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Bush Drag Not Affecting All Republicans

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One of the greatest fears facing republican strategists in the 2006 election is that the decline in George W. Bush's approval ratings during the past few years is going to drag fellow republican incumbents down with him. While not all of Bush's rankings are in the red (his approval rating on the war on terrorism still eclipses 50% in most polls), it is true Bush's numbers are much lower nearly across the board from two years ago.

However, in the Upper Midwest, several prominent republican incumbents are not feeling the bite of the oncoming cold Bush winter. While newer republican faces in statewide elections might face a tougher hurdle in winning their respective race due to the Bush drag, seasoned incumbents appear to be coasting and are as beloved by their constituencies as ever—whether they are up for reelection in 2006 or not.

For example, in the heavily republican state of South Dakota, Bush's numbers have tumbled drastically from a net +27 approval rating (54-27) in November 2003 to just a net +1 (41-40) in July 2006 (KELO-TV / Argus Leader Poll).

However, the net approval rating of newly elected South Dakota republican US Senator John Thune has actually increased from a net 21 points in May 2005 (56-36) to a net 28 points in September 2006 (62-34) (SurveyUSA). Thune's favorability rating has also risen from a net 19 points (50-31) in October 2002 to a net 23 points in July 2006 (Argus Leader). The approval rating of South Dakota republican incumbent Governor Mike Rounds has dropped only 5 points from a very high 70 to 65 percent during that span (SurveyUSA).

In the purple state of Iowa, Bush's approval ratings have tumbled 26 points from 67% in May 2003 to 41% in September 2006 (Iowa Poll / Des Moines Register). Republican US Senator Charles Grassley's approval ratings, however, have not taken the slightest hit, increasing from 70% in September 2003 to 72% in September 2006 (Iowa Poll / Des Moines Register).

These ratings demonstrate no one should be forecasting any grand demise of the Republican Party in 2006. The potential shifting of control of the US House and US Senate is a big deal—but we're talking about a shifting of just a fraction of seats in each body: 5 or 6 percent would be an extraordinarily high number, and this is likely the ceiling for the Democratic Party come November (15-20 seats in the House, 6 seats in the Senate). Most long-serving republican incumbents should therefore feel confident in renewing their D.C. apartment leases through 2008.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

Indiana has now placed candidates from both major parties on the ballot in a nation-best 189 consecutive U.S. House races, with New Hampshire, Minnesota, Idaho, and Montana also north of 100 in a row.

Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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