PPP: Kitzhaber and Merkley in solid, not great, position looking ahead to 2014

Kari Chisholm FacebookTwitterWebsite

OK, I'm way behind on covering the second release of numbers from Public Policy Polling. (Previously, they gave us numbers on the presidential race and statewide offices.)

In their second release, PPP looked ahead to 2014, matching up Governor John Kitzhaber and Senator Jeff Merkley each against the same set of four possible challengers.

First, job approvals:

As PPP notes, Merkley's 29% not-sure suggests "a pretty low profile in the state." If you, like me, are a big fan of Senator Merkley, make sure you let people know. Let's not make Jeff Merkley our best-kept secret!

Second, favorables on the four possible challengers:

Third, matchups:

The Walden numbers are fascinating. Merkley may have nearly double the "not sure" response on job approval that Kitzhaber has - that "low profile" that PPP notes - but he's only 3% behind where Kitzhaber is against Greg Walden. That suggests to me that the partisan sideboards on the electorate are pretty strong, and that while Walden might make either campaign a race, it's likely that Oregonians would revert to type and support the Democrat, barring catastrophe.

PPP has made crosstabs available as well (pdf). What are you seeing?

  • (Show?)

    Full disclosure: My firm built campaign websites for John Kitzhaber and Jeff Merkley. I speak only for myself.

  • (Show?)

    Kari, there's no way you can spin Merkley's 37-34 approval rating into a "solid" performance. And the fact that he's trailing Walden, who represents only one-fifth of the state in Congress, reinforces that fact.

    The rule of thumb is that any incumbent with less than a 50% approval rating is vulnerable, not solid. In this case that applies to both Kitzhaber and Merkley.

    It is tempting to blame this on the bad economy and a general anti-incumbent attitude among many voters, but then there's Wyden. If anyone was going to suffer from an anti-incumbent, anti-Washington sentiment, you'd think it would be him. Clearly, not so.

    The reelection races for Kitzhaber and Merkley are a lifetime away in political terms but, I repeat, there is no way to spin this as a "solid" performance for Merkley (or,frankly, for Kitzhaber).

    • (Show?)

      Yes, well, Merkley's approvals were upside-down for a long time. This is at least the second poll where he's now right-side-up.

      That 50% approval "rule of thumb" has become less and less reliable in recent years -- both ways. We've seen folks get re-elected with under 50% approval, and we've seen folks get defeated even though they've been above 50% forever. Voters have become more fluid in their opinions, and increasing amounts of campaign spending can drive perceptions further later.

      PPP didn't do geographic splits, so we don't know if Walden's numbers are entirely from the part of the state that he represents - or how much comes from wet side of the state.

      But it is striking to me that Walden's been in Congress since his election in 1998, and yet 57% of Oregonians can't rate him.

      Merkley's only been in the Senate since his election in 2008, and his can't-rate is only 29%.

      Walden's clearly not used his decade of longer time in office to create a big statewide profile.

      Will Walden run for Governor or for Senate in 2014? I think that has more to do with how control of the US House turns out in 2012 than anything else.

      • (Show?)

        I don't think an incumbent with less than 50% approval is a goner by any means, but I do think he's vulnerable.

        If I were a bookmaker, right now I'd say Kitzhaber is probably 2-1 to get reelected and Merkley is 7-5 overall. Against Walden, I'd put Kitzhaber at 7-5 and Merkley at even money.

        The big question mark with an incumbent is always will be running against them. I'd say it is doubtful right now that Walden will run against either but it is dead certain he won't run against both. :-)

        Of course, Gordon Smith's chances looked very good at this point in his last race (which would have been mid-2006) and the highly touted opponents--Kitzhaber and DeFazio--both took a pass. So who knows at this point what will happen.

        • (Show?)

          Gordon Smith's chances looked very good at this point in his last race...

          Except to a small cadre of Democratic operatives who knew that he was beatable and organized the campaign to do exactly that.

          I'm very proud to have been one of them and to have played my small part in replacing Gordon Smith with Jeff Merkley.

          • (Show?)

            And while your implication is right -anything can happen! - the fact is that the fundamentals were trending away from the Republicans in Oregon. That hasn't changed. It certainly hasn't reversed course.

    • (Show?)

      I intend to put a lot more effort into re-electing Jeff Merkley than I have in a statewide or national race in years. Just one person, of course, but, fwiw.

  • (Show?)

    As a pro-choice candidate, can Greg Walden even be nominated by the Ore GOP?

  • (Show?)

    Polls are always facinating to us politcal geeks, and I am sure the GOP is chomping at the bit to spin these numbers into a message that'll rally their base. Yet, there are a few things that I find striking after looking at the results and the crosstabs.

    1. 66% of the population in the survey group is 46 or older. This may or may not be an anomaly since Oregon's registered voter population averages almost 54 years of age.*

    2. As Kari mentioned, there were no geographic splits. While we can assume that PPP conducted the poll with proper scientific random samplings, it would be intriguing to see the crosstabs that included geography, or those that ID'ed community size.

    3. An interesting crosstab result was that in the 30-45 age bracket; those 151 respondents generally didn't like anyone, but really didn't like Dems and really, REALLY didn't like Jeff Merkley. Without more crosstab info, though, there is not much to gather from this, although Merkley's campaign team may want to flag this for more in-depth analysis in subsequent polling.

    4. The political party breakdown: 46% Dem, 30% GOP, 24% "other" or "Indy" makes activist Dems like me gnash our teeth. The Indy Party, w/out a cohesive Platform that unites it's body, includes voters that will give the Indy nomination to an arch conservative in the desert and a nomination to a Deaner in the Metro. "Other" could imply everyone between Green and Constitution Parties. Again, more comprehensive crosstabs would be helpful, here.

    5. The ladies dig the Dems. The dudes, not so much.

    6. http://community.statesmanjournal.com/blogs/watch/2012/01/24/eac-report-oregon-registered-voters-old-and-likely-to-vote/

  • (Show?)

    27% of Obama voters unsure what they think of Merkley -- that's where to dig in.

  • (Show?)

    More from PPP- Miscellaneous

    "-Oregon voters would be closely divided if they had a vote in 2014 on legalizing gay marriage or marijuana. 46% think gay marriage should be legal to 45% who think it should be illegal. And 43% think marijuana usage should be legal to 46% who believe it should not. In both cases voter under 65 support liberalizing the laws, but seniors are so strong in their opposition that it becomes very close overall." http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2012/07/oregon-miscellany.html

connect with blueoregon