Starting Lineup: Bill Nelson's Numbers
Good Thursday morning and welcome back to the Starting Lineup. Here's our take on the day's political news.
Better Than Expected: Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson starts his 2012 reelection bid in solid shape, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.
Nelson has a 45 percent job approval rating in the survey, while 21 percent disapprove. Those numbers are by no means stunning, but are credible given the tough statewide landscape for Democrats. Newly-elected Sen. Marco Rubio also has strong approval numbers: 42 percent said they approved of how Rubio is handling his early days on the job, while 20 percent said they didn't.
The Florida Democrat leads 41 to 36 percent. And 43 percent said he deserves reelection while 33 percent said he doesn't -- numbers that suggest he faces a competitive campaign ahead.
Nelson would undoubtedly like to be closer to 50 percent on any of those questions. But coming off a cycle where Republicans made significant gains at every level of the Florida government, he'll take the results. Nelson will be a top target for Republicans in 2012 and already several contenders are lining up to challenge him. State Senate Pres. Mike Haridopolos (R) is already in the race, while former state House Majority Leader Adam Hasner (R), Rep. Connie Mack (R) and outgoing Sen. George LeMieux (R) are all seriously considering the contest.
To put those Nelson numbers in greater context, look at Pres. Obama's results in the poll. His approval rating is upside down -- 49 percent disapprove of his performance while 47 percent approve. Meanwhile, 42 percent said they would vote for a generic Republican against Obama in 2012, more than the 40 percent who said they'd back the president. And nearly half -- 48 percent -- said Obama does not deserve to be reelected.
Half of voters want to repeal the president's signature health care law, with only 43 percent wanting to maintain it.
That means that means that the Sunshine State is still looking like pretty Republican territory, but at this early point in the cycle Nelson has insulated himself to some degree.
Bachmann Goes Beyond Iowa: Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann (R) continues to stoke the presidential speculation, planning a trip to South Carolina later this month.
The move is notable because it is the first time Bachmann has headed to an early presidential primary state besides Iowa, which neighbors her home state,was her birthplace and was where she funneled money during the 2010 campaign.
Bachmann's Palmetto State trip suggests that she is taking a potential run seriously and that she may see an avenue among social conservatives now that Indiana Rep. Mike Pence (R) has passed on the race. Without Pence, who won the Values Voter Summit straw poll last year, the playing field to the far right is somewhat open in the 2012 potential playing field. Especially if former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) doesn't run, former Pennsylvania Rep. Rick Santorum (R) would vie to occupy that ground, as would former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R). The state's junior senator, Jim DeMint (R), who's making his own trek to Iowa and could enter the mix, would also appeal to that faction.
We'll get a very good idea of whether all the presidential speculation has raised Bachmann's stock among conservatives next week in the CPAC straw poll.
Steelman Posts Strong Numbers: With the Missouri Republican Senate primary now officially underway with Republican Ed Martin joining former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman in the race earlier this week, their year end campaign finance reports provide some insight into how competitive the race will be. And in her first report, Steelman got the early edge.