New PPP polls find Sara Gideon leading Susan Collins 47-43 in the Maine Senate race and Mark Kelly leading Martha McSally 47-42 in the Arizona Senate race. Additionally a PPP poll for a private client last week found Cal Cunningham leading Thom Tillis 46-41 in the North Carolina Senate race, and when PPP last polled the Colorado Senate race John Hickenlooper led Cory Gardner 51-38. This makes four Republican held US Senate seats where PPP has found Democratic challengers with at least a 4 point lead.
The Maine result is most interesting. When PPP first polled the Gideon-Collins match up for a private client last spring, Collins led by 18 points at 51-33. The reason for the 22 point shift since then is that in the wake of opposing impeachment, Collins has lost most of the crossover Democratic support she’s relied on for her success over the years. Last April Collins had a 32% approval rating with Hillary Clinton voters, and trailed Gideon only 59-28 with them head to head. Now she has just a 9% approval rating with Clinton voters, and trails Gideon 81-10 with them head to head.
Overall Collins’ approval rating is 33%, with 57% of voters disapproving of her. She has shored up her position with Trump voters- her approval rating with them is now 59/26 after it was an upside down 42/47 last spring- but her choice to cast her impeachment vote more based on fear of a primary than on fear of the general election now has her trailing in the general election. We found last fall that Collins’ political standing- already perilous- was going to be hurt no matter which way she voted on impeachment. It may be that if nothing else the Democratic impeachment effort results in the end of Collins’ Senate career and gives Democrats the 50 seats they need for control of the Senate with a Democrat in the White House next year- perhaps another indication that Nancy Pelosi is playing three dimensional chess.
The Arizona Senate picture is more steady. Kelly’s 47-42 lead over McSally is almost identical to the 46-42 advantage we found for him on a January poll. Independent voters make up for the Republican registration advantage in the state by giving Kelly a 21 point lead at 50-29. McSally continues to be unpopular with only 37% of voters approving of the job she’s doing to 46% who disapprove. Meanwhile Kelly has a good favorability rating with those who know him- 41% see him positively to 29% with a negative opinion.
One thing making life harder for both Collins and McSally is Donald Trump’s unpopularity in their states. In Maine only 42% of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 56% who disapprove, and in Arizona only 45% of voters approve of the job he’s doing to 51% who disapprove.
Trump actually came within 3 points of Hillary Clinton in Maine, but we now find him trailing both Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders by 10 points at 52-42. Trump won Arizona by 4 points in 2016, but now trails Joe Biden 48-47 and leads Bernie Sanders just 47-46.
PPP has been arguing that the key to this fall’s election is whether voters who oppose Trump come together around the eventual Democratic nominee and the polls in Maine and Arizona really exemplify that. In Maine, voters who are undecided in a Biden-Trump match up support Sanders 58-3 and voters who are undecided in a Sanders-Trump match up support Biden 56-8. If they just voted the same way in both match ups Biden’s lead would grow to 13 points and Sanders’ lead would grow to 14 points.
You can do a similar sort of analysis in Arizona. Voters who are undecided in Biden/Trump give Trump a 6% approval rating to 57% of voters who disapprove of him. Voters who are undecided in Sanders/Trump give Trump a 2% approval rating to 68% of voters who disapprove of him. If the undecideds voted based on whether they approve of Trump or not, Biden and Sanders would each come out ahead 52-48 in Arizona.
There are not enough voters out there who like Trump for him to get reelected- his only path is for Sanders backers to refuse to vote Biden or for Biden backers to refuse to vote Sanders if their candidate of choice doesn’t win the Democratic nomination. The race is going to be a toss up even if anti-Trump voters don’t fully come together- but it may not even end up being that close if they do come together.