House Polls: Developing Trends

By Jim Ellis

Oct. 6, 2016 — A number of important House polls have already come into the public domain this week and, together, they provide us some clues about what we can expect in November.

New surveys across the country from east to west, beginning in New Jersey and New York, then traveling through Iowa, and into Nevada and California provide some good news for certain Democratic challengers, but not nearly enough to make a sizable dent in the 59-seat Republican majority.

For the Democrats to make any credible run at the GOP majority, they must score multiple seat gains in New York, Florida, and California, plus taking back what should be Democratic seats in Iowa and Nevada.

Their run against seven-term incumbent Scott Garrett (R-NJ-5) appears to be gaining serious legs. The Democrats are pounding Garrett for his social issue views, and the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) finds itself in a difficult position about whether to help an incumbent who withheld his own party dues because the committee supports gay candidates.

The Garin Hart Yang Research Group conducted a NJ-5 poll for the House Majority PAC (Sept. 30-Oct. 2; 401 likely NJ-5 voters) and found Democratic challenger Josh Gottheimer, a former Bill Clinton speechwriter, holding a 48-41 percent lead over Rep. Garrett. The data reports the congressman’s favorability index is now upside down at 32:35 percent positive to negative, suggesting the attacks against him are working. This may now be the Democrats’ prime conversion opportunity.

Heading toward Syracuse, NY, the Democratic polling data is not so favorable, however. In the 24th District, freshman Rep. John Katko (R) represents a seat that must go Democratic if the party is to make any serious move on the majority. The Siena (College) Research Institute (Sept. 22-29; 655 registered NY-24 voters) finds the congressman leading former congressional aide Colleen Deacon (D) by a whopping 54-33 percent margin, thus establishing his firm grip upon this swing district. The same district poll finds Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 12 points, and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D) topping Republican/Conservative Wendy Long, 62-28 percent.

Iowa Rep. Rod Blum (R-Dubuque) holds the most Democratic district in the Hawkeye State, and earlier appeared to be possibly the country’s most vulnerable Republican standing for re-election. The polling company inc./Woman Trend’s survey (Sept. 29-Oct. 1; 400 registered IA-1 voters), the firm Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway owns, finds Rep. Blum posting a major 52-36 percent lead over Cedar Rapids City Councilwoman Monica Vernon (D).

The same IA-1 sampling group posted Clinton to a two-point, 39-37 percent edge, and this result, too, is below where a Democrat should be running. The polling company/Woman Trend study becomes the third consecutive publicized survey projecting Rep. Blum holding a sizable lead.

Conflicting polls are surfacing in Nevada’s open toss-up 3rd District, GOP Senate nominee Joe Heck’s (R) vacated congressional district. The Tarrance Group (Sept. 27-29; 400 registered NV-3 voters) finds businessman Danny Tarkanian (R) leading Democrat Jacky Rosen 42-37 percent, when the three Independent and minor party candidates are added to the ballot test question. Last week, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) released their internal numbers (Sept. 27; 458 likely NV-3 voters via automated technology) giving Rosen a 40-37 percent lead with all five candidates included.

Another new southern California poll came to the forefront this week. In CA-49, the DCCC internal survey research arm released their Sept. 24-25 survey (504 likely CA-49 voters) that projects Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista) to be leading retired Marine Colonel Doug Applegate (D) by only a 48-46 percent clip. Applegate finished just five percentage points behind Issa in the jungle primary, suggesting that these numbers could be in the plausible range. Issa is now fully engaged and has the financial wherewithal to respond heavily.

In the aggregate, these polls suggest that Democrats are still performing below the threshold they need to position themselves for a chance to re-claim the majority lost in 2010.

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