May 24th, 2012
10:13 AM ET
11 years ago

Polls: Democrats slightly ahead in three major Senate races

(CNN) - New polls released Thursday show Democrats ahead of Republicans in three big Senate races, all of which take place in crucial presidential election battleground states.

Starting with Ohio, incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown enjoys a 14-point lead over Republican challenger and state treasurer Josh Mandel. According to the NBC-Marist survey, 51% of registered voters said they would support Brown, while 37% said they would pick Mandel.

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The margin comes as good news for Ohio Democrats after they suffered major setbacks in 2010, losing the governor's office, a Senate seat and five U.S. House seats. The same poll shows President Barack Obama ahead of presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney in the state, 48%-42%.

Crossing over to Virginia, where two former governors are battling it out in one of the most closely-watched Senate races, Democrat Tim Kaine has moved in front of his GOP rival, George Allen. According to the poll, Kaine comes in with 49% versus Allen at 43%, a margin that equals the sampling error.

Kaine, who left his post as Democratic National Committee chairman last year to run for the Senate, has been statistically tied in other polls for months with Allen, who once held the same Senate seat he's now trying to recapture. The winner will replace retiring Sen. Jim Webb, a Democrat.

Republicans also made big gains in Virginia since the 2008 election. The GOP swept all statewide offices in 2009 and picked up the governor's office, as well as the Virginia state legislature, that same year.

But the latest NBC-Marist poll indicates Democrats may be picking up steam in the commonwealth. Vice President Joe Biden is injecting his voice in the race and will make an appearance at a private fundraiser for Kaine on Thursday.

In terms of the presidential race, Obama, who, in 2008, became the first Democrat to carry the state since 1964, pulls in front of Romney, 48%-44%, a margin within the poll's sampling error.

Looking at Florida, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson appears to hold a slight advantage over Republican opponent Rep. Connie Mack. Forty-six percent of registered voters said they would re-elect Nelson, while 42% said they would chose Mack. The margin falls within the poll's sampling error.

Elected in 2000, Nelson is aiming for a third term. While he won re-election in 2006 by a landslide over GOP challenger Rep. Katherine Harris, his run this time around may be more competitive. Florida has seen a Republican surge since then, and Nelson is the only Democrat remaining in a statewide office.

In addition, the Republican National Convention will be held in Tampa this year, which will turn the political spotlight on the state's Republican Party.

Mack, a popular four-term Congressman, is the leading Republican running in a crowded field of candidates. The primary is set for August 14, just weeks before the convention.

The poll also shows Obama is ahead in the Sunshine State, with 48% to Romney's 44%. The difference falls within the sampling error, meaning the two candidates are statistically tied. Obama narrowly beat Republican Sen. John McCain in Florida in 2008, 51%-48%.

The polls represent one reason why Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said she's feeling good about her party's chances this fall.

"We have a really, really great shot of not just keeping the Senate, but keeping a strong Democratic Senate," Murray told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley in an interview to air Sunday on "State of the Union."

Murray added those chances didn't look so great a year-and-a-half ago, but argued Democrats ended up fielding a strong group of candidates "with a really deep understanding of the problems that we have."

Democrats currently hold the majority in the Senate, 51-47. There are two independent senators, both of whom caucus with Democrats.

But Republicans, eager to take back the chamber, are on the hunt for the four seats needed to recapture the majority.

Murray's counterpart in the Senate, Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, said on the same CNN program earlier this month that the Senate is not working and argued voters were ready for a change.

"People are mad at what's happening in Washington," Cornyn said. "People are tired of just yelling at the TV set, they're actually going to turn out to vote. ... And they want to try new leaders."

The NBC-Marist polls came one day after a separate poll showed a Democrat barely behind in the highly contested Massachusetts Senate race. According to a Suffolk University/7News survey released Wednesday, former Obama adviser Elizabeth Warren falls one point behind (47%-48%) incumbent Republican Sen. Scott Brown, who's fighting to keep his seat in the heavily Democratic state.

For the Ohio, Virginia and Florida surveys, 1,078 registered voters were surveyed in each state by telephone from May 17-May 20. All three polls have a sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

- Watch more of Murray's interview Sunday at 9 a.m. ET on CNN's "State of the Union."

Also see:

Obama campaign expands Bain attack and general election ad buys

Poll: Romney takes lead in Florida

Palin endorses Utah's Hatch in Senate race

Arkansas, Kentucky primaries pose challenge for Obama

Filed under: 2012 • Bill Nelson • Connie Mack • Florida • George Allen • Ohio • Polls • Senate • Sherrod Brown • Tim Kaine • Virginia
soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Zachayo

    Last kicks of a dying horse.

    May 24, 2012 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  2. Larry L

    People in these states are smart enough to see the damage done in the Senate by Republicans. With over 110 filibusters the Republicans block every initiative and do nothing by obstruct our economic recovery. Swing voters in these three states are tired of the radical rants and the "birthers" with their foolish conspiracies! They don't want a Republican Party dedicated to trashing Medicare and Social Security!

    May 24, 2012 10:37 am at 10:37 am |

    I'm voting all Dem ,how could any intelligent person vote for these republican bums !!!

    May 24, 2012 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  4. Obama 2012 - BEND Forward America, take another 4 long years of FAILURE

    So in 3 Senate races for incumbent Democrats, the Republican candidate is tied with them in 2 out of 3 of the races. Not a bad place for a challenger! They usually have huge margins in their favor. But these days, being a Do-Nothing Democrat Senator towing Harry Reid's line is NOT an easy thing to overcome.

    May 24, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  5. BLKMANinAmerica

    This all means nothing because do another "poll" tomorrow and you will get different results.......................but good luck America media in picking the U.S. President (like in 2000).

    May 24, 2012 10:44 am at 10:44 am |
  6. MaryM

    Democrats, get out and VOTE.

    May 24, 2012 10:45 am at 10:45 am |
  7. young obama

    I cant wait to see Mitt R( money) debate obama.Thats when his poll numbers wud be sinking so fast like the titanic.just cant wait

    May 24, 2012 10:47 am at 10:47 am |
  8. switters

    "Tea Time" in America is over.

    There may have been a little poitical capital after 2010 – but it was all spent in state legislatures trying to control women and their reproductive organs........

    May 24, 2012 10:50 am at 10:50 am |
  9. Gumshrud

    this ain't gonna be a good year for the Repubs.

    May 24, 2012 10:51 am at 10:51 am |
  10. Gurgyl

    Obama2012, direct democratic ticket!!!

    May 24, 2012 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  11. judy

    vote all republicans out move forward in 2012 Obama /Biden

    May 24, 2012 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  12. Mike

    Who needs a balanced budget anyway? Congress hasn't done their job but neither have these clowns. Senate is responsible for providing budget in response to those they shoot down. Best thing they've done was shoot down Obama's laughable budgets.

    May 24, 2012 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  13. Bill

    The democrats will hold the Senate. Between their obstructionism and flawed candidates, the GOP blew this one.

    May 24, 2012 11:04 am at 11:04 am |
  14. MTATL67

    A saying comes to mind "Actions speak louder than words". Republicans say their focus is the economy yet they are passing legislation on everything but the economy. They were given their chance and they squandered the chance they were given.

    May 24, 2012 11:06 am at 11:06 am |
  15. rla

    Anyone who votes democratic this election is blinded by their own partisanship positions..... If America changes due to another Obama administration I hope you enjoy what you get and it will not be pretty

    May 24, 2012 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  16. Duke One

    The sampling was done on registered voters not likely voters. The poll done on likely voters shows Republicans winning ! Sorry to burst your bubble. Not !

    May 24, 2012 11:12 am at 11:12 am |
  17. Bill


    You got it exactly backwards. The GOP plan for this country spell doom. Abolish the EPA and Dept. of Education, no finaniial regulation (gee, didn't we just go through a recession because of a lack of oversight in this arena), cut teachers and education budget, deny that no new revenue is needed to balance our fiscal house. And continue tax breaks for people like Romney. I pay a tax rate that is almost 20% hight than that clown. And I am not worth $250 million. No, that is not the America I know or want.

    May 24, 2012 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  18. Niuhc

    I'm voting all Republican ,how could any intelligent person vote for these democrat bums !!!

    May 24, 2012 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  19. Niuhc

    Vote Obama/Biden 2012, the only way forward to turning America into France or Greece.

    May 24, 2012 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  20. Niuhc

    Actually, Romney is Obamalite. The only reason to vote for Romney would be to slow the damage being done to America. We really need someone like Ron Paul as president. He will halt the crash of America, and his more different ideas would be moderated by the Senate and Congress. At least he will not treat the constitution as an "inconvienence."

    May 24, 2012 11:39 am at 11:39 am |