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Plane flap hasn't affected McCaskill's poll numbers

All that bad news about Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill’s use of her airplane?

Never mind.

A new poll out today from Public Policy Polling shows that her re-election prospects haven’t suffered (though they’re not great either).

McCaskill’s approval rating in early March was 46%. And it’s still 46 percent, the pollster said.

And.McCaskll had small leads over a cadre of potential 2012 Republican opponents in early Marchand she still does.

Bottom line: The race still looms as a toss-up contest — just as it has for months. McCaskill’s position now is no worse than it was before the airplane caper arose.

Still, her numbers aren’t great: 46 percent of voters in the state approve of the job McCaskill is doing compared with 47 percent who disapprove.

Feelings about her continue to be almost completely polarized along party lines. Only 11% of Republicans like how she’s doing, but at the same time just 13% of Democrats are unhappy with her.

McCaskill’s numbers are a strong contrast to, for instance, Governor Jay Nixon who is liked by many Republicans but also disliked by many Democrats. McCaskill is in positive territory with independents this time around at 50/43.

McCaskill has small leads over five potential Republicans we tested against her. Todd Akin continues to be the strongest, trailing by just a single point at 46-45.

That result is basically unchanged from a 45-44 McCaskill lead on our last poll.

Doing next best are Sarah Steelman and Blaine Luetkemeyer who each trail by 3 points at 45-42. The Steelman margin is exactly identical to our March poll, while this is the first time we’ve polled Luetkemeyer.

John Brunner, tested for the first time, trails 47-41 and Ed Martin does the worst with a 46-39 deficit, almost identical to the 46-40 spread he trailed by on our previous poll.

These margins don’t exactly look comfortable for McCaskill and a look inside the numbers suggests they’re likely to get worse. There are a good deal more undecided Republicans than Democrats in all of these match ups- 5% more undecided GOP voters against Steelman, 6% more against Akin, 10% more against Luetkemeyer, 11% more against Brunner, and 12% more against Martin. If those folks end up coming ‘home’ you’re looking at each of the Republican picking up another 2-4 points on the margin.

Why are there so many more Republican undecideds? The crop of GOP candidates continues to be mostly unknown to voters in the state. None of them reaches 50% name recognition. Steelman is the best known with 48% of voters having an opinion about her, 26% positive and 22% negative. She’s followed by 39% who know Akin (18/21), 36% who know Luetkemeyer (14/22), 31% who know Martin (11/20), and 27% who know Brunner (8/19).

The state of this race remains the same- McCaskill is one of the most vulnerable incumbents up for reelection next year. But the bad news cycles she endured over the last few months seemed like they had the potential to shift this race to one where she was favored to lose. In that sense the continued toss up status of the contest is good news for her.

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