Amid ballot challenge, Emanuel captures lead in Chicago mayor's race

Rahm Emanuel has a commanding lead in the Chicago mayor's race, but many voters remain undecided, according to a new poll.

The former White House chief of staff has the support of 32 percent of voters, with 30 percent undecided, a Chicago Tribune/WGN poll released Wednesday found.

He was the only candidate in the crowded mayoral primary field with double-digit support.

Former Chicago Public Schools official Gery Chico and Rep. Danny Davis each had 9 percent, with state Sen. James Meeks at 7 percent and former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun at 6 percent.

A third of African-Americans are undecided. While 19 percent are backing Emanuel, Meeks gets 13 percent and 10 percent are supporting Braun.

The news comes as Emanuel and his camp prepare for the third day of a Chicago Board of Elections hearing into some 30 challenges to his eligibility for the February ballot. Objectors have challenged Emanuel's eligibility based on the requirement that candidates must live in Chicago for a year prior to the mayoral election.


Poll shows Sen. Kohl in 'solid position,' but GOP points out same was said of Sen. Feingold

Republicans happily pointed out an ominous parallel in Democratic polling of Wisconsin Senate races Tuesday.

The Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling released a survey showing Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) in a "pretty solid position" with a 50 percent approval rating.

Moreover, the Dec. 10-12 survey shows him with leads over potential GOP rivals Rep. Paul Ryan, former Gov. Tommy Thompson and state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen ranging from 6 to 13 points.

And if Kohl decides not to run for reelection in 2012, as some have speculated, and Russ Feingold opts to make a bid, the defeated senator has a good chance of getting his job back. Feingold, who lost in 2010, polls similarly to Kohl in the same match-ups with the Republicans, and leads Ryan by 7 points, according to PPP.

"Wisconsin Senate looks good for Dems," the North Carolina-based firm concludes. 

But PPP made a similar proclamation in November 2009, the National Republican Senatorial Committee pointed out.

"Feingold looks solid," PPP said then.

Feingold lost to Republican Ron Johnson by 5 percent. (PPP's last survey before the vote gave Johnson a 9-point lead with 3 percent undecided.) The November 2009 PPP survey, however, didn't include Johnson, who declared in May of 2010.


Poll: Former Sen. Talent holds edge among GOP contenders

New poll numbers from the Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling show former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) as the top choice among Missouri Republicans to take on Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) in 2012. 

Talent led the way among Republican voters in the state with 53 percent to Missouri Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder's 26 percent. 

The lone Republican to have already jumped into the race, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman, was third, with just 17 percent. 

Talent is weighing a bid for his old seat after McCaskill ousted him in 2006, but he has yet to announce his intentions. Republicans in the state don't expect him to make an official decision before the end of the year. 

While the poll suggests Talent has a major edge should he decide to run, his lead is more the result of name ID than anything else. 

The poll found 68 percent of Republicans were familiar enough with Talent to offer an opinion, while just 38 percent said the same of Steelman.


Poll: Sen. McCaskill in dead heat with GOP challenger

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who's expected to be high on the list of GOP Senate targets in 2012, begins her race for reelection in a dead heat with Republican Sarah Steelman. 

Numbers from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling out Wednesday have McCaskill ahead of Steelman by just a single point — 45 percent to 44 percent. 

Steelman, a former state treasurer, officially jumped in the race against McCaskill Wednesday, but she could face a primary challenge from former Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.) or Lt. Gov. Peter Kinder (R). 

Both Republicans are better known than Steelman, and the poll gives both Talent and Kinder a slight edge over McCaskill. Talent leads the Democratic incumbent 47 percent to 45 percent in a hypothetical rematch. Kinder leads McCaskill 46 percent - 44 percent. 

One positive sign for McCaskill — independents split pretty evenly in all three hypothetical 2012 match-ups. A full 40 percent of self-identified independents favor McCaskill in a race against Steelman, who gets 37 percent of independents. In a McCaskill-Talent rematch, independents split 40-40. 

The poll surveyed 515 registered Missouri voters and has a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points. 

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee already lobbed its first attack at Steelman Wednesday, labeling her a perennial candidate and "ultimate establishment insider." 

Steelman ran in the 2008 GOP gubernatorial primary but lost to establishment-backed Kenny Hulshof. Democrat Jay Nixon ultimately defeated Hulshof by almost 20 points in the general election.

—Sean J. Miller contributed to this post


Poll: Palin is Plan B for Romney backers

Potential 2012 Republican presidential primary voters remain torn between Sarah Palin, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, according to a new Public Policy Polling survey.

But voters' second choices, should their favorites opt not to run, offers an interesting glimpse of which pockets of the GOP the candidates must compete for.

-If Gingrich opts not to run Huckabee would pick up 31 percent of his supporters, while 27 percent said they would gravitate to Romney and only 19 percent to Palin.

-If Huckabee stays on the sidelines it helps Palin's chances. She's the second choice of 34 percent of his supporters, while Gingrich and Romney take 19 percent and 17 percent respectively.

-Inversely, if Palin doesn't run, Huckabee benefits. Almost a quarter of Palin supporters said the former Arkansas governor is their second choice, followed by 20 percent who named Gingrich and 12 percent who picked Romney.

-Should Romney decide not to run, it helps Palin. She's the second choice of 27 percent of Romney supporters, Huckabee took 23 percent of Romney's supporters and 14 percent said they would go for Gingrich.

The PPP poll of 400 typical national GOP primary voters was conducted Nov. 19-21 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent.


Poll: Bloomberg candidacy would aid Obama in 2012

If New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (I) decided to wage an independent bid for president in 2012, he would end up aiding President Obama's reelection prospects, according to a new poll out Monday. 

Numbers from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling show Bloomberg polling at 11 percent in a hypothetical three-way matchup with Obama and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R). Obama led the way with 44 percent to Romney's 38 percent. Another 7 percent were undecided.

Bloomberg, who flirted with an independent bid in 2008, cut into Romney's support among independents substantially. The mayor had the support of 22 percent of independents, compared to 32 percent who went for Romney. 

Bloomberg also costs Romney support among some Democrats. For the small number of Dems who favored the former governor over Obama, Romney loses half of them with Bloomberg in the race. 

In a two-way matchup between Obama and Romney, the president leads by just a single point — 47 percent to 46 percent. Without Bloomberg in the race, his supporters break for Romney over Obama — 50 percent to 21 percent. 

Bloomberg has repeatedly said he has no intention of running for president two years from now, but that hasn't stopped speculation that the billionaire might change his mind and opt for a self-funded run in 2012. 

The poll also found that just 19 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Bloomberg, compared to 38 percent who have an unfavorable view of the mayor.  

The poll also found Obama leading all other potential GOP 2012 hopefuls, but the president doesn't make it above 50 percent against anyone but former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who trails Obama 51 percent to 42 percent. 

Obama leads former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee 48 percent to 45 percent, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich 49 percent to 43 percent and Sen.-elect Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) 48 percent to 37 percent.


Poll: Obama doesn't deserve a second term; still leads Palin

New national numbers out Monday from Quinnipiac University show 49 percent of voters do not believe President Obama deserves election to a second term in 2012. Among self-identified independents, that number drops to just 35 percent. 

Obama is also in a dead heat with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in hypothetical 2012 match-ups. 

The best-case scenario for Obama, according to the poll — a general election matchup with former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Obama leads Palin 48 percent to 40 percent.  

Palin is also viewed more negatively than any other potential GOP contender in 2012. Just 36 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of her, while 51 percent hold an unfavorable opinion.

"She is very unpopular among independents and although she recently said she thought she could defeat Obama, the data does not now necessarily support that assertion," Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac Poll, said of Palin. 

Obama also came out on top in a matchup with Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels — 45 percent to 36 percent.

"The Democratic base remains squarely behind President Barack Obama when it comes to his reelection, but his weakness among independent voters at this point makes his 2012 election prospects uncertain," Brown said. 

Still, some 27 percent of Democratic voters said they're looking for a Democrat to challenge Obama for the nomination two years from now. 

The poll surveyed 2,424 registered voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points. 


Public has mixed reaction to GOP election wins, new poll finds

The public had a mixed reaction to the Republican Party's wins on Election Day, according to a new Pew Poll.

The poll found that only 48 percent said they were happy about the GOP victory, while 35 percent were unhappy. In 1994, when Republicans took back the House, 57 percent said they were happy and 31 percent were unhappy. And in 2006, when Democrats retook the House, 60 percent described themselves as happy, with just 24 percent unhappy.

And there's little optimism that relations between the two parties will improve. Just 22 percent expect relations to get better, while 28 percent say they will get worse and 48 percent say they will stay about the same.

There is a three-way split in opinion on what should be done about extending the George W. Bush-era tax cuts: Thirty-four percent favor keeping all of the tax cuts; 30 percent say the tax cuts for the wealthy should be repealed while other reductions stay in place; and 28 percent say all the tax cuts should be repealed.

House Republican Leader John Boehner's (Ohio) name recognition is up slightly. Now 10 percent of people see him as leader of the GOP, compared to the 5 percent who said the same in September. Overall, 51 percent said they don't know who leads the Republican Party.

And there is no clear front-runner for the 2012 Republican nomination for president; former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney all receive about the same level of support. Palin and Huckabee both got 15 percent, while Romney got 13 percent.


Sen. Ensign below 50 percent in potential 2012 match-up against Rep. Heller

Nevada Sen. John Ensign (R) is expected to face a difficult primary challenge if he seeks reelection in 2012, but a new poll shows he may not be as vulnerable as some observers believe.

Ensign leads two of his potential primary rivals in head-to-head match-ups surveyed by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm based in North Carolina. Although against Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Ensign is below 50 percent — a warning sign for an incumbent.

The two-term senator leads Heller 45 to 37 percent. Against Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki (R), Ensign's lead is 28 points — 55 to 27 percent. Krolicki opted not to run against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) last cycle, presumably because he was contemplating a challenge to Ensign.

Moreover, 64 percent of GOP primary voters in Nevada approve of Ensign's job performance, while only 23 percent disapprove. His approval rating is even higher with conservatives — 71 percent back Ensign's performance.

PPP polled 400 Nevada Republican primary voters Oct. 7-9. The survey has a 4.9 percent margin of error.

Ensign is considered vulnerable, in part, because he's being investigated by the FBI and the Senate Ethics Committee over his efforts to get lobbying work for the embittered husband of his former mistress. Ensign helped Doug Hampton, the husband of Cynthia Hampton, get a job with a lobbying firm, and his parents provided the Hamptons with a payment of nearly $100,000, which they described as a gift.

Ensign has denied any wrongdoing.