Home

GOP Candidates More Popular Than Democrats in Top Senate Races

Landrieu arrives at a rally with supporters in Shreveport. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Here is an emerging surprise of the midterm elections: Republican candidates are more popular than Democratic candidates in top Senate contests.  

It’s no secret the path to victory for Democrats in the Senate was to demonize GOP candidates in the eyes of voters who are dissatisfied with President Barack Obama. For much of the cycle, Democrats were banking on their incumbents’ personal popularity and connection to each of their states being enough to carry them to victory.  

But after millions of dollars worth of attack ads, Republican candidates appear to have weathered the Democratic storm and are held in higher standing with voters coming into Election Day in a handful of key contests.  

In Alaska, Democratic Sen. Mark Begich had a job rating of 43 percent approval and 50 percent disapproval in a Nov. 1-2 automated survey by Public Policy Polling , a Democratic firm. Republican Dan Sullivan had a 43 percent favorable and 45 percent unfavorable rating. (PPP doesn’t normally ask favorable/unfavorable ratings for incumbents.)  

In Arkansas, Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor had 39 percent approval and 50 percent disapproval in an Oct. 30-Nov. 1 PPP survey . GOP Rep. Tom Cotton had a 48 percent favorable and 40 percent unfavorable rating.  

In Colorado, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall had 38 percent approval and 51 percent disapproval in a Nov. 1-2 PPP survey . GOP Rep. Cory Gardner had a 49 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable rating.  

In Iowa, Democratic Rep. Bruce Braley had a 43 percent favorable and 45 percent unfavorable rating in an Oct. 28-Nov. 2 Quinnipiac University poll . Republican Joni Ernst had a 47 percent favorable and 45 percent unfavorable rating.  

It can’t be a coincidence that Democrats are best positioned to win in states where their candidate is more popular.  

In New Hampshire, Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen had 49 percent favorable and 44 percent unfavorable ratings in an Oct. 20-21 PPP survey, compared to 44 percent favorable and 48 percent unfavorable for Republican former Massachusetts Sen. Scott P. Brown.  

In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan had a 41 percent approve and 49 percent disapprove job rating in a Nov. 1-3 PPP survey . Republican Thom Tillis had a 36 percent favorable and 48 percent unfavorable rating.  

In Kansas, Independent Greg Orman had 42 percent favorable and 37 percent unfavorable ratings in an Oct. 18-22 NBC News/Marist poll compared to 43 percent favorable and 46 percent unfavorable rating for GOP Sen. Pat Roberts.  

And in Georgia, Democrat Michelle Nunn had 49 percent favorable and 39 percent unfavorable rating in an Oct. 31 NBC News/Marist poll compared to 47 percent favorable and 42 percent unfavorable for Republican David Perdue.  

One of the outliers to the rule appears to be Louisiana, where Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu had a 45 percent job approval rating and 50 percent disapproval in an Oct. 30-Nov. 1 PPP survey. GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy had a 36 percent favorable and 44 percent unfavorable rating, even though he is regarded as at least a slight favorite in a December runoff if neither gets a majority of the vote. (Cassidy’s unfavorable rating is likely inflated by conservative Republicans, who don’t think the congressman is conservative enough but will end up supporting him in a runoff.)  

Kentucky isn’t regarded as a first or second tier race anymore , and part of the reason might be because Republicans have successfully driven up Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes’ negatives. She had 39 percent favorable and 49 percent unfavorable ratings in an Oct. 30-Nov. 1 PPP survey . Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has been unpopular throughout the race, but isn’t too far below Grimes with a 39 percent job approval and 50 percent disapproval rating.  

Roll Call Election Map: Race Ratings for Every Seat Be the first to know about Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call race rating changes with our new Roll Call politics app Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.