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Voter ire threatens GOP seats
“We thought all along that McConnell was potentially vulnerable,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matthew Miller. “Every time we talked to people in Kentucky they told us that McConnell was viewed as a very divisive, partisan figure. And in addition to that, tied far to closely to Bush.”
Mr. McConnell’s campaign, however, says it’s own internal polling shows the incumbent with a comfortable nine-percentage-point lead.
“Contrary to the breathless claims of [DSCC Chairman Charles E.] Schumer, there isn’t a reputable pollster or pundit inside Kentucky or out who doesn’t recognize that Senator McConnell is in very strong position for re-election,” said McConnell campaign spokesman Josh Holmes.
Democratic challengers across the nation are hitting Republicans who supported the Bush administration’s $700 billion rescue plan for the financial industry.
Sen. Gordon H. Smith, Oregon Republican, supported the bailout, providing campaign fodder for Democratic challenger Jeff Merkley, who said Mr. Smith “did the easy thing and opted to bailout his buddies on Wall Street.”
In Georgia, Democrat Jim Martin, who is challenging first-term Republican incumbent Mr. Chambliss, saw his poll soar immediately after Mr. Chambliss voted for the bailout bill earlier this month.
“The onset [of Mr. Chambliss’ decline it the polls] seems to be Chambliss’ vote for the bailout package,” University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock. “That’s when things started to fall apart for him.”
The Rothenberg Political Report, which in late September placed Mr. Chambliss in its “currently safe” category, now has handicapped the race as “narrow advantage for incumbent party.” A poll last week by the Atlanta-based InsiderAdvantage polling firm had Mr. Chambliss in a dead heat with Mr. Martin, 45 percent to 45 percent.
Democrats also are mounting an aggressive voter registration campaign in Georgia. The effort expected to boost the state’s black voter turnout, which was about 25 percent in the 2004 elections.
“With an Obama candidacy and Democrats doing a far better job than they’ve ever done in the get-out-the-vote effort, I wouldn’t be surprised if the black vote got up to 30 percent of the total,” Mr. Bullock said. “If indeed it does that, then this race is even tighter than the polls suggest, and Martin might be even slightly ahead.”
Mrs. Dole had healthy single-digit leads in North Carolina against Democratic state Sen. Kay Hagan in polls through midsummer. But by early October, Mrs. Hagan was leading in most polls, including a Rasmussen Reports poll from last week showing her leading Mrs. Dole 49 percent to 44 percent.
Three open Senate seats long held by Republicans in New Mexico and Virginia and Colorado are considered likely Democratic takeovers. Rep. Tom Udall, a Democrat, has consistently led his Republican opponent, Rep. Steve Pearce, by double-digit margins in New Mexico, while his cousin, Rep. Mark Udall, a Democrat, is predicted to beat former Rep. Bob Schaffer, Colorado Republican.
In Virginia, former Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, is predicted to win in a landslide over former Gov. Jim Gilmore, a Republican.
Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska and John E. Sununu of New Hampshire, Republican incumbents, also have trailed Democratic challengers for months and are predicted to lose.
About the Author
Sean Lengell covers Congress and national politics and can be reached at email@example.com.
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