Poll: Rep. Chaffetz even with Hatch in potential primary match

In the latest sign of potential 2012 trouble for Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), a new poll shows Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) deadlocked with the longtime senator among Utah Republicans. 

Chaffetz, who is still weighing a run against Hatch from the right next year, is tied with the senator at 42 percent among GOP voters in the state, according to new numbers from UtahPolicy.com. Another 15 percent remained undecided. 

The poll surveyed 348 registered Republicans and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points.  

In a separate question asked of 600 registered voters in the state, the poll found 54 percent who said it was time to elect someone new to the Senate in 2012. Just 31 percent said they would vote to reelect Hatch.   

Last week, a Deseret News poll showed Chaffetz within 10 points of Hatch. While the senator held a healthy lead among those who self-identified as Republicans in that poll, he trailed Chaffetz 51-35 percent among those who identified themselves as "very conservative." 

Should Hatch face a challenge for the GOP nomination next year, the state convention process, which is dominated by more conservative party insiders, will likely prove his toughest obstacle. It was at the convention last cycle that former Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah) landed in third place and was unable to advance to a primary. 

If no candidate wins 60 percent or more of state delegates at the convention, the top two convention finishers head to a primary. 

It's still unclear how much Tea Party opposition Hatch could face in 2012. The longtime senator has made it a point to reach out to Tea Party activists in state and nationally, including speaking at a recent Tea Party Express town hall in Washington, D.C. The group, which backed a challenge to Bennett last cycle, has said it would carefully evaluate any challenger to Hatch should one emerge.


Poll: 'Moderate' Republican has better chance against Obama

Republicans have a better chance at defeating President Obama if the party nominates a "moderate" candidate, according to a new survey.

The Public Policy Polling survey was the second poll released Wednesday to show Obama tied with a generic Republican nominee if the election were held now.

The PPP survey had the president level at 47 percent with his unnamed challenger, and a Gallup survey had Obama tied at 45 percent with his challenger. The results become more nuanced if respondents are given ideological qualifiers about the GOP nominee.

In the PPP survey, a generic moderate Republican candidate has a 2-point lead over Obama, 46 to 44 percent. But when the 600 registered voters were asked whether they'd back Obama or a Tea Party conservative, the president led by 4 points, 49 to 45 percent.

Overall, Obama leads all his identified potential rivals by at least 3 points.

The PPP survey was conducted Feb. 11-14 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent.


Heller poll shows him with double-digit lead on Sen. Ensign

Rep. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) would hold a commanding lead over Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) in a Republican primary, according to an internal poll from the Heller camp. 

Heller leads Ensign 53 percent to 38 in the survey, conducted late last month by the GOP firm the Tarrance Group. 

Pollster Dave Sackett writes in the memo that Ensign "is so badly damaged that he is already trailing on a ballot test against Dean Heller by 15 points." The poll found just 9 percent of likely Republican voters undecided in a potential Heller-Ensign match-up. 

The release of the numbers is an indication that Heller is moving toward a primary challenge to Ensign, who is still forging ahead with his reelection campaign. Despite the abysmal poll numbers and the desire among national Republicans to have someone else on the ticket next year, Ensign is continuing to ramp up his fundraising efforts.   

Ensign told The Ballot Box last week that the response to his early campaign moves in Nevada has been positive and said he was confident he'll raise enough money to compete. 

"I think most of the money is going to come in in the second quarter, but we're getting it all scheduled, which is a very positive sign," he said. "We are focused on fundraising right now, and doing my job for the people of Nevada trying to help the economy, because it's in dire shape out there."

Still, Heller's internal numbers mirror some of the public polling already conducted on the race, which shows Ensign trailing badly. 

"Strongly paralleling the untenable situation that faced former Gov. Jim Gibbons in 2010, a plurality of likely Republican primary voters in the state of Nevada believe that Sen. Ensign does not deserve reelection and that it is time for a new person," Heller's pollster wrote in the memo, making the argument that Ensign's scandal has left him too damaged to win in 2012.

With self-identified conservatives, Heller blows Ensign away, taking 62 percent of the vote. 

The poll also tested Heller's strength in a crowded primary field, which included potential candidates Sharron Angle, Danny Tarkanian and John Chachis. In a five-way primary race, Heller still led by 16 points.  


Ex-N.M. governor lacks home state support for potential W.H. bid

Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson (R) doesn't have much of a base in his home state, according to a new poll.

A Public Policy Polling survey released on Monday had just 13 percent of New Mexico Republicans supporting Johnson.

Johnson, a successful businessman who served two terms as governor of from 1995-2003, was behind Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney. The top three Republicans took 20, 17 and 16 percent respectively in the survey of 357 of the state's GOP primary voters conducted Feb. 4-6.

The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 5.2 percent.

Johnson, who is perhaps best known as an advocate for the legalization of marijuana, attended the Conservative Political Action Conference last week. He finished tied for third with 6 percent of the vote in the CPAC straw poll. 


Poll: Sen. Bingaman posts double-digit leads over potential rivals

As long as Sen. Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) opts to run for reelection next year, Democrats shouldn't have a problem hanging onto his Senate seat. 

Bingaman's approval rating stands at 56 percent, and he leads all rumored GOP contenders for the seat by double digits, according to a new survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling (PPP).

In hypothetical 2012 general election match-ups, Bingaman leads former Gov. Gary Johnson 51 percent to 40; he leads Rep. Steve Pearce 57 percent to 34; and he leads former Rep. Heather Wilson 56 percent to 37. 

Still, there's lingering speculation that Bingaman might retire ahead of next year rather than run for a sixth term. That would put the seat in play, according to PPP's numbers, especially if Johnson opts for a Senate run rather than a bid for the GOP presidential nomination. 

In an open-seat race with Democratic Reps. Martin Heinrich and Ben Lujan as the party's standard-bearers, both would start out trailing Johnson. The former governor leads Henrich 44 percent to 43 and he leads Lujan 45 percent to 40. 

The poll surveyed 545 New Mexico voters and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points.  

Bingaman's fundraising numbers from the final quarter of 2010 likely eased some Democratic minds ahead of 2012. He raised $216,000 during the final three months of the year. 


Poll: Obama among most polarizing presidents in decades

President Obama is one of the most polarizing presidents in decades, and his second year in office measured the largest gap in party ratings of any president since Republican Dwight Eisenhower was in office. 

According to new numbers from Gallup, Obama's approval ratings in 2010 were more polarized than they were during his first year in office, measuring a 68-point gap between the percentage of Democrats approving of the president and the percentage of Republicans approving. 

An average of 81 percent of Democrats approved of the job Obama was doing this past year; just 13 percent of Republicans approved. That 68-point divide is up from a 65-point gap during Obama's first year on the job. 

The next largest gap for a president in his second year in office came in 1982, when President Reagan earned an average approval rating of 79 percent among Republicans and 23 percent among Democrats, a gap of 56 points. 

Obama's 13 percent approval rating among Republicans is easily the lowest percentage any president has earned from voters of the opposing party in his second year in office. 

Gallup's Jeffrey Jones notes that although Obama's first two years in office rank among the most polarizing ever for a president, former President George W. Bush endured three years with larger gaps in party ratings. In 2004, Gallup measured a 76-point gap between Republican and Democratic approval of Bush.  

Part of the gulf comes from the increasing polarization of American politics and of the nation's political parties over the past 30 years. Gallup points out that each of the last eight years has ranked among the 10 most polarized years for presidential approval since 1953. 

The gulf also isn't necessarily a bad sign for Obama heading into 2012. Three former presidents — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan — all saw the largest gaps in party ratings come in the year they won reelection.