The latest Quinnipiac poll of Connecticut voters is out, and while it is (standard disclaimer) only one poll, it shows bad news for Chris Dodd, good news for his strongest challenger, Rob Simmons, and bad news for President Obama's health care plan.
Here's the topline result on Simmons vs Dodd:
Former Connecticut Congressman Rob Simmons has an early lead in the Republican primary race for the 2010 U.S. Senate contest and runs better than any other challenger against Sen. Christopher Dodd, topping the Democratic incumbent 49 - 38 percent...
Former World Wrestling Entertainment executive Linda McMahon gets 43 percent to Sen. Dodd's 41 percent...
Even potential Republican contenders with almost no name recognition and almost no Republican primary voter support give Dodd a run for his money.
Simmons leads a Republican primary matchup with 28 percent, followed by McMahon with 17 percent. No other contender tops 9 percent and 36 percent are undecided.
Connecticut voters disapprove 54 - 40 percent of the job Dodd is doing, compared to a 49 - 43 percent disapproval September 17, and say 53 - 39 percent that he does not deserve reelection.
The poll shows Dodd with a favorable/unfavorable rating of -15 (38-53) among men and -25 (34-59) among Independents, and a re-elect number of -24 (34-58) among men and -32 (30-62) among Independents, the latter mirroring the showing of Jon Corzine and Creigh Deeds among Independents.
It's still somewhat early to judge whether any of the other Republicans in the race would be electable against Dodd; clearly, Simmons, as a moderate former Congressman, has a very real shot of winning this race, as he's polling basically where Chris Christie was polling at this stage against Corzine. And bear in mind, this was a poll of registered, not likely voters; the likely-voter screens almost always help the GOP candidate, especially since 2010 will be an off-year election in which polls are consistently showing that voters on the Right are far more motivated and energized. Here's the poll's sample:
From November 3 - 8, Quinnipiac University surveyed 1,236 Connecticut registered voters with a margin of error of +/- 2.8 percentage points. The survey includes 474 Democrats with a margin of error of +/- 4.5 percentage points and 332 Republicans with a margin of error of +/- 5.4 percentage points.
I don't have offhand the overall registration breakdowns for CT. The sample here is 38.3% Democrats, 34.8% Independents and 26.9% Republicans, as compared to 2008 exit polls showing an electorate 43% Democrats, 31% Independents and 27% Republicans. So, Republicans aren't oversampled here; whether the poll oversampled Independents at the expense of Democrats depends on whether you think 2008 turnout is representative of what the electorate will be going forward.
Anyway, time will tell as to whether the other GOP candidates can credibly challenge Simmons. McMahon is clearly well-funded, and her pro wrestling background suggests some familiarity with the kind of populist appeal that made Jesse Ventura a governor, but Ironman at Next Right, a close observer of the CT political scene, thinks she is a poor stump speaker and too close with Rahm and Ari Emanuel and Lowell Weicker to be trusted, including a $10,000 donation to the DCCC in the fall of 2006 while it was pouring money into CT to help defeat Simmons and Nancy Johnson (McMahon herself didn't vote in that election). $3 million in state tax credits for WWE and a heavy WWE lobbying presence in the state capitol are also not the kind of resume lines that are likely to help a populist campaign against the goodies-collecting Dodd. All of which adds up to more reason why McMahon will have a long way to go to convince GOP voters that she's a better option against Dodd than Simmons.
As for Connecticut's other Senate seat, up again in 2012 and presently held by an incumbent from the Connecticut for Lieberman party, Jay Cost has argued that the 2006 race shows that Lieberman needs to win over Republicans and conservative-leaning independents to keep his job, and that this helps explain his opposition to Obamacare:
18% of all voters [in 2006] were self-identified Republicans who voted for Lieberman. 14% of all voters were self-identified conservatives who voted for Lieberman. Simply put, Lieberman won that 2006 race in large part because conservative Republicans voted for him, not Schlesinger.
This means that Lieberman now has to win over voters well to the right of his old electoral coalition from when he was a typical Democrat. Losing the support of the left means he must go looking for conservatives, whom he managed to find in sufficient numbers three years ago. So, suppose Lieberman antagonizes conservatives in his home state so much that they get behind a more viable candidate in 2012. That Republican wins 20% of the vote rather than 9%. If the Democratic nominee can replicate Lamont's 39%, Lieberman would lose.
The Q poll strongly supports Cost's thesis - Lieberman's poll profile is essentially that of a liberal Republican at this point, and Connecticut voters are far more skeptical of the Democratic health care plan than they are of Obama in general:
By a 51 - 25 percent margin, Connecticut voters say Sen. Joseph Lieberman's views on issues are closer to the Republican Party than to the Democratic Party. There is agreement on this among voters in all parties.
Voters approve 49 - 44 percent of the job Lieberman is doing. He gets 74 - 20 percent approval from Republicans and 52 - 40 percent approval from independent voters, but Democrats disapprove 62 - 31 percent.
Voters say 64 - 29 percent that Democrats should not strip Lieberman of his committee chairmanship if he joins Republicans in a filibuster against the Democrats' health care reform.
Connecticut voters approve 58 - 35 percent of the job President Barack Obama is doing, but they disapprove 48 - 45 percent of the way he is handling health care.
Note also that the poll shows that voters trust a Republican over Dodd on the health care issue, 43-37. And this is a liberal northeastern state; today's Q poll in Ohio, which shows some encouraging news for Rob Portman, has voters disapproving of Obama's health care plan by 55-36 and Obama's approval rating running lower than the Democratic Senate candidates.
As a final footnote, recanvassing shows that Bill Owens - who ran against the House health care bill, although he then voted for it as soon as he was sworn in - has lost a significant part of his margin of victory over Doug Hoffman (who also ran against the House bill) in NY-23. Even assuming that the net result of the recanvassing doesn't lead to any efforts to challenge the legitimacy of Owens' election, the dwindling margin of victory undermines efforts to make much hay of Hoffman's loss, and offers yet another data point - from the Northeast, no less - to suggest that support for Democrats and their health care plan is faltering almost everywhere.
If Connecticut is turning into dangerous turf for liberal Democrats and their big government schemes, that should be a sign to encourage opponents of big government everywhere to get in the game.