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McCain Still Top GOP Dog In Battleground States

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As tracked here at Smart Politics over the past few months, John McCain continues to prove to be the strongest Republican candidate to defeat the Democrats in 2008. McCain consistently, and by wide margins, polls better than his chief GOP rivals in almost all key battleground states—those states that Republicans and Democrats will each need to win to claim the White House.

The latest scientific polling on this issue comes from SurveyUSA, which interviewed more than 500 registered voters December 13-15 in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Ohio, Missouri, New Mexico, Washington, and Oregon. Matchup polls were conducted of McCain, Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani, and Mitt Romney against both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Of the 16 possible matchups in these battleground states, McCain performed the best among the four Republicans in 13 of them. In one matchup McCain and Romney performed the same (both trailed Obama by 12 points in Iowa), and Huckabee scored the best among the GOP candidates against both Clinton and Obama in his neighboring state of Missouri (outpolling McCain by 2 and 5 points respectively).

McCain tied or bested the Democrats in exactly half of these matchups: leading Obama by 9 points in Minnesota, by 9 points in Ohio, and by 11 points in New Mexico, and leading Clinton by 7 points in Wisconsin, by 3 points in New Mexico, by 1 point in Iowa, and tying Clinton in both Ohio and Oregon.

Giuliani beat or tied the Democrats in just 3 of these 16 matchups (against Obama in Minnesota, Ohio, and New Mexico), with only 2 victories for Huckabee (against Obama in Missouri and New Mexico) and just 1 for Romney (against Obama in New Mexico). Neither of McCain's opponents polled higher than Clinton in any of these battleground states.

McCain has been poised to perform the best among the GOP candidates throughout most of the year, despite a campaign that had struggled to gain momentum until the last month or so. McCain has had a great December—picking up the endorsements of leading newspapers in New Hampshire, Iowa, and Massachusetts, as well as that of Independent-Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman.

Recent polling shows this good news for McCain may be translating into support on the ground—McCain trails Romney by just 4 points in New Hampshire (31 to 27 percent) in the latest Rasmussen poll and received the nod of 14 percent in the latest Rasmussen poll of likely Republican caucus voters in Iowa (good for third place, in a state in which McCain has not devoted much resources).

The one caveat to this SurveyUSA data is that it was conducted of registered, and not likely voters. McCain may still be getting a slight bump among some part of the electorate due to his name recongition from having run for president in 2000.

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Remains of the Data

Who Has Won the Most Votes in US Senate Electoral History?

Only three of the Top 10 and nine of the Top 50 vote-getters of all time are currently serving in the chamber.

Political Crumbs

Six for Thirteen

Collin Peterson remarked last month that he is leaning to run for reelection to Minnesota's 7th Congressional District in 2016. If he does and is victorious, he will creep even closer to the top of the list of the longest-serving U.S. Representatives in Minnesota history. The DFL congressman is only the sixth Minnesotan to win at least 13 terms to the U.S. House of the 135 elected to the chamber in state history. Peterson trails 18-term DFLer Jim Oberstar (1975-2011), 16-term Republicans Harold Knutson (1917-1949) and August Andresen (1925-1933; 1935-1958), and 14-term DFLers Martin Sabo (1979-2007) and John Blatnik (1947-1974). Andresen died in office, Sabo and Blatnik retired, and Knutson and Oberstar were defeated at the ballot box in 1948 and 2010 respectively. At 70 years, 7 months, 11 days through Monday, Peterson is currently the ninth oldest Gopher State U.S. Representative in history. DFLer Rick Nolan of the 8th CD is the seventh oldest at 71 years, 1 month, 23 days.


Seeing Red

Congressman Nick Rahall's failed bid for a 20th term in West Virginia this cycle, combined with a narrow loss by Nick Casey to Alex Mooney in Shelley Moore Capito's open seat, means that West Virginia Democrats will be shut out of the state's U.S. House delegation for the first time in over 90 years. The Republican sweep by two-term incumbent David McKinley in the 1st CD, Mooney in the 2nd, and Evan Jenkins over Rahall in the 3rd marks the first time the GOP has held all seats in the chamber from West Virginia since the Election of 1920. During the 67th Congress (1921-1923) all six seats from the state were controlled by the GOP. Since the Election of 1922, Democrats have won 76 percent of all U.S. House elections in the Mountain State - capturing 172 seats compared to 54 for the GOP.


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