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Polling trends that matter

Recent polling for the 2014 midterms and beyond is plentiful but not always illuminating. There are two exceptions to this: polls that show a consensus for a trend/wave election and dramatic movement toward a particular candidate.

Mainstream media polling outfits seem increasingly to agree that the GOP will win six or more Senate seats, enough to capture the Senate majority. The New York Times/CBS/YouGov poll gives Republicans a 60 percent chance of taking the Senate. The pollsters do not rule out the potential for, at the high end, an eight-seat gain. The poll finds positive shifts for the GOP in Senate races in Michigan and, following the primary win by businessman David Perdue, Georgia. The Times/CBS/YouGov poll echoes the Democracy Corps poll that found the GOP ahead 46 percent to 44 percent in 12 swing states.

The poll numbers seems to confirm two trends we see in many races. First, the candidate problems seem to be with the Democrats (e.g. Rep. Bruce Braley of Iowa, Sen. John Walsh of Montana), whereas in past years the GOP had the self-destructive candidates. If the better candidate with the better-run campaign usually wins, the GOP is in good shape. Second, the president’s “Congress is doing nothing” argument is undercut by the purported agreement on Veterans Affairs reforms. If the House could pass a measure to address the border security issue, created in large part by the president, this would further help Republicans’ effort to demonstrate they can govern effectively.

Early 2016 polling, as I’ve said before, is of limited utility. However, dramatic movement for or against a candidate is worth noting. In that department, Texas Gov. Rick Perry stands out. He is in a statistical tie for first, up five points in a month, in the latest CNN poll. We’ve noted his great improvement and impressive performance on immigration and foreign policy. Others seem to agree. Meanwhile, the Republican candidate who has suffered the most over the past six months or so seems to be Sen. Marco Rubio, Fla., not New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has held ground after slipping from front-runner status. Whether this is indicative of a trend or is merely a polling blip remains to be seen.

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