In Ohio’s only general election congressional race pitting two incumbent members against each other, a new poll reveals a very tight contest with tremendously high stakes.
A GBA Strategies internal poll (July 15-19; 500 likely OH-16 voters; margin of error plus-or-minus 4.4 percentage points) conducted for Democratic Rep. Betty Sutton shows her to be in a statistical dead-heat against GOP freshman Rep. Jim Renacci. The data gives Sutton 42 percent as compared to Renacci’s 40 percent.
Surprisingly, Libertarian candidate Jeff Blevins is taking a sizable 12 percent of the sampled voters. This latter number causes some to question the poll’s methodology because, for a sole independent candidate, these figures are much higher than what is normally seen. Third-party candidates have shown to typically under-perform in their poll results, so it is likely his actual vote total will return to the low single-digit percentages that are normally recorded for such candidates. Interestingly, GBA projects Blevins to be drawing his support equally from both Democrats and Republicans.
The current results show little change from GBA’s October poll that projected the race to be tied, with each candidate attracting 45 percent of the vote. Blevins, however, was not factored into the earlier poll. The numbers are also in line with a June poll from Normington Petts & Associates, a Democratic survey research firm, that found Sutton to be leading Renacci 41-38 percent. In July, the Democratic-leaning House Majority PAC further confirmed Sutton and Renacci were statistically tied at 40 percent, with Blevins taking a much smaller share of the vote.
The 2011 redistricting plan paired Sutton and Renacci as a result of Ohio losing two congressional seats in reapportionment due to slow population growth. With a Republican legislature in control of the redistricting pen, the two were placed in a seat that favors Renacci in a head-to-head race with Sutton. Renacci carries over 41.8 percent residents from his current seat, while Sutton has far fewer constituents in the new 16th. Her carry-over figure is half that of Renacci’s, at 20.6 percent.
With polling leaving us in a statistically deadlocked race, we turn to the importance of spending and fundraising. Renacci was the stronger fundraiser last quarter according to the latest Federal Election Commission financial disclosure reports (closed June 30). He reported raising approximately $502,000 compared to Sutton’s $293,000. Additionally, Renacci ended the quarter with approximately $1.5 million cash on hand, compared to Sutton’s $900,000. Contrary to 2010 when the Republican self-contributed more than $752,000, this year he has only invested $2,500 into his re-election campaign.
Both campaigns and outside liberal and conservative groups already have reserved millions of dollars in TV advertising time in the Cleveland media market. Groups such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) already have reserved over $3 million in Cleveland ad time and similarly the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) as well as other groups has reserved $2 million buys thus far.
This member vs. member match-up has been a tight battle since the seat was redrawn and guarantees to be a horse race until the end. Both candidates have the experience, resources, outside support, and staff to run strong campaigns. OH-16 is considered to be a top race for both the DCCC and NRCC this fall, so stay tuned.