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Can it be closed again?

The consensus view now, apparently even on the part of Mike McGavick himself, is that the Republican Senate candidate’s effort at better image through candor seems to have backfired, mainly because of the ongoing wave of DUI-related headlines.

Now, some evidence. Rasmussen Reports polling, which last (on August 15) gave Democratic incumbent Maria Cantwell a small 46%-40% lead, more recently (polling on September 5) gives her a much bigger 52%-35% lead.

More specifically, “Following news of the arrest, 45% of voters have a favorable opinion of McGavick. That’s down from 49% in our earlier survey. Fifteen percent (15%) of respondents now say they have a ‘very favorable’ opinion of the candidate and 21% have a ‘very unfavorable’ opinion. Those numbers also represent a decline from the previous survey. In August, the numbers were 18% very favorable and 14% very unfavorable.” And the pollster notes this: “Twenty-four percent (24%) report following McGavick’s recent news ‘very closely’ versus 9% who haven’t followed the story at all. When asked if they know why he is in the news, 60% of respondents can correctly identify drunk driving as the reason. That suggests a very high level of awareness for this particular issue.”

Since that polling, Washingtonians have seen new headlines about Cantwell’s relatonship with an old friend and campaign manager, from whom she has obtained an as-yet unpaid loan in the tens of thousands of dollars. The friend is now a lobbyist whose clients have benefitted from Cantwell’s federal budget efforts. (She points out that money was spent in Washington.) That may take a little edge off her numbers, which seem soft. But it seems unlikely to throw her into danger territory.

In the Rasmussen polling since February, Cantwell’s numbers (pitted against McGavick) have been 50-49-48-46-44-48-46-51 – bouncing around a bit, but mostly in the upper 40s. That’s not real good territory for an incumbent. But it also shows McGavick’s numbers running like this: 36-36-40-41-40-37-40-35. (Other polling is not, in general, running a lot different.) If Cantwell has some difficulty consistently breaching that 50% mark, McGavick has just as much trouble pushing beyond 40% – this after what is now nearly a full year of very active campaigning and media. And before the bulk of Cantwell’s money advantage is brought to bear.

After weighing all this, a Cook Political Report editor was quoted as saying, “This is not to say I throw the towel in on this race, but I watch it with a little more skepticism.” Seems about right.

UPDATE: Cook’s e-mail column today called the McGavick campaign an “implosion” that “makes that race unlikely to be a Republican pick-up, despite Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell’s vulnerabilities.”

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