By Jim Ellis
Sept. 30, 2016 — Now that all political contests are in full campaign mode, we can report new numbers on five of the most hotly contested House race conversion opportunities for both parties.
One of the few truly swing congressional districts in the country, the expansive eastern Arizona 1st District is again the site of what should be a toss-up political contest. With Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Flagstaff) vacating the seat to run for Senate, the resulting general election matchup between former state Sen. Tom O’Halleran, who served a portion of his time in the legislature as a Republican, and controversial Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu (R) will be interesting to watch.
While Mitt Romney carried the 1st by a margin of 50-48 percent, a new Global Strategy Group survey (Sept. 22-25; 400 likely AZ-1 voters) finds Hillary Clinton topping Donald Trump, 46-43 percent. The same sample then yields a 45-38 percent O’Halleran lead.
The seven-point Democratic congressional margin equals what the GSG found in August, but the electorate has shifted. While more Republicans now support Babeu, Independent voters are trending toward O’Halleran.
A Democratic victory here, however, merely holds one of the party’s 188 seats and does not cut into the Republican majority.
The redistricted South Florida 26th District features a re-match between Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Miami) and former Rep. Joe Garcia (D). The court-ordered redistricting plan added Democratic voters to this seat, making it a ripe conversion opportunity.
In late August, Garcia barely won his Democratic primary against businesswoman Annette Taddeo, who many in the party leadership favored. The result was viewed to have benefited Curbelo, since he already defeated Garcia in 2014 (51-49 percent), but in a 26th District that was better for Republicans.
An Expedition Strategies poll taken during the Sept. 9-14 period (412 FL-26 registered voters with an option to converse in Spanish) but publicly released this week finds Curbelo and Garcia locked in a predictable dead heat. The Expedition margin tipped 47-46 percnet in Garcia’s slight favor. The same polling sample yielded a 49-36 percent Clinton margin over Trump.
Though the northeastern Iowa 1st District should be the Democrats’ best seat in the Hawkeye State, the electorate here chose Republican Rod Blum (R-Dubuque) when the seat was last open in 2014. Blum then immediately voted against Speaker John Boehner (R) in his first official congressional action, which cast him into the political wilderness. Speaker Paul Ryan has brought Blum back in from the cold, and a new Loras College survey (Sept. 20-22; 368 likely IA-1 voters) finds the freshman congressman topping Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon (D), 45-38 percent.
Blum’s encouraging numbers are even more noteworthy when the same polling sample yields Clinton to be leading Trump and Libertarian Gary Johnson, 42-33-8 percent.
The data seems to be tracking properly. Clinton also has a better favorability index than Trump, though still upside down, 41:53 percent positive to negative. The Republican presidential contender scores a poor 39:67 percent. In the congressional race, however, it is Rep. Blum with the better personal image, 43:27 percent, versus Vernon’s 35:27 percent. President Obama’s job approval is 54:42 percent.
All of these numbers track well with past voter performance, and Iowa voters going one way in the presidential race and another for Congress is certainly not an unusual finding.
This is a Democratic must-win conversion opportunity but, if this poll is correct and the 2014 Blum victory trajectory tracked in the same manner, the conversion opportunity may well be slipping away.
Loras College also surveyed the southwestern Iowa 3rd District, featuring freshman Rep. David Young (R-Van Meter/Des Moines) seeking re-election. Here, Loras surveyed 327 likely District 3 voters and asked the same questions that were posed in the 1st District poll.
The results prove similar, with Clinton leading Trump 42-38 percent in a district that is a bit better for Republicans, though President Obama did record a 51-47 percent edge over Mitt Romney here in 2012. At the same time, the electorate gave then-Rep. Tom Latham (R) a 52-44 percent victory over fellow Rep. Leonard Boswell (D) in a district that featured paired incumbents.
Right now, Loras College finds Young leading Iraq War veteran Jim Mowrer (D) 46-36 percent. Mowrer was the Democratic nominee against 4th District Rep. Steve King (R-Kiron/Sioux City) two years ago, in a race he lost to the incumbent, 60-37 percent. Simultaneously, Young scored a 52-41 percent win over well-funded 3rd District Democratic nominee Staci Appel, who was then a state senator.
Earlier in the week we reported on conflicting polling numbers in the race between former state Assembly Minority Leader John Faso (R) and law professor Zephyr Teachout (D). The two are battling for the swing district that retiring incumbent Chris Gibson (R-Kinderhook) represented for three terms.
The new Time Warner/Siena College survey (Sept. 20-22; 678 likely NY-19 voters) also sees a tight race underway. Their new data finds Faso with the slightest of leads, 43-42 percent.
These results confirm that this Republican swing district could still go either way.