Polls indicate that Robin Carnahan, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Missouri, has pulled within 5 points of Republican Congressman Roy Blunt. A new poll by Public Policy Polling shows Blunt’s lead has narrowed to 46-41, in contrast with the 45-38 advantage he had in August.
Other analysts, however, suggest that Carnahan should have been much further ahead by now, and faces a two-week period during which Karl Rove and others will be spending out-of-state funds in Missouri to carry Blunt to victory.
The seat is a potential pick up for the Democrats in the Senate.
The PPP analysis points to two things driving the increased competitiveness of the race.
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One, Democratic voters are getting more focused on the election as it comes closer.
In August only 33% of those describing themselves as likely to vote in November were Democrats, while 38% were Republicans. Now the likely voter pool is composed of 36% Democrats and 35% Republicans. While Republicans have been extremely excited about voting all year, many Democrats are just now starting to tune into the election. This is causing many races across the country, including this one, to tighten down the stretch.
Two, Blunt’s support among Democrats has declined and Carnahan’s support from Republicans has increased slightly.
When PPP last looked at this race there was a large gap in the two candidates’ crossover support, with Blunt getting 11% of Democrats while Carnahan had only 4% Republican support. Now Blunt is getting just 8% of Democrats with Carnahan up to 6% of Republicans, essentially erasing the gap in party unity that is causing many Democratic candidates across the country trouble. Blunt continues to lead overall thanks to a 46-31 advantage with independents.
Carnahan, currently Secretary of State of Missouri. She is pro-choice, has championed consumer protections and financial protections for seniors. She helped create and administers Safe at Home, a program to protect the homes of victims of domestic violence and stalking, which, according to Pema Levy of Change.org, has helped keep 700 Missourians safe over the last three years.
Carnahan comes from a long line of politicians. Her brother is Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-Mo.), and her father, Mel Carnahan, served as governor and was running for Senate when he died in a plane crash in 2000. Her mother, Jean, served two years in the Senate after Mel Carnahan’s death.
The Republican party, on the other hand, is working hard to elect Blunt, a former top-deputy to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Blunt is anti-choice on every relevant issue and has a 0 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
GOP consultants also claim their side will have the advantage with get-out-the-vote operations this year in Missouri. Traditionally considered a Democratic strong suit in most federal races, Republicans are targeting turnout in once-sleepy Congressional districts represented by Blunt and Reps. Ike Skelton (D) and Jo Ann Emerson (R).
And Republicans are targeting roughly 100 state legislature districts and a county-wide executive seat in St. Louis.
“All of those have their own turnout mechanisms … that’s giving us a great deal of synergy in the hinterlands,” another Republican consultant said. “We feel very good about the turnout mechanism, but like I tell all of the candidates, you can’t let up now.”
By contrast, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee pulled its funding for an advertising campaign in a move that was interpreted to convey lack of confidence by the party that Carnahan can win. But, CQ notes that “Many Democrats still consider the state as a potential Senate pickup opportunity, a Democratic operative said, and they’re not alone in their uncertainty about Missouri.”
A Karl Rove-linked group is expected to spend more than $1.5 million supporting Blunt in the next two weeks leading up to Nov. 2, the source said, which shows “Republican groups are still very much invested in the race.”
PPP nonetheless puts Carnahan within the margin of error and picking up support and if her party’s base continues to awaken in the final 15 days before the election “this race could provide a surprise.”