Rasmussen Reports is the first out of the gate with a post-primary poll of the Senate race between Republican nominee Ron Johnson and Democrat incumbent Russ Feingold taken on Wednesday, and it is shocking. For the first time, Johnson cracked the 50% mark, pulling ahead of Feingold 51%-44% with the leaners included (for the first time in Rasmussen polls), and 50%-43% without leaners. The last several Rasmussen polls had given Johnson a 1-to-2-point lead over Feingold, with Feingold stuck at a consistent 46%.
Where did the sudden Johnson surge come from? Back in the end of August, Johnson had 89% of Republicans and a 10-point lead among independents, while Feingold had 86% of Democrats. Now, Johnson has 94% of Republicans and a 2-to-1 lead among independents, with Feingold continuing to hold onto 86% of Democrats.
On the favorability front, Johnson improved from 53% favorable/36% unfavorable/+6 Favorability Index (strong favorable less strong unfavorable) to 61% favorable/33% unfavorable/+10 Favorability Index. Feingold’s favorables dipped slightly from 55% favorable/44% unfavorable to 51% favorable/46% unfavorable, though his Favorability Index improved from -1 to +4.
Rasmussen suggests that this is a temporary post-primary bump for Johnson. Given the ease with which Johnson won the primary, and his unerring focus on Feingold in pre-primary advertising, I think it is more a result of a significant part of pre-primary Dave Westlake-or-bust supporters dropping the “or bust”.
Mary thinks Feingold will redouble his negative attacks on Johnson. While I don’t doubt that he will, that would be a mistake. In the just-concluded gubernatorial primary, Mark Neumann saw his lowest poll numbers while he was in full-negative mode against eventual winner Scott Walker, and saw his best poll numbers when he switched away from the attacks.