Earlier tonight, we talked about how candidates can sometimes find themselves swimming upstream through no fault of their own. If they have little support elsewhere on the ticket — a decent Democratic gubernatorial nominee burdened by a weak Democratic Senate candidate, or vice versa — they may find some voters whose primary interest is in another race simply voting the party line against them.
Two gubernatorial candidates, however — one Democrat and one Republican — are hoping to buck those trends, and new polling suggests that their odds of doing so have increased.
The Democrat is Ted Strickland, the incumbent governor of Ohio. Mr. Strickland’s teammate on the ticket is Lee Fisher, his current Lieutenant Governor, who is badly losing his Senate race to the Republican candidate, Rob Portman. But two new polls, one from Public Policy Polling and one from the Columbus Dispatch, have Mr. Strickland trailing his gubernatorial opponent, John Kasich, by margins of just 1 and 2 points. Other recent surveys have also implied a trend toward Mr. Strickland: the Quinnipiac poll published last week, which in early September had shown him trailing Mr. Kasich by 17 points, had him cutting his deficit to 6.
Mr. Strickland still trails in all but one recent poll (a CNN survey gives him a 1-point lead), and so the race should be thought of as leaning toward Mr. Kasich. But early voting numbers have been reasonably strong for Democrats in Ohio, and it is one place where they could benefit from the residue of the infrastructure left over by Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, which generally had much stronger field operations than John McCain’s. Also helping Mr. Strickland, believe it or not, may be Ohio’s unemployment rate, which — while still very high at 10.0 percent — has fallen from a peak of 11.0 percent in March. Our model, which had Mr. Strickland’s chances falling to low as 8 percent in mid-September, now gives him a 25 percent chance of winning.
Meanwhile, in Connecticut, a new Public Policy Polling survey has the Republican gubernatorial nominee, Tom Foley, leading the Democrat, Dan Malloy, by 2 points. This is in spite of the fact that the Republican Senate candidate in the Nutmeg State, Linda McMahon, has seen her numbers stall out or recede in the Senate race, which she now seems all but certain to lose. (Ms. McMahon trailed the Democrat, Richard Blumenthal, by 11 points in the Public Policy Polling survey.)
As is the case in Ohio, there is insufficient evidence to conclude that the race is a tossup. But for the Public Policy Polling survey, and one other poll from a dubious firm which showed a tied race, all other recent surveys have had Mr. Malloy ahead by margins of 3 to 11 points.
Still, each of those surveys had shown a relatively high number of undecided voters, and none of them had shown Mr. Malloy with more than 50 percent of the vote. Our model now puts Mr. Foley’s chances at about 20 percent, up from about 11 percent a week ago.
It may even be that Mr. Foley is benefiting from Ms. McMahon’s high-profile and expensive campaign. Ms. McMahon’s campaign may attract a large number of independent to the polls — even if it is to vote against her. But those are the same independents that a Republican needs to win a campaign in a blue state like Connecticut, and Mr. Foley may be better positioned to win some of their votes.
The other gubernatorial race to show a big shift tonight is in Vermont, where a Rasmussen Reports poll gives Peter Shumlin, the Democrat, a 5-point lead over Republican Brian Dubie. Vermont has had very little polling — only three polls of the state have been released since Mr. Shumlin won his primary in August — and so the model is very sensitive to any new ones; it now makes Mr. Shumlin a 78 percent favorite.
Vermont, idiosyncratically, also has its state legislature decide the gubernatorial race if neither candidate earns 50 percent of the vote, something which is a theoretical possibility given that there are some minor party candidates on the ticket. Since Vermont’s legislature is ordinarily strongly Democratic, that might give Mr. Shumlin some chance if victory even if he were to narrowly lose the popular vote to Mr. Dubie, although our model does not attempt to account for this contingency.