Senate 2008 Guru: Following the Races

Keeping a close eye on developments in the 2008 U.S. Senate races

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Wednesday Rundown

  • Idaho: 2008 Democratic Senate candidate and former Congressman Larry LaRocco is liveblogging at Daily Kos right now.

  • Arkansas: Republican Presidential candidate and former Governor Mike Huckabee has shown no interest in running for Senate. That might be good for Huckabee because polling shows him getting beaten by Senator Mark Pryor 49-42. Huckabee's unfavorable was just under 40% while Pryor's was at less than 25% in the poll. Couple that with Pryor's fundraising dominance over Huckabee and it makes Pryor look like a safer bet for re-election.

  • Nebraska: The Lincoln Journal Star reports:

    Scott Kleeb emerged Tuesday as a potential Democratic Senate candidate after reactivating his 2006 congressional campaign fund-raising base.

    Kleeb, whose competitive challenge in the 3rd District House race last year attracted national attention, sent letters to his contributors seeking donations to resume his political activities.

    “I am currently exploring several options to continue and expand our campaign,” he stated in letters that will arrive in mailboxes Wednesday. Asked in a telephone interview whether he might be a 2008 Senate candidate if former Sen. Bob Kerrey and Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey decline a Democratic bid, Kleeb said: “I’d definitely consider it, for sure.”

    However, he noted, “that’s a lot of ifs.”
    Kleeb vs. Bruning would be an interesting battle as both represent the future of their Parties in Nebraska. With former Senator Bob Kerrey and Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey still hovering regarding a Senate bid, it's good to see other viable options.

  • Alabama: Doc's Political Parlor suggests that there is the slimmest of chances that Sparksmania could still occur and notes that State Senator Vivian Figures "keeps postponing the announcement of her candidacy for the race."

  • Minnesota: Big Tobacco slayer and Senate candidate Mike Ciresi discusses a wide array of issues with MN Campaign Report. Meanwhile, could Smilin' Norm Coleman be a hypocrite on marijuana (maybe that's why he's smiling)?

  • Texas: John Cornyn and Big Oil are sitting in a tree. In case you're wondering, they are K-I-S-S-I-N-G.

  • Kos and Kagro X offer some further thoughts on Republican obstructionism in the Senate. And they can add obstructing legislation that "would have made it easier for unions to organize workers" to the list.

  • There is only one word to describe Elizabeth Edwards: "splendid." Elizabeth Edwards is simply a splendid human being.

  • 15 Comments:

    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    While I don't think that Huckabee will get into the race, and I don't think that Pryor will face a significant challenge this cycle, I'm not terribly surprised to see you still waffling on your consistency when it comes to parsing polls. It must be challenging to form a conclusion about a race first, and then try to twist the numbers to support it.

    The bottom line is this: Pryor is under 50%, and Huckabee is greatly within reach. That's not a strong showing, and it doesn't make Pyror any safer.

    They both have similar favorability ratings (around 60%), but the key difference is that Mike Huckabee, both nationally and in local papers, is in the spotlight, due to his presidential bid. That will drive people to form opinions. Mark Pyror is one of the lowest-key senators in the chamber today. Most of his name recognition comes from his father. Essentially, his image is soft, and during the heat of a campaign, his favorability wouldn't stand up as high (neither would Huckabee's, but his has already withstood six months of campaigning). If Huckabee would enter the race, it would guarantee Arkansas to be a competitive election, and immediately become a top-tier race.

    As for fundraising, with as much steam as Huckabee has picked up in the last three months, I would advise you wait until the 2nd Quarter numbers come out before making any rash judgements. Some rumors are floating around that he may pull in $5 million or more. Even with an impressive 2nd Quarter from Pyror, Huckabee would still have more money if that turns out to be true.

    3:06 PM, June 27, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    Your kidding, right?

    Huckabee was Governor of Arkansas. Unlike, say, Congressman Tom Allen in Maine, whose district is only half of the state, or Al Franken, who has never held elective office before, Huckabee held the top statewide job in Arkansas. No need for more name ID. It is what it is.

    Meanwhile, all you can come up with is that Pryor's "image is soft"? He's been a U.S. Senator for five years. His low-key stature might mean that people in California don't know him, but people in Arkansas sure do. And Huckabee's disapproval is significantly higher than Pryor's.

    If Huckabee were to enter the race, AR-Sen would become a top-tier race (to start). But not because Pryor's support or image is "soft" or because his favorability wouldn't "stand up" "during the heat of a campaign" or whatever other baseless nonsense you come up with. It would be a top-tier race simply because 49-42 isn't, nominally, a big gap. But against a former Governor with big name ID who is considered the best chance the AR-GOP could offer, it's solid.

    Also, former Governor Huckabee holding Pryor to 49 is hardly as notable as every Democrat in North Carolina regardless of position holding Elizabeth Dole in the mid-40's or lower, for instance. So I really don't understand what comparison you're flailing to make here.

    3:52 PM, June 27, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    I'm not making a comparison to any other race. 50% is the line of demarcation for any incumbent, and Pryor is below that. You're the one who brought up North Carolina, Maine, and Minnesota.

    I made no mention of name ID; conveinently, neither did the poll, though I'm sure its because both candidates enjoy near-universal ID.

    And yes, his image is soft. By that, I mean that people have little to no reason to think about him, let alone anything bad about him, and his name is shared by his father, so they lean towards responding favorably about him. But the reason I think his image is soft is precisely because of the comparison of unfavorables:

    If we assume that, by "about 60%" that the article quotes is exactly 60%, then Huckabee has a 60/38 fav/unfav, which means a paltry 2% of respondents don't know enough about him to form an opinion. Pryor's then is 60/23, which means that 17% don't know enough to form an opinion. That's the difference between hard name ID and soft name ID. And its indicative of the fact that the respondents were more inclined to look favorably upon Mark Pyror because they associate him with his father. In a top-tier campaign when Pryor is the incumbent (rather than a challenger running against the incumbent), his image would get put to the test, and I dare you to find one candidate in a contested election whose favs and unfavs didn't start to balance out over the course of a campaign.

    With a softer name ID than a prospective opponent and being an incumbent both 1) under 50% and 2) only leading by 7%, there's no way that you can say Pryor's chances would be "solid" if Huckabee entered the race. It would be a top-tier race, not because of what you blithely brush off as a "nominal" gap in polling, but because it would be a top-tier race.

    Now, as I said, I think this is all for moot because I doubt Huckabee would enter the race even if he did drop out of his White House bid in time, but you can't deny that the race would be highly competitive if he did.

    5:39 PM, June 27, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    One gigantic flaw in your thinking: you're pre-supposing everything about why Arkansans are supporting Pryor and the depth of their support. You're assuming based on nothing but your own statement that the 60% of Arkansans that approve of Pryor are somehow soft and that it's based more on his father's name than his service as a Senator. Do you have anything to base these suppositions on or are you just pulling them out of thin air?

    8:36 PM, June 27, 2007  
    Blogger Danielle said...

    You've got me, I don't have polling that states specifically that people are reminded of his father when they think of him. But if we can be honest here, its not a terrible assumption to make. His father was a popular governor; his son skated into statewide office as A.G. based upon his last name, and faced off against a flawed incumbent for the same reason. And there's precedent (and yes, polling) in other states to back up such an assertion. 20% or so of the population of New Jersey thought that the Tom Kean running in 2006 was the former Governor. The same for Bob Casey in Pennsylvania. There can be no doubt that Pryor benefitted greatly, if not exclusively, due to his family name.

    However, the numbers help back my case up. Like I said, there is a difference between hard name ID and soft name ID. Hard name ID is where a respondent knows enough about a person to form an opinion. Soft name ID is where a person has just heard of the guy, and might know his job title. (Again, assuming its an even 60%) Mike Huckabee as 98% hard name ID. Mark Pryor has 83%. 17% of responents recognize the name Mark Pryor, but don't know enough to form an opinion. What's more, given his father's popularity, there's likely a segment of the population that can't form an opinion on Mark Pyror, but have a favorable impression of him nonetheless. Even if you don't believe that last part (in which case you're lying to yourself), there is still 17% of the population that has a soft recognition of Pryor's name. There is clearly more room for him to move, as opposed to the 98% of respondents who have already formed an opinion about Huckabee.

    This is the kind of analysis you look for in polling. Take Minnesota. In the most recent poll, Ciresi polled 23 points down and Franken polled 22 points down. However, Ciresi is in a much better position because he's not as well known. More than that, Franken is in a bad position because he already has 80% name ID, and his unfavorables are higher than his favorables. There's not as much potential for his numbers to go up as there is for Mike Ciresi.

    Apply that same logic to Arkansas. Even after being on the national stage for six months, Huckabee has 60% favorability, and only 2% isn't sure what they think about him. Plus, there's no chance to confuse him with anyone else. Compare that to Mark Pryor, where 17% isn't sure what to think, and there's a good possibility (using basic knowledge and common sense, even if there is no direct proof) that his favorability is due to his name. There is far more potential for Pyror's numbers to go down than there is for Huckabee's. And with only a seven-point margin seperating the two, that would spell trouble for Pyror. Of course, there's also potential, theoretically, for his numbers to go up, but when is the last time that an incumbent's numbers have improved during the course of a contested election?

    So, S2G, yes, I'm assuming, but my assumptions are based on fact, on numbers, and on common sense. They're not "pulled out of thin air", as you wish to believe in order to support your ridiculous assertion that Pyror is "safer now" than before because of this poll.

    10:08 PM, June 27, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    Wow, really?

    So, because 17% of poll respondents had no opinion (or were perhaps neutral on their opinion, since neutral wasn't an option), we can conclude that the 60% who did approve of Pryor were softies. Simple as that? That is wildly specious reasoning. Wildly.

    10:11 PM, June 27, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Sorry, I share a computer with someone and posted from her account.

    10:11 PM, June 27, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Yes, that's very specious reasoning, which is why I would never say anything that dumb.

    First, its not as simple as that, you're either not understanding the words I'm typing, or you're purposefully misunderstanding them to set up a strawman argument.

    But here's what we know:

    1) Mark Pyror has near-universal name ID (let's just say for argument's sake, 100%)

    2) Mark Pyror's father was a popular Governor, and his success, especially in his early political career, can be attributed, in part, to sharing the same name.

    3) 17% of respondents say they know who Mark Pyror is, but can't form an opinion about him.

    4) There are likely more respondents who can't form an opinion about Pryor, but liked his father, and so view him favorably.

    5) Therefore, in a tough re-election campaign, his numbers have a greater chance of moving downwards than his potential opponent's. And since he only has a 7-point lead as it is on an unannounced candidate, then that would be bad news for Pyror.

    Which part of this are you getting hung up on? Is it the logical part, or the conclusion that a Democrat isn't as safe as you'd like to believe?

    10:25 PM, June 27, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    Thank you for numbering your sentences so I can refer easily to where you go off track. I'll give you #1 and #2.

    In #3 you say: "17% of respondents say they know who Mark Pyror is, but can't form an opinion about him." Wrong. Maybe they can form an opinion about him and their opinion is neutral. Since "neutral" wasn't a poll option, we don't know and can't assume. But "neutrality" in opinion is hardly an unreasonable option.

    In #4, you say "There are likely more respondents who can't form an opinion about Pryor, but liked his father, and so view him favorably." Again, you base this on nothing. Just because some New Jerseyites actively confused Tom Kean Sr. and Tom Kean Jr. (which was intentional on Jr.'s part!), that doesn't mean Arkansans are confused about the Pryors or that the 60% who approve of Pryor are soft just because they also happened to like his father. You're making an unfounded assumption.

    So, that is where I'm "getting hung up," as you so condescendingly put it. It's the part where you confuse your baseless assumptions with actual fact. Was that any clearer?

    10:58 PM, June 27, 2007  
    Blogger Johnny C said...

    Good to see you two back at it. Things had been so civil reasoned and boring around here lately.

    On to the topic at hand. You are both right and both talking past each other.

    Pryor is up on Huckabee which is better than being behind. Huckabee is a popular former governor so being up 49-42 is no small feat. The 17% that have no opinion or a neutral opinion are more likely (if history is any guide) to break against the incumbent than for the incumbent.

    That said, that may not be much comfort to Huckabee because both Huckabee and Pryor are very well known. Huckabee is not a typical challenger so just driving up Pryor's negatives may not drive voters to him.

    But as you both said, this, if it happened, would be a battle to two heavyweights. I do not think it will happen and I do not think the AR GOP has anyone else who can give Pryor a run.

    11:30 PM, June 27, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Without any proof or confirmation, I assume that the sun will rise tomorrow. Is it an assumption? Yes. Is it based in fact? Yes.

    There is a difference between an assumption based out of nothing, and an assumption based out of political experience. The fact of the matter is that Pyror's career in politics has always been guided by his father's name, and in the absence of a notable record or a personality, what people don't know about Pyror they will attribute to his father. Again, this is not all of the 60%, but at least a segment of it.

    You're denying that this is even possible, which is simply ludicrious. Even someone as purposefully obtuse has to recognize the possibility that what I'm saying is true. The question you should be asking is, "How true is it?" and "What can Mark Pryor do about it?", rather than sticking your head in the sand.

    Where you continually get me wrong is that you think I'm saying his entire 60% approval is soft. Not true. But Pryor's favorability is more likely to drop in this scenario than Huckabee's, because Pryor is 1) the incumbent, and 2) because at least part of it is soft.

    7:28 AM, June 28, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    OK, va blogger, would you like to know why Pryor's support is more solid than Huckabee's? Look at the poll. Both guys get 60% approval. But, matched up against each other, Pryor wins 49-42.

    That means that, assuming the 49% that support Pryor against Huckabee also approve of him, 49% are with Pryor "strong" and 11% (60% approval minus 49% supporting Pryor over Huckabee) are "soft." At the same time, while 60% also approve of Huckabee, only 42% support him over Pryor, so at least 18% of Huckabee's support (60% minus 42%) is "soft." And that little bit of analysis was based on the actual numbers at hand. Would you like to contradict that?

    (And, even though you keep putting words in my mouth, I never denied that part of Pryor's appeal was his father. All I'm saying is that, right now - in 2007, not 2002 - having been a Senator for five years, those that support him now support him because he's been a Senator worth approving of, not just because of his dad. And you have yet to display any data from actual Arkansans to suggest otherwise. And, no, va blogger, repeating yourself ad nauseum doesn't count as "data.")

    10:29 AM, June 28, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    Well, no, its not that simple. For starters, Mike Huckabee isn't a candidate, and going along with the whole "not a candidate" thing, there is no campaign. Huckabee has focused on national issues. Pryor, as best as anyone can tell, has focused on state issues. You can't just look at the ballot test and compare it to the fav/unfav rating. I mean, you can, but its really a backwards way of looking at it.

    Both men are relatively popular among voters, so there is obviously a subset of the population (probably around 33%, which would coincedentally be around the number of moderate or independent voters) that approves of both men. That is where the battleground would be in such a race. However, there is a difference between an unaffiliated voter and a respondent with gives the incumbent a soft name ID.

    You're looking at the snapshot of data and forming a conclusion that Pyror would be solid. I'm looking at the potential, based on the numbers given, and seeing what would or could happen in such a race. Pyror's name ID is softer than Huckabee's, for a variety of undeniable reasons. Therefore, his numbers have a greater chance of moving, and during a campaign, those numbers move down.

    Do you see what I'm getting at? If Huckabee actually did join the race, I guarantee you the election results would not be 49% to 42% of the vote. Its not a matter of looking at the snapshot, its a matter of looking at the race given what we know, and these numbers increase what we know, assuming one knows how to interpret them.

    BTW, you got mentioned on the Hotline's Wake-Up call for your Dole piece. Kudos.

    10:42 AM, June 28, 2007  
    Blogger Senate2008Guru said...

    I do see what you're getting at. You're "looking at the potential," which is another way of saying "you're making stuff up." You're still equating "stuff you think" (including Pryor's support at this point in time being based more on his father's last name than his Senate service) with "actual, demonstrable fact." And you just keep repeating yourself. I think I'm done on this string.

    11:05 AM, June 28, 2007  
    Blogger VA Blogger said...

    First of all, I'm not making anything up. Second, you are.

    I've never once said that all of Pyror's 60% favorability is soft, yet you've implied that I've said it twice.

    I've never once said that Pyror's favorability is more to do with his name than his Senate service.

    Where in the blue hell are you getting this from? Because its clearly not from any of the words that I've typed.

    You can't blame me for repeating myself when you still misinterpret and fail to understand the basic points I make. Help me help you. What can I do to help you accurately understand what I'm saying?

    12:44 PM, June 28, 2007  

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