A new Gallup poll suggested Monday why Republicans running in some of the most contested U.S. Senate races this year will be campaigning fiercely against President Obama, even as their Democratic counterparts strive to make the races about anything but him.
Among the ten states where the president was most unpopular in 2013 are three seen as highly competitive in 2014: Montana, where Sen. Max Baucus will be leaving after six terms; Alaska, where first-term Democrat Mark Begich is expecting a strong challenge, and Arkansas, where incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor is being chased by Rep. Tom Cotton. There are no contested Senate races in the states where Obama is most popular.
The annual list of Obama’s state-by-state popularity demonstrated anew that the country’s political beliefs are, to be charitable, consistent.
Of Obama’s top ten states, popularity-wise, seven have filled those ranks every year since he was first measured in 2009. Those states are Hawaii, Maryland, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, California and Connecticut. Obama’s popularity was a lofty 81% in his current domicile, the District of Columbia, and 61% in his home state of Hawaii. In California, which has given Obama two romping election wins, his favorability rating was 56%.
Similarly, eight states have remained among the top ten when it comes to their dislike of Obama: Wyoming, West Virginia, Utah, Idaho, Oklahoma, Montana, Alaska and Arkansas. Just over one in five residents in Wyoming approved of Obama--making it the toughest state for him--and the rating in Montana, Alaska and Arkansas ranged from 33-35%.
But while those numbers were well off the national average, other contested states had views of the president more in line with the nation as a whole, suggesting that he may not be quite as polarizing a presence in their Senate races.
In Georgia, where Democrat Michelle Nunn is trying to take away a Republican-held seat, Obama’s favorability rating was just over 45%, only a point below the national average if not yet in positive territory. In Michigan, where Democratic Rep. Gary Peters is seeking to hold onto a seat long controlled by his party, the president is slightly more popular than his national average.
Other hotly contested seats feature incumbents well-known to voters statewide, making their own personas and votes as important as Obama’s visage.
In Louisiana, where Democrat Mary Landrieu is battling for re-election, Obama had a 40% positive rating; in North Carolina, where Democrat Kay Hagan is seeking a second term, he was at 43%. Of course, Obama will not be a mirage in those races; both incumbents have been the targets already of negative ads attacking their votes on behalf of Obama administration initiatives, including the national healthcare program.
In yet another contested state, Kentucky, Obama was at 35%, but the vote there will center not on him but on one of his chief thorns in the Senate, Republican leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell faces a tea party challenge in the primary from businessman Matt Bevin, who charges that the incumbent has been too accommodating of the president’s wishes. The winner will move on to a November fight against Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, who has already been criticizing McConnell as too inflexible when it comes to working with Obama.
As could have been predicted by the myriad polls conducted this year, Gallup found the president’s popularity had taken a hit everywhere--by about two points nationally. His standing fell from positive to negative in only three states—Washington, Minnesota and Michigan--but his numbers did not meaningfully improve in any state, the polling firm said.
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