Republican Representative Kristi Noem's lead over her Democratic challenger Matt Varilek in the U.S. House race is slipping, according to a poll released today.
Noem leads Varilek by 5.7 percent (49.3 to 43.6 percent) with 7.1 percent undecided, according to the most recent Nielson Brothers Polling survey of likely South Dakota voters. This lead is down from her 50.8 to 42.0 percent lead in the Nielson Labor Day Survey.
With a tenuous lead, Noem's performance in the Rapid City Journal-hosted debate today at noon at University Center in Rapid City is crucial to retaining her lead among South Dakota voters. Today's debate is the only scheduled in western South Dakota.
The Nielson poll shows other Republicans are still ahead of their Democratic rivals in various South Dakota races.
Incumbent Republican Chris Nelson again holds a strong advantage over Democrat Nick Nemec by 26.4 percent (55.1 percent to 28.7 percent), with 16.2 percent undecided, in one of South Dakota’s two races for Public Utilities Commissioner (PUC).
In the second PUC contest, Libertarian candidate Russell Clarke appears to be pulling support from Republican Kristie Fiegen, narrowing her advantage over Democratic challenger Matt McGovern. Fiegen now leads by 2.1 percent, with 38.6 percent of support, over McGovern’s 36.5 percent, and Clarke’s 8.5 percent. 16.4 percent of respondents say they are undecided.
Last month, without Clarke’s name in the survey, Fiegen enjoyed a 10.5 percent advantage (47.0 to 36.5 percent).
Republican candidates for the state senate hold a 43.7 to 37.0 percent lead in Nielson’s October survey, with 19.3 percent undecided. Measured by region, Republican candidates lead by 10.9 percent (47.1 to 36.2 percent) among West River voters, by 10.2 percent (44.6 to 34.4 percent) in the Sioux Falls Metro area (Minnehaha and Lincoln counties), and by 1.1 percent (40.9 to 39.8 percent) East River outside of Metro Sioux Falls.
The Nielson survey shows Rep. Kristi Noem’s job approval at 53.4 percent, compared with 54.7 percent approval in September. Of those who approve, 24.4 percent strongly approve, and 29 percent somewhat approve. 46.6 percent disapprove of Noem’s job performance, with 28.9 percent saying they strongly disapprove, and 17.7 percent saying they somewhat disapprove.
“The Republican candidates remain ahead but with smaller advantages compared to last month,” says Paul Nielson, president of Nielson Brothers Polling. “The closest battle appears to be for PUC, where Libertarian Russell Clarke takes votes from Kristie Fiegen, helping Matt McGovern stay close. Both PUC races have much higher undecideds, at sixteen percent, than do the races for the Presidency and the US House.”
In the survey, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney leads by 10.5 percent (51.6 to 41.1 percent) over President Barack Obama, with 7.2 percent undecided. Romney led Obama by 53.9 to 38.7 percent in the NBP 2012 Labor Day Survey.
President Obama's approval ratings have held fairly steady in the last few months, according to Nielson, with 45 percent in the July survey and 42.9 in the September survey. Overall, 43.2 percent of respondents approve of his performance. Among those who approve, 26.4 percent say they strongly approve, and 16.8 percent somewhat approve. Of the 56.8 percent who disapprove, 46.8 percent strongly disapprove.
NBP surveyed a random selection of likely South Dakota voters from October 1 through October 5. The number of responses ranged from 762 for the presidential job approval question to 730 for the generic state senate races question. The margins of error ranged from 3.55 for the presidential race question to 3.63 for the generic state senate races question.