Poll: GOP holds big lead with independents

New numbers out Thursday from the Pew Research Center show that independent voters are more motivated than usual for a midterm election and that they've turned against the party in power.  

The Pew poll gave Republicans a 7-point edge on the generic ballot question among all likely voters--50 percent to 43 percent. Among independents the lead is 13 percent. 

Pew's conclusion: "The Republican Party holds a significant edge in preferences for the upcoming congressional election among likely voters, in large part because political independents now favor Republican candidates by about as large a margin as they backed Barack Obama in 2008 and congressional Democratic candidates four years ago."

It's more bad polling news for Democrats with independent voters about as likely as Democrats to say they will definitely vote this fall. Among that highly motivated group of independents, 64 percent told Pew they plan to vote Republican.

While independents are largely unsupportive of the current Democratic leadership in Washington, they demonstrate no longterm allegiance to the GOP. A full 53 percent of independents said they are distrustful of both major parties. 

The survey polled 2,816 registered voters, including 2,053 voters considered the most likely to vote on Election Day.  


Rep. Murphy down double-digits in new poll

Two-term Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.) is down big to former Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), according to a new poll out Thursday on the race in Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional District.

The new Franklin and Marshall poll gives Murphy a 14-point lead among likely voters in a race that's a rematch of the 2006 contest in the district in which Murphy first ousted Fitzpatrick during a favorable year for Democrats. 

Fitzpatrick leads Murphy 49 percent to 35 percent among likely voters in the poll.

President Obama's popularity is also a factor in this race. Even though Obama won the 8th District over Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) two years ago, his approval rating is now less than 40 percent in the district. 

Murphy had an easy go of it in 2008, winning reelection with 57 percent of the vote over Republican Tom Manion. But Fitzpatrick poses a much tougher test for the incumbent this fall. Murphy defeated Fitzpatrick by less than 2,000 votes to win his first term in '06.

Fitzpatrick has already been the beneficiary of help from the National Republican Congressional Committee, which launched an independent expenditure ad targeting Murphy last week.


Rep. Sestak trails in new poll

New numbers out Tuesday from Quinnipiac University show former Rep. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) with a 7-point edge over Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) in Pennsylvania's Senate race.  

Toomey leads 50 percent to 43 percent in the new poll, mostly thanks to a healthy lead among independents. Toomey holds a 54 percent to 36 percent with that group.

President Obama's approval numbers in the state are likely dragging Sestak down a bit, too. A full 56 percent of likely voters said they disapprove of the job the president is doing. 

And by a margin of 52-43 percent, voters said they want a Senator who opposes the president's policies. 

The numbers also show a sizable gender gap in the race with Toomey ahead 58-37 percent among men and Sestak leading with female voters 51-40 percent.  

The numbers track with the latest Rasmussen poll, which gives Toomey an 8-point lead. 

On Monday, President Obama was in the state to raise money for Sestak, telling voters the congressman is "not one of the insiders who's been part of the problem. He's been solving problems in Washington."


Poll: West Virginia Senate race a dead heat

The special election to fill the seat of the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) was supposed to be a cakewalk for Gov. Joe Manchin (D), but new numbers released Tuesday show the popular governor in a dead heat with Republican businessman John Raese. 

The poll from Public Policy gives Raese a lead over Manchin 46 percent to 43 percent. A full 10 percent of likely voters remain undecided. While that lead is within the margin of error, the numbers do suggest some serious problems for Manchin. 

Despite Manchin's personal popularity — pollster Tom Jensen notes that Manchin's approval is second only to Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) — the governor is being dragged down by low ratings for President Obama and national Democrats. 

The president's approval rating stands at just 30 percent in West Virginia, and 57 percent of likely voters said they think the national Democratic Party is "too liberal."

"These poll numbers show a much more favorable race for Raese than anything that's been released publicly to date, so I'd suggest caution in declaring too much momentum for the Republicans in West Virginia before other data confirms it," Jensen wrote. "But one thing is definitely clear: this race is not going to be a slam dunk for Democrats as might have been hoped at one time."

After Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) passed on a Senate run earlier this year, it was expected that Manchin would have an easy road to the Senate, but Raese has spent heavily on TV ads tying Manchin to the president and Democrats in Washington. 


Poll: Chicago mayor's race wide open

The first poll out on the Chicago mayor's race shows there's no early favorite for what will be the first open-seat contest in the city in decades.

Leading the way were the 35 percent of voters who didn't have a candidate preference in the Democratic primary. And no one among the nine potential candidates included in the poll registered a statistically significant advantage.

Longtime mayor Richard Daley (D) announced Tuesday that he will not seek reelection next year.

For what it's worth, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart led the way with 12 percent support. He was followed by state Sen. James Meeks with 10 percent and Rep. Luis Gutierrez with 9 percent.

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. garnered 8 percent in the poll and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel received 7 percent.

The poll, commissioned by the Chicago Sun-Times, was conducted by the firm McKeon and Associates. It surveyed 600 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.3 percentage points.

The primary isn't until February of next year, but the race is already heating up and Emanuel is expected to make a decision soon on whether to leave the White House for a run at city hall.

On CNN Thursday, Jackson took an early shot at Emanuel, warning that if President Obama's chief of staff did decide to get in the race, "it will become a national campaign."

"The president's record will probably be brought into that campaign," said Jackson, who noted "Rahm Emanuel will have to answer the questions about those communities that have been left behind."

Like Emanuel, Jackson has not yet made a decision on a mayoral run.

Earlier this week, President Obama said Emanuel would be "an excellent mayor," but said he didn't expect his chief of staff to make any decision before the November midterm elections.


Poll: Rubio surges in Florida Senate race

A new poll out Thursday shows Republican Marco Rubio surging to a double-digit lead in the state's three-way Senate race.

The Sunshine News/Voter Survey Service poll found:

Marco Rubio (R)                                 43 percent
Gov. Charlie Crist (I)                         29 percent
Rep. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.)           23 percent

The poll, conducted by Susquehanna Research, surveyed 1,016 likely voters and has a margin of error of 3 percent. 

The numbers show Rubio and Crist running even among independent voters. Rubio has 38 percent support among independents to 36 percent for Crist.

But among Democratic voters, it's Meek who leads with 45 percent of the vote to Crist's 35 percent. It's a slight improvement for Meek among Democrats, which could mean trouble for Crist down the road.  

Crist has doubled down on his efforts to woo Democratic voters and donors since the August 24 primary while Meek has worked to paint Crist as a conservative in the mold of Rubio.  

A CNN/Time poll out yesterday had Rubio and Crist in a dead heat, but it polled registered voters rather than likely voters.