the longtime mayor of Stamford, holds a 6-point edge over Republican Tom Foley, a businessman who served as an envoy to Iraq and an ambassador to Ireland under George W. Bush.

Other pollsters had shown McMahon within striking distance of Blumenthal, but here, voters seem to have deep reservations about her. Fifty one percent of respondents said held an unfavorable view of McMahon, compared to 37 percent who felt the same way about Blumenthal.

And despite Blumenthal’s exaggerations about his military service, 48 percent of respondents said they found him honest and trustworthy, compared to 36 percent who felt the same way about McMahon.

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Reid on the Ropes in Nevada

Republican Sharron Angle seems to be solidifying her support in her bid to unseat Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in Nevada.

In the latest Fox News battleground state poll of likely voters, Angle drew 49 percent to Reid’s 46 percent. As voters make up their mind with four weeks to go until Election Day, Angle seems to have the edge.

In the first Fox battleground poll in the Silver State four weeks ago, 10 percent of respondents were either unsure, in favor of a minor party candidate or, as state law allows in Nevada, planning to vote for "none of these candidates."

In this week's poll, those three categories add up to 5 percent. Over the same period, Angle’s overall vote percentage went from 45 percent to 49 percent.

Democratic strategists hope to prevent an Angle win by driving up her unfavorable ratings and pushing voters to choose a minor party candidate or “none of these.” Angle was viewed unfavorable by 53 percent in the survey. But Reid was viewed unfavorably by 55 percent.

Angle's supporters are growing more certain of their support, too. Two weeks ago, 10 percent of Angle supporters said they could still change their minds. That number has dropped to 4 percent.

While Angle's lead is still within the poll’s 3-point margin of error, this is the first Fox battleground poll in Nevada to show a difference of more than 1 point.

The survey generally reflects a sharpening of opinion in Nevada. A strengthening among Democrats lifted Obama's job approval from 40 percent to 44 percent. Support for the Tea Party movement, meanwhile, rose from 25 percent to 30 percent.

The race remains a true tossup, though, because voters aren’t very happy with their choices. Fifty six percent of all voters said Reid had been in office too long and 53 percent said Angle’s views were "too extreme."

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GOP Looks Strong in Missouri Match-up

Missouri voters see a strong connection between President Obama and Democratic Senate nominee Robin Carnahan, and that’s not helping Carnahan.

A new Fox News battleground state poll in Missouri shows Carnahan trailing Republican candidate Roy Blunt by 8 points among likely voters. Blunt, a seven-term congressman from the central part of the state, won the support of 50 percent compared to 42 percent for Carnahan, the second-term secretary of state.

While 44 percent of voters had an unfavorable view of Blunt compared to 41 percent who viewed him favorably – Carnahan was viewed unfavorably by 52 percent compared to 43 percent who viewed her favorably. That view is not helped by the fact that 53 percent of respondents said Carnahan agrees with Obama "too often."

While Obama lost the Show Me State by less than one point in the 2008 election, his job approval in the state now stands at 38 percent and 52 percent said they would choose the Republican candidate over Obama in 2012. Ten percent were undecided about the next presidential election.

Only 22 percent of respondents said that Obama’s policies had helped the state economically and 58 percent favored repealing Obama’s national health care law.

The seat is currently held by retiring Republican Sen. Kit Bond.

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Republicans Still Gaining in Ohio

Republicans are still gaining ground in bellwether Ohio, a bad sign for Democrats trying to assess their party’s chances in the heartland this year.

Republican Senate candidate Rob Portman leads Democrat Lee Fisher by 16 points in the latest Fox News battleground state poll -- Portman’s widest lead yet.

Portman, the former Cincinnati-area congressman and Bush administration budget boss, got 53 percent of the likely voters surveyed, compared to 37 percent for Fisher.

Republican gubernatorial challenger John Kasich also saw his numbers rise against Democratic incumbent Gov. Ted Strickland. Kasich was the choice of 49 percent of respondents compared to 43 percent for Strickland. The 6-point lead is the largest in the four weeks of Fox battleground polling on the race.

Obama's low popularity in the state seems to be hurting his fellow Democrats – only 38 percent approve of Obama’s job performance and 53 percent say they will support the Republican candidate in 2012 instead of Obama. Obama won the state by a four-point margin in 2008.

But voters have some reservations about the Democratic nominees in their own rights. Both Strickland and Fisher were viewed unfavorably by voters overall – Strickland’s positive rating trailed his negative rating by 7 points and Fisher’s negatives ran ahead of his positives by 14 points.

Portman’s positives ran ahead of his negatives by 18 points. Kasich had a net positive rating of 10 points.

The Senate seat is currently held by retiring Republican Sen. George Voinovich.

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