GOP pulls ahead with slight lead in generic ballot

Republicans have taken the lead over Democrats in Gallup's latest generic ballot poll, released Thursday.

By a 47 to 44 percent margin, those polled favor the Republicans, the first time the party has lead the Democrats since Gallup started asking the question earlier this month. The number falls just within the poll's 3 percent margin of error.

The survey was taken from March 22-28, after Democrats in Congress passed the $940 billion healthcare overhaul. In the aftermath of the vote, Democrats claimed the momentum in Capitol Hill and said they would talk up the benefits of the the law as a means of winning votes in the fall.

But Gallup analysts say that the poll shows that touting the law could still pose political risks for the Democrats.

"The shift toward Republicans raises the possibility that the healthcare bill had a slightly negative impact on the Democrats' political fortunes in the short run," they wrote.

Voter enthusiasm is also up for both parties, but the Republicans hold a significant lead there as well, 50 percent to 35 percent. Last week, those figures were at 43 percent and 25 percent for th GOP and Democrats respectively. 

"Over the past four midterm elections, the party with the net advantage in enthusiasm has typically been the one to gain congressional seats in the election," Gallup analysts wrote, though it is not clear that it will translate to Republicans taking enough seats to win back the House.


Blunt opens small lead in Missouri Senate race

Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) has built a lead over Secretary of State Robin Carnahan (D) in Missouri's Senate race.

The first numbers released after the healthcare bill was signed into law show Blunt opening up a 45-41 lead. The same firm who conducted the poll, Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, had Carnahan up 43-42 in November.

Much of Blunt's lead appears to be a symptom of President Obama's approval in the state. More than half -- 52 percent -- of voters disapprove of Obama, while 43 percent approve. Blunt also leads among independents, 47-35.

But Carnahan maintains superior favorability numbers, at 38 percent positive and 43 percent negative. With Blunt, those numbers are not great -- 25 percent and 41 percent, respectively.

Unlike other races, the Missouri Senate race hasn't see a great deal in the way of public polling.


Lt. Gov. Fisher continues to lead in Ohio Senate Democratic primary

Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher continues to carry a lead down the stretch in his Democratic Senate primary with Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, but he has hardly closed the door yet.

Fisher leads Brunner 33-26 in a new Quinnipiac poll, which finds the two of them still unknown to large percentages of voters. Fisher would appear to have more power to build his name ID, by virtue of his vastly superior war chest ($1.8 million to $60,000, at year's end).

Fisher leads among both men and women, and women voters say Brunner's gender, which is generally seen as an asset, has basically no impact on their vote.

It's becoming about time for Fisher to make his move, with just five weeks until their May 4 primary. Expectations are high, and observers will be looking at his performance for tips about how he might do in a general election with former Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio).

Voting begins today.

Ohio voters have the option of submitting absentee ballots in person or through the mail without submitting a reason for the absentee request, and they can do this up to 35 days prior to the election.

The Ohio voting laws were the topic of discussion in the 2008 presidential election, when the then-battleground state of Ohio adopted laws also allowing for same-day registration for voters, praised by the Obama campaign and contested by the GOP. 

Jennifer Switft contributed to this report.


Dem base backs healthcare, seniors say it's a 'bad thing'

It looks like healthcare reform, or opposition to it, plays well for each party's base.

A new Gallup Daily tracking poll conducted after Sunday's vote showed young people and low-income adults support the measure while older people with higher incomes do not. Here's Gallup's breakdown:


Hill-Sodrel rematch a virtual tie in GOP poll

Former Rep. Mike Sodrel (R-Ind.) trails Rep. Baron Hill (D-Ind.) by just one point, 43-42, according to a poll conducted for Sodrel's campaign.

The Wilson Research Strategies poll also shows Sodrel in solid position in his May 4 primary with attorney Todd Young and activist Travis Hankins. Sodrel's name recognition from four previous campaigns in the district has spurred him to a 46-19 lead over Hankins. Young, who is a member of the NRCC's Young Guns program, is in third, at 13 percent.

In the general election, only 22 percent of voters say they will definitely vote to reelect Hill. That number was 28 percent in a Wilson poll in 2008, before Hill beat Sodrel 58-38 for a third victory in four matchups.

The more recent poll was conducted between Feb. 28 and March 3, before the healthcare vote and immediately after Hill declared that he wouldn't run for the state's open Senate seat.

The poll actually finds Sodrel a little worse-off than a SurveyUSA poll conducted for the liberal website Firedoglake.com in January. That poll had Sodrel leading 49-41.


Halvorson trails in first post-healthcare poll

If this is any indication of where the healthcare debate has left Democrats, they could be in trouble.

Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.) trails her reelection race by six points in the first public House poll conducted after the healthcare debate.

The Public Opinion Strategies (R) poll for Iraq veteran Adam Kinzinger (R), which is set to be released widely, shows him leading Halvorson 44-38. The congresswoman is largely unknown, with a 33 percent favorability rating and 31 percent unfavorable.

The poll was conducted Sunday and Monday -- straddling the big healthcare vote -- among 400 likely voters in Halvorson's district. The pitched nature of hte healthcare vote probably speaks to the fact that, while 52 percent disapproved of Obama in the poll, 38 percent of all voters strongly disapproved of him.

Havorson voted for the bill.

If the numbers are accurate, it casts the race in a new light. While Kinzinger has been endorsed by the NRCC, he hasn't yet raised big money yet and is running in an expensive district. Halvorson is generally viewed as a second-tier target.

But it appears Halvorson, like so many other Democrats right now, is suffering under the weight of a difficult environment. The generic ballot in the poll shows Republicans enjoying a 43-33 lead, and President Obama's approval rating is just 45 percent in the district, despite Illinois being his home state.


A Wisconsin tossup

The Wisconsin Senate race looks like a tossup if former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) gets in.

A new Public Policy Polling (D) survey shows Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) leading Thompson 47-44 in a hypothetical matchup. Other recent polls have shown a lead for Thompson. PPP has shown some movement toward Thompson, after Feingold led 50-41 in November.

Thompson does have a slightly worse personal numbes, with a 40 percent favorable rating and 44 percent unfavorable. Feingold's approval remains positive but under 50 percent, at 45 percent approval and 41 percent disapproval.

Recent projections have put the possibility of Thompson running at 50-50 or better.


Poll: Majority of Americans disapprove of Obama

As President Obama gets set to sign the Democrats' healthcare reform bill, a new CNN poll shows that for the first time a majority of Americans disapprove of his job performance.

According to a CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll released Monday, 51 percent of respondents disapprove of the president's job performance while 46 percent approve. The survey of some 1,000 registered voters was conducted before the healthcare bill passed the House on Sunday.

Still, Obama remains personally popular – 70 percent of respondents said they approve of him "as a person." And it's that statistic that vulnerable Democrats are likely considering as the campaign season starts.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said last week that the president will soon be out on the trail. "I expect this President will spend a lot of time on the campaign trail when it's time to spend time on the campaign trail," Gibbs told reporters.


A jumbled Michigan governor's race

Things are getting very interesting in Michigan, where a crowded GOP primary field looks wide open at this point.

State Attorney General Mike Cox and Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-Mich.) are now in an effective three-way tie with businessman Rick Snyder, whose personal money and “One Tough Nerd” campaign slogan have boosted him early on.

A new Inside Michigan Politics/Marketing Research Group poll shows the erstwhile frontrunner Cox at 21 percent, with Hoekstra also at 21 and Snyder at 20. Mike Bouchard, who you might recall challenged Sen. Debbie Stabenow in 2006, is at 10 percent.

This is Michigan, but it’s also a top takeover hope for the Republican Governors Association. Democrats have struggled with the economy going sour and the auto industry’s troubles.

Lt. Gov. John Cherry (D) found he couldn’t overcome those things and yielded to some lesser known Democratic candidates earlier this year.

The poll shows state House Speaker Andy Dillon leading Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero 21-9 in an undeveloped Democratic primary.