Just days before the midterm elections, Republican Senate candidates are in strong positions in three key Southern states, putting the GOP well within striking distance of regaining control of the upper chamber, according to brand-new NBC News/Marist polls.
- In Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell leads Democrat Alison Grimes by nine points among likely voters, 50% to 41%.
- In Georgia, Republican David Perdue leads Democrat Michelle Nunn 48% to 44%.
- And while Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu in Louisiana leads in a three-way contest with 44% of the vote, she trails in a hypothetical runoff against either Republican candidate – Rep. Bill Cassidy or tea party candidate Rob Maness.
Loses in these states would complicate Democrats’ path to keeping their majority, given that they need to hold Republican gains to fewer than six seats (or seven, if Kansans reject their incumbent senator and the winner caucuses with the Democrats).
Already, Republicans are the favorites to pick up seats in Montana, South Dakota and West Virginia. That means that they need to win another three states – out of Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana, North Carolina and New Hampshire – to gain the majority, plus not lose any seats they currently control like Georgia and Kentucky.
A major factor bogging down Democrats in these states polled by NBC/Marist: President Barack Obama. His approval lags at just 41% in Georgia, 32% in Kentucky and 39% in Louisiana – three states that he lost by wide margins in the 2008 and 2012 elections.
Among likely voters, McConnell gets 50% to Grimes’s 41%, a very slight shift from a 47/39 split when NBC/Marist polled the race in early September.
Both candidates remain underwater in their favorability ratings. 49% have an unfavorable impression of McConnell, compared to 44% who give him a thumbs up; Grimes gets a 47% negative rating with just 42% seeing her in a favorable light.
The most important issue to Kentucky voters, as it has been in all of our NBC/Marist state polling, is job creation and economic growth, with 22% of respondents citing it as the most important factor in deciding their congressional vote. Eighteen percent cited “breaking the partisan gridlock in Washington to get things done.”
Republican David Perdue captures 48 percent of likely voters in the new NBC/Marist poll, compared to Democrat Michelle Nunn’s 44 percent. Three percent goes to libertarian Amanda Swafford.
Like in Louisiana, the Georgia race goes to a runoff if no candidate reaches 50 percent. In a hypothetical head-to-head matchup between just Perdue and Nunn, the Republican leads 49% to 46%.
Both candidates are reasonably well-liked. Forty-seven percent have a favorable impression of Perdue, compared to 42% who have an unfavorable one; Nunn has a 49% favorable rating compared to 39 percent who view her negatively.
In the state’s closely-watched governor’s race, incumbent Republican Gov. Nathan Deal gets 48%, while Democratic challenger Jason Carter gets 43%. Libertarian Andrew Hunt snags three percent.
In a hypothetical runoff, Deal leads 50% to Carter’s 46%.
In a three way contest, incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu gets 44%, while Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy gets 36% and tea party ally Rob Maness gets 15%.
In head-to-head matchups pitting Landrieu against either GOP candidate, both Cassidy and Maness receive 50% support, while Landrieu performs almost identically against either Republican – at 45 and 46%, respectively.
Partly because he’s less well known in the state, Cassidy enjoys a better favorable rating (45% favorable/41% unfavorable) than Landrieu (44% favorable/50% unfavorable). Landrieu was first elected in 1996 and has survived two competitive elections since.