Harper Polling conducted two surveys for the National Republican Congressional Committee and found a pair of potential 2014 GOP challengers in excellent shape, but the polls appear to contain methodological flaws.
According to Harper, former New Hampshire Congressman Frank Guinta (R), who is considering a comeback attempt in the state’s 1st CD, leads Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D) 48-41 percent in their poll of 408 registered voters released July 17. In 2010, Guinta defeated Shea-Porter 54-42 percent after she had served two consecutive terms in Washington. Two years later, the former congresswoman returned the favor, reclaiming the seat 50-46 percent before an expanded turnout of some 120,000 more voters than during the mid-term election. In the presidential years, the 1st District voted twice for President Obama: 53-46 percent in 2008, and 50-49 percent in 2012.
Though New Hampshire voters do not register by political party, it is clear from the voting history that the 1st District leans more towards Democrats than Republicans. Yet, there is no disputing that it qualifies as a true swing district. Hence, Harper’s sample consisting of 40 percent Republicans, only 31 percent Democrats, and 29 percent Independents is slanted in the GOP’s favor. This is not to say that Guinta may be performing well in comparison to the congresswoman, particularly considering the two candidates’ see-saw history when facing each other, but a seven-point lead at this juncture of the campaign seems out of whack.
Still, it is data like this that could encourage Guinta to get back into the race. He is also reportedly considering a US Senate challenge to incumbent Jeanne Shaheen (D), but such a move appears less likely as time progresses.
The second Harper poll was conducted in Minnesota’s 8th District over the July 8-9 period with 410 registered voter respondents. Here, Rep. Rick Nolan (D) and 2014 challenger Stewart Mills were tested in the state’s northeastern district known as the Iron Range region.
The 8th was drawn as a Democratic seat, and has performed as such except in 2010 when newcomer Chip Cravaack (R) upset veteran Rep. Jim Oberstar (D). Two years later, Nolan, a former representative who last served in 1980, reclaimed the seat for his party, knocking off Cravaack 54-45 percent, even though the Republican received 27,000 more votes in his losing effort than he did when winning.
According to the Harper data, Nolan and Mills are tied at 36 percent apiece. But, again the partisan breakdown of 32 percent Republican, 28 percent Democratic, and 40 percent Independent does not accurately reflect a district that voted 53-44 percent for President Obama in 2008, and 52-46 percent in 2012. Additionally, the seat was not improved for Cravaack during the redistricting process, thus keeping the original Democratic footprint intact.
Despite the Republican performance here in 2010, and the results of this new Harper Polling survey, it is not likely than MN-8 will be a top tier Republican target in 2014.
Though the Harper data is likely too optimistic for its Republican clients in both the New Hampshire and Minnesota instances, the numbers are significant enough to give some credence to the potential challenger campaigns. These are two races to keenly observe.