Thursday, Aug. 16, 2012 | 3:10 p.m.
SEE UPDATE WITH DEMOCRATIC POLLING BELOW
The battle for the state Senate is up in the air, with Republicans leading in three of the five contested seats and two others very close, according to a poll taken by a reliably accurate GOP expert.
The set of surveys in the five critical districts was conducted Aug. 1-2 by Public Opinion Strategies, which has had generally unerring results in this state, for the Republican State Legislative Caucus. That’s a national group dedicated to electing down-ballot Republicans. POS surveyed 300 likely voters in each of the important state Senate districts – the margin of error is 5.7 percent.
Here are the results:
Republican Steve Kirk 44 percent
Democrat Joyce Woodhouse 37 percent
Republican Mark Hutchison 40 percent
Democrat Benny Yerushalmi 33 percent
Republican Mari Nakashima St. Martin 34 percent
Democrat Justin Jones 38 percent
Republican Greg Brower 42 percent
Democrat Sheila Leslie 42 percent
Republican Scott Hammond 44 percent
Democrat Kelli Ross 29 percent
So what do we conclude, if these numbers are right? (Any poll can be wrong, of course.)
First, a caveat: That is a relatively high MOE, so let’s take these with a grain of salt, especially because we still have a long way to go and almost no one is paying any attention to these campaigns.
Second, it’s reasonable to assume that all of these races – with the possible exception of Hammond-Ross – are competitive. That means the Republicans have a very real chance of taking the state Senate – they need to win four of the five to do so.
Finally, I am not surprised at any of these, except that Hammond is so far ahead. Woodhouse and Yerushalmi have always been underdogs, I thought, but these numbers actually indicate they could be in the game if the Democratic machine cranks up in Southern Nevada. Jones is favored over Nakashima, but that race could be very close. And the race I still think determines control – the only one in Northern Nevada – is a dead heat by a GOP pollster, much more recent numbers than these.
One factor to consider going forward as none of these campaign have really begun but this sets a nice baseline: Gov. Brian Sandoval has at least a 54 percent approval rating in each of these districts. That could, if he has any coattails, make GOP prospects even sunnier if he gets involved.
UPDATE: On Friday morning, I got a look at three Democratic polls taken by Myers Research and Strategic Services of 400 voters in three of these districts last month and early August. The results show the Democratic candidates faring better than the POS polling: Shelia Leslie is up by 5 (46-41), Jones by 10 (49-39) and Woodhouse by 4 (47-43). But a huge caveat here on this information: I looked at the demographics in these districts and every sample was seriously skewed toward the Democrats. In the Democratic districts, the samples stretched the Democratic edge and in the Leslie-Brower race, a slightly GOP district, the Democrats in the poll have a 4 percentage point lead. Now maybe the Democratic machine will help in November, but I doubt by that much. Nevertheless, the Democrats based their samples on past performance in those districts, so the differing results in these polls really have to do with who each party thinks will vote in November. I still think these numbers are a bit optimistic, but as I have emphasized: It's August! So bring on the grains of salt.