WASHINGTON – New polls out Wednesday show a possibility of a blue shift in the Senate after next week's midterm election, but Republicans aren't ready to give up their majority yet.
In Oct. 24-31 polls by Zogby International, most of the critical Senate seats up for grabs look like they are swaying towards Democrats, who need a six-seat net pick-up to take control of the Senate. While three Republican seats seem like goners, it's still uncertain whether Democrats have enough to get three more without losing any of their own.
The Zogby polls released Thursday surveyed more than 600 likely voters for each race they covered, and each had a margin of error of 4.1 percent. The polls are a follow-up to Zogby's Wednesday release of 15 polls of House races that showed Democrats with a lead in 12 of 15 closest races. If Republicans lose a net 15 seats, Democrats will take back control of the House for the first time in 12 years.
One factor not showing up on polls yet, but which still could impact the numbers: Sen. John Kerry's "poorly worded joke," in which he said if students don't get a good education, they will end up having to fight in Iraq. The Massachusetts Democrat, who isn't running for office this year, issued an apology late Wednesday and much to Democrats' relief dropped out of sight late in the week.
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In the Senate ... At Two-Minute Warning, Virginia's Webb Takes the Ball on Allen's 45
Football analogies are too hard to resist in the brutal battle between Democrat Jim Webb and Republican Sen. George Allen, son of the famed former Redskins coach of the same name. Allen has shown in more ways than one that he's not backing down until the final whistle blows.
The numbers, according to the latest Zogby polls: Webb had 45 percent of the vote compared to Allen's 44 percent with 10 percent undecided.
Painted by his opponents as a lackey of President Bush, unrefined and racially insensitive, Allen has led in the polls for a majority of this race, but Webb has taken the lead in recent days. This margin is as close as they've come of late.
Allen has tried to portray Webb as a creep by releasing sexually explicit excerpts in fictional books Webb wrote. Webb, former Navy secretary under Ronald Reagan, also has been dogged by claims of chauvinism against women during his military career.
Maryland Blue Crabs Stay True to Hue in Heavy Harvesting
The Maryland Senate seat being vacated by Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes has been the focus of heavy polling in recent days, and three new surveys lead to the same conclusion: Democratic Rep. Ben Cardin still leads Republican Lt. Gov. Michael Steele, but the race will go down to the wire.
— Zogby's poll by the numbers shows Cardin with 49 percent and Steele with 44 percent with 5 percent undecided.
— Rasmussen Reports' poll of 500 likely voters taken Wednesday shows Cardin with 50 percent compared to Steele's 45 percent with a margin of error, 4.5 percent.
— Potomac Inc.'s Oct. 28-30 poll of 800 likely voters showed Cardin with 49 percent, Steele with 43 percent, 5 percent undecided and a margin of error of 3.5 percent.
Steele faces an electorate that has nearly twice as many Democrats as it does Republicans, but his boss, Gov. Robert Ehrlich, showed in 2002 that Republicans can win despite the odds. Cardin has built a 20-year reputation as Washington powerbroker, but Steele says he wants voters to see Cardin, a "Washington insider," become a permanent outsider.
Another factor that might get people to polls is the governor's race. Ehrlich is seeking re-election, and he and his Democratic opponent, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, are statistically tied according to Rasmussen's poll. O'Malley has a slim edge in the numbers, 49-48 percent over Ehrlich, with a 4.5 percent margin of error.
A "Leading" Tie in Missouri?
Democratic state Auditor Claire McCaskill has posted her third lead over Republican Sen. Jim Talent, albeit only 3 points, and well within Zogby's 4.1 percent margin of error. McCaskill took 46 percent to Talent's 43 percent. Four percent of participants were undecided.
It should be noted that in the last five polls between the two candidates, two have been numeric ties — one at 47 percent, and one at 49 percent — and three have fallen within the margin of error, meaning a statistical tie. For anyone who likes suspense, keep watching this race.
One factor that could affect this race is a complex stem cell research ballot issue. Actor Michael J. Fox has hit the airwaves in support of the bill, but heightened publicity could bring out staunch conservatives to kill it, which in turn would probably help Talent's chances.
Ford Looking for Some Tennessee Volunteers
Things are looking better for Republican Bob Corker, the former Chattanooga mayor who in the latest Zogby poll posted his third lead in a row against Democrat Rep. Harold Ford Jr. Corker and Ford have been trading off at the lead spot over the course of the race, but Corker's 10 point lead in the new Zogby poll is outside the margin, and could spell trouble for Ford, who has been the subject of recent commercials questioning his character. In the poll, Corker had 53 percent to Ford's 43 percent with 2.5 percent undecided.
Not Burned Out Yet in Montana
Sen. Conrad Burns has been battling a number of political problems. They include accusations of a close relationship with lobbyist-turned-stool pigeon Jack Abramoff, a YouTube video that appeared to show him nodding off during a hearing and a tongue-lashing of local firefighters at an airport encounter. But he can't be counted out just yet, according to the latest Zogby survey. And unlike in some other locales, a Thursday visit by President Bush may not hurt.
Burns has now crawled within 1 point of Democratic challenger Montana state Sen. Jon Tester, who registered 47 percent to Burns' 46 percent with 4 percent undecided.
A Rocky Road for Chafee in Rhode Island
Efforts by Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee to keep this race close don't appear to be working. The new Zogby poll shows Democratic challenger Sheldon Whitehouse ahead by 14 points. Chafee, who took the seat held by his late father, Sen. John Chafee, has marked himself as an maverick Republican, but the Democrat-leaning state might not think he's maverick enough even after he boasted that he voted against Bush in the presidential election.
In the Zogby poll, Whitehouse took 53 percent compared to Chafee's 39 percent. Six percent are still undecided.
Menendez Looking Stronger in New Jersey
Sen. Robert Menendez might get to keep his seat, but it's not locked up yet. While the Zogby poll showed Menendez in safer waters than he has been -- 49 to 37 percent for Republican Tom Kean Jr., with 9 percent undecided, a Rutgers-Eagleton poll put the race in a statistical tie, with Menendez carrying a slight numeric advantage. As other surveys have shown, the Rutgers poll indicates that both candidates are being weighed down by the high-volume political mudslinging: the percentage of voters with unfavorable perceptions of the candidates has crept up.
The Oct. 29-31 Rutgers-Eagleton poll of 500 likely voters showed with 46 percent, Kean with 42 percent and 13 percent undecided (the numbers add to more than 100 percent due to rounding). The margin of error was 4.4 percent.
Lieberman Still Strong in Connecticut
Mimicking the results from a different poll out Wednesday, Zogby's poll out Thursday showed Democrat Sen. Joseph Lieberman 12 percentage points ahead of Democrat Ned Lamont, and Republican candidate Alan Schlesinger lagging far behind. According to Zogby Lieberman had 49 percent, Lamont had 37 percent. Schlesinger had 8 percent and 5 percent were undecided.
Lieberman is running an independent campaign after he lost the Democratic primary to cable company chief Lamont, who ran largely as an anti-war candidate.