Last week Talk Business conducted a statewide poll and the results were illuminating and in some regards, quite surprising. Today, I’ll review the data for Arkansas’s four members of Congress.
When it comes to the four members of Congress from Arkansas, no one is extremely popular at this time, and that could be partly based on a general dissatisfaction with Congress. However, two members of the Congressional delegation could be in some trouble.
Rick Crawford is in his first-term and of the four Congressmen his poll numbers are the most anemic of the federal delegation with the lowest approval numbers and highest number of people who do not know him.
Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job that Cong. Rick Crawford is doing?
42% Don’t Know
When you delve deeper into the numbers, it looks more dire for Rick Crawford.
Among Republican voters, Crawford has only a 45% approval rating and 41.5% of Republican voters don’t know him. With these numbers it’s clear Crawford has a major problem in his base since a majority don’t approve of him and 42% of his own base don’t even know him. If an incumbent doesn’t have his own base locked down, he’s in major trouble come election time.
1st CD Party ID
Democrats have a 7-point advantage over Republicans among voters who self-identify as belonging to a particular party, with 33% of voters considering themselves as Independents.
Based on this poll, Rick Crawford is very vulnerable. He remains largely unknown in his district and could be easily defined by a Democratic opponent. Anecdotal reports of his not effectively reaching out to the district seem to be true based on our poll.
Democrats need a well-funded candidate who can crack Crawford’s hold on the large counties in the Northern part of the district such as Craighead, Greene and Independence County. In 2010, Crawford won all three of these counties giving him a 7,273 vote advantage over then-Democratic opponent Chad Causey.
Rick Crawford’s saving grace may be that 1st District Arkansas Democrats as of yet haven’t got their act together and recruited a top-tier candidate to oppose him. No one has formally announced, but there is still time left.
Tim Griffin, also in his first-term, is slightly more popular than Rick Crawford, but is significantly more unpopular. Griffin has 40% job approval rating, but roughly 36% of voters disapprove of the job he is doing.
Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job that Cong. Tim Griffin is doing?
24.5% Don’t Know
Unlike Crawford, Griffin essentially has his base locked down with 70% of Republican voters approving of his job performance, 11% disapproving and only 20% not knowing enough about him to give an opinion. Independent voters give him a 43% job approval and 34% disapproval rating and Democratic voters downright hate him with 15% approving and 60% disapproving.
With such high negatives, Tim Griffin also remains vulnerable, especially in an election year when voters disapprove of the job Congress is doing and if voters are in a "throw the bums out" mood in 2012, Griffin is in real trouble.
While he does have a 9-point positive spread among independent voters, a 34% disapproval rating among this critical subset is dangerous for any incumbent. In contrast, Rick Crawford has a 43% approval and 24% disapproval rating among independent voters.
2nd CD Party ID
Independent voters make up the bulk of voters in the 2nd CD with 36% self-identifying that way and 31% of voters self-identifying as Democrats.
The fight for the 2nd CD would be among the independent voters and the Democratic challenger could have an easy time driving up Griffin’s negatives among independent voters since they are already so high. It wouldn’t be terribly difficult to put Griffin underwater with independents with the right message.
However, like Crawford, Tim Griffin doesn’t have an announced opponent. Do you notice a trend of how Arkansas Democrats don’t have their act together yet?
Steve Womack is going to easily win reelection. It’s the 3rd Congressional District so I’m not going to spend time analyzing it since a Democrat hasn’t held this seat since the early 1960’s.
Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job that Cong. Steve Womack is doing?
27% Don’t Know
Congressman Mike Ross is not seeking reelection in 2012, but we still tested him since it’s a helpful indicator of the lay of the land in that district.
Q: Do you approve or disapprove of the job that Cong. Mike Ross is doing?
28% Don’t Know
In all Party sub-groups, Ross’s job approval ratings were up over disapproval ratings, making him the only Congressman to achieve that feat. Even among Republican voters, he received a 37% approval to 31% disapproval rating.
There is a belief among some political insiders that the 4th CD has turned Republican and is thus lost to Democrats. Let’s take a look at some numbers:
4th CD Party ID
12 % Other
Among all of Arkansas’s Congressional Districts, the 4th CD not only got the highest number of voters who self-identified as Democratic, but it also had the largest spread among Democrats and Republicans. There is an 11% spread of the voters identifying themselves as Democrats over Republicans and the 4th CD has the lowest number of self-identifying Republicans of any district. This is even after the district had Democratic counties moved to the 1st CD and replaced by more Republican-leaning counties.
In 2010, the national Republican tidal wave swept across Arkansas giving Republicans historic victories, but the best the 4th Congressional Republican nominee could achieve was 40% of the vote despite being relatively well-funded.
However, just like in the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts, Democrats haven’t got their act together yet and recruited a top-tier candidate to hold onto this seat. If they don’t, they better get used to saying the phrase "Congresswoman Beth Anne Rankin." Rankin is not popular with Republican insiders for some reason, but she’s popular with Republican voters and that’s all that matters.
Overall, these poll numbers show there are real opportunities for Arkansas Democrats to take back the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts and hold onto the 4th Congressional District.
Don’t misunderstand me though, it’s not going to be a cakewalk. Arkansas Democrats have not correctly positioned themselves to take advantage of the situation. There is still time to recruit compelling candidates, but everyday that passes without announced candidates makes it more difficult to win these seats.
Tomorrow, we’ll review Barack Obama’s approval and disapproval ratings and discuss how his presence on the 2012 ballot affects the Congressional races.