Senate races

Senate races

GOP Poll: Heller leads Berkley by 6 points in Nevada

Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) leads Rep. Shelley Berkley (D-Nev.) by 48 percent to 42 percent, according to a poll conducted by Republican pollster Glen Bolger.

The Heller-Berkley matchup is expected to be one of the hardest fought in the country, and Democrats view it as one of their two best pickup opportunities, along with Massachusetts.

Heller leads Berkley by 17 points in Washoe County, a bellwhether area that he represented in Congress. President Obama carried the county by 13 points in 2008, when he won the state by a similar margin; Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid carried it by five points when he won reelection with that same margin in 2010.

While partisan polls usually have a tilt towards their party, the Las Vegas Sun's political guru, Jon Ralston, points out that he has been "spot on" in predicting Nevada elections in the past.

The poll of 500 likely voters, conducted for the Retail Association of Nevada, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.38 percent.

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'Birther' Orly Taitz might challenge Feinstein

Orly Taitz, a leading member in the fringe "birther" movement to discredit President Obama's citizenship, is considering a run against Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), according to the Sacramento Bee.

Recent polling shows Feinstein could be vulnerable, but it is unlikely Taitz would be the one to bring her down. Michael Reagan, son of former President Ronald Reagan, has also said he's considering a run.

Taitz, an Irvine dentist and Israeli emigre, is best known for pushing the roundly debunked theory that Obama is not a U.S. citizen and therefore ineligible to be president. She was crushed in a GOP primary for secretary of state last election.

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Pennsylvania GOP wooing Rep. Meehan to for Senate challenge

Pennsylvania Republicans are trying to convince freshman Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.) to challenge Sen. Bob Casey Jr. (D-Pa.), according to the Delaware County Daily Times.

Meehan won a Democratic-leaning suburban Philadelphia district in a very Republican year by an 11-point margin. It is unclear whether he is interested in an uphill run against Casey — his spokesman said only that he's currently focused on his district.

Republicans have been struggling to find a top-tier recruit against Casey, a centrist who has positioned himself well in the swing state. A June poll conducted by the Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling showed he could be vulnerable but was in a fairly strong position for reelection, with 40 percent of voters approving of the job he was doing to just 32 percent disapproving.

Casey, whose father was a popular governor, beat then-Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) by a 17-point margin in 2006, a great year for Democrats.

The freshman Republican is not well-known around the state, but his centrist positions on some social issues could make him a viable challenger should President Obama's numbers continue to slip in the state or should Casey make any missteps. Meehan's district is likely to become more Republican from redistricting, which could make him less interested in an uphill statewide campaign.

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Poll: Feinstein vulnerable in California

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) might be vulnerable to a Republican challenger.

According to a new Field poll, just 41 percent of California voters support reelecting the longtime centrist incumbent, who won her last two reelections with ease, while 44 percent oppose reelecting her. Feinstein's job approval rating remains positive, but at a dangerously low 41 percent approving, with 39 percent disapproving.

The poll is the latest worrisome sign for Senate Democrats. Still, it it is unclear whether California Republicans could field a serious challenger to Feinstein who could raise the multiple millions of dollars needed for a campaign in the highly expensive state, and having GOP candidates spend multiple millions of dollars in 2010, a great Republican year, Democrats held on to both a gubernatorial and Senate seat by double-digit margins.

Feinstein's numbers are likely being dragged down more by a general disapproval of Congress than any failing of her own: Just 9 percent of California voters approved of Congress in the poll.

Her numbers are much worse now than they were at the same point in her last serious reelection. In August 1993, 53 percent of voters backed Feinstein's reelection in a Field poll. She went on to squeak out a win with 47 percent of the vote against billionaire Michael Huffington the following year.

Feinstein also could be in trouble monetarily: Her campaign treasurer was just arrested earlier this month for embezzlement, and she told supporters that her campaign fund may have been "wiped out," according to the Los Angeles Times.

Republicans Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman, the two Republican standard-bearers from 2010, have the personal resources to match Feinstein, but it is unclear whether either will want to run again after their big-margin losses last election. Some California House members whose districts were made much more difficult to hold could also decide to challenge her: Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), who no longer has a Republican-leaning district to run in, could prove a tough candidate.

The poll of 1,001 registered was conducted from Sept. 1-12, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent.

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Poll: McMahon ahead in GOP primary, but fares worse against Dems

Former wrestling magnate Linda McMahon is ahead in the Republican primary for the Senate seat in Connecticut, but would have a tougher time in the general election, a poll out Friday shows.

The Quinnipiac University poll has McMahon beating former Rep. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) 50-35, but losing in a matchup with two Democratic candidates, Rep. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Connecticut Secretary of State Susan Bysiewicz (D).

In a general election, the poll showed, Bysiewicz would lead McMahon 46-38, and Murphy would beat her 49-38.

McMahon left her position as the head of World Wrestling Entertainment to run for Senate in 2010, but was defeated by Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) by 11 points. She is said to be planning a second go in 2012, this time for the seat left open by Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-Conn.) upcoming retirement.

McMahon would be the state's first female senator if elected, but the poll found women are less likely to have formed an opinion in the Republican primary. McMahon is ahead of Shays 54-37 among Republican men; among women, it's 47-32.

President Obama gets mixed reviews from Connecticut voters, with 48 percent approving of his job performance and 48 percent disapproving. But matched up leading GOP presidential candidates, Obama leads Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) 52-33 and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) 49-36.

The poll of 1,230 registered voters was conducted Sept. 8 to 13 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points.

- This post was updated on Sept. 21 to correct a figure.

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Rep. Kind won't run for Senate in Wisconsin

Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wis.) has announced he won't run for the Senate, eliminating the largest hurdle for Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) to be the Democratic nominee to replace retiring Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.). This will allow Baldwin to save her resources for what could be a tough general-election fight in the Democratic-leaning state.

"Now is not my time to run for the U.S. Senate," Kind said in a statement Thursday. "The issues are just too pressing right now. Furthermore, at this time a divisive primary contest will not serve the interests of the state or the real needs of families. It will not create one job, help one family pay for college, cut one dollar from our state or federal deficit, protect one senior citizen’s Social Security and Medicare, or help one of the thousands of veterans in Wisconsin who served our country. Most certainly it will not reduce the hyper partisanship that is needlessly tearing apart our state and country."

Kind survived a tough race in 2010 in a swing district along the Mississippi River, but his district became safer in redistricting and he is unlikely to face another serious challenge in future years — making the prospect of giving up a safely Democratic seat to run for the Senate somewhat less enticing for Kind.

Baldwin is a liberal congresswoman from Madison who has a fervent following among the state's liberal base and would be the first openly gay senator. She would likely have started a primary with an advantage over Kind, who is known as more of a centrist.

Former Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.) from northeastern Wisconsin is still seriously considering a run. But Kind has much more political experience in the state and deeper connections with Wisconsin Democrats, and would have been a stronger opponent against Baldwin.

On the Republican side, former Rep. Mark Neumann (R-Wis.) is running, as is Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson is also expected to run for the seat.

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EMILY's List gets behind Warren for Senate

Elizabeth Warren (D), who announced Wednesday she would run for Senate in Massachusetts against Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.), has won the approval of EMILY's List, which backs female candidates who come out in favor of abortion rights.

While Brown has a relatively pro-abortion-rights record, especially for a Republican, Democrats are still hurting from his 2010 win over Martha Coakley (D), a bruising defeat in what was considered one of the safest Democratic seats in the Senate. It was also a missed chance for Massachusetts to elect its first female senator.

"Scott Brown has pursued a corporate-backed, anti-woman Republican agenda ever since he rode the Tea Party wave into office," said EMILY's List President Stephanie Schriock in a statement Thursday announcing the endorsement. "Elizabeth Warren is the leader who will truly fight for middle-class families in Massachusetts."

Half a dozen other Democratic candidates will vie with Warren for the chance to take on Brown, but as the person who spearheaded President Obama's consumer protection efforts, Warren already has a national profile and will likely secure the support of high-powered fundraising and campaign groups.

Early signs from Brown's campaign indicate he will seek to portray Warren as an out-of-touch elitist more suited for the ivory tower than retail populism. Warren teaches at Harvard University and is known for speaking eloquently about complicated economic policy.

Although Democrats have a registration advantage of about a million voters in Massachusetts, Brown remains popular in the state. A poll by radio station WBUR in the days before Warren officially announced showed Brown nine points ahead of Warren.

In 2009-10, EMILY's List raised almost $40 million to support female politicians.

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