Latest Polls Tips Connecticut's 5th Into Tossup Territory
CQPolitics - CQPolitics.com has changed its rating on the Democratic takeover bid in Connecticut’s 5th District to No Clear Favorite from Leans Republican, based on an analysis that Republican Rep. Nancy L. Johnson (news, bio, voting record) is at as great a risk as she has ever been in nearly a quarter century in Congress.
The strong and well-funded challenge presented to the 12-term incumbent by youthful Democratic state Sen. Chris Murphy has had this race teetering toward tossup for weeks. And the most recent poll, conducted for the Hartford Courant by the University of Connecticut survey unit this week, showed Murphy leading Johnson 46 percent to 42 percent among likely voters, just outside the survey’s margin of error.
Nearly a quarter of respondents said they strongly disapproved of Johnson’s job performance, perhaps evidence of a deepening anti-Republican mood in a northwestern Connecticut district where President Bush trailed Democrat John Kerry in 2004, albeit by a razor-thin margin.
The poll’s results indicated that the race could break in either direction: 17 percent of Johnson supporters and 15 percent of Murphy supporters said they could change their minds over the next several days, and 9 percent of respondents said they were undecided.
But the survey also found that Murphy leads Johnson among voters who do not identify themselves as member of either major party, a contingent that accounts for nearly half the district’s likely voters. Among unaffiliated voters, Murphy led Johnson 45 percent to 36 percent.
Democrats also are hoping an uptick in voter registration statewide will aid their congressional candidates. According to state officials, 53,000 new voters registered across the state between the Aug. 8 primary election and Tuesday’s deadline. Democrats claim twice as many of the new voters as Republicans (18,000 to 9,000), while nearly half — 26,000 — were not affiliated with either party, according to data released by the Secretary of State’s office Thursday.
Johnson’s problems this year come even though she hasn’t changed her approach much over her career nor since her easy 2004 win, with a 22 percentage-point margin, over an unheralded Democratic challenger.
Congressional Quarterly’s vote studies for 2005 show Johnson voted with Bush on 59 percent of House votes when the president took a stated position, and sided with most fellow Republicans against most Democrats on 79 percent of House votes on which the parties were mainly opposed to each other. Both scores were below the average in the largely conservative Republican ranks.
But Murphy argues that Johnson nonetheless is too cozy with Bush, whose approval ratings in the state have tanked over the past two years.
Murphy has in particular been aggressively attacking Johnson for her longstanding support for Bush’s decision to go to war in Iraq and her general support for his handling of the war, an increasingly risky political position giving the sharp decline in public support for the war.
The challenger is also hitting Johnson on a subject that has long been one of her biggest sources of strength: her focus on health care issues.
Johnson touts her chairmanship of the influential Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health, a position that gives her influence and tremendous fundraising clout.
But Murphy charges Johnson is too close to the medical and pharmaceutical industries. He has sharply criticized the leading role she played in crafting the 2003 Medicare prescription drug benefit plan, which Bush, Johnson and other Republicans say is working but which Murphy and many Democrats charge is short on benefits for consumers and long on perks for drug companies.
The political action committee of the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org made independent expenditures in the 5th District this spring and summer which alleged that Johnson was “caught red-handed” voting for the prescription drug plan after accepting thousands of dollars in campaign donations from pharmaceutical companies.
The PAC spent $444,000 against Johnson from March to June, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) spent $325,000 against the incumbent in late September.
Johnson’s allies in the health care field have responded by rushing to her aid. The American Medical Association (AMA) Political Action Committee has poured in $307,000 in independent expenditures in hopes of boosting Johnson’s fortunes.
The National Republican Congressional Committee also has made independent expenditures to support Johnson, although its $46,000 input has lagged in comparison to the AMA’s effort on Johnson’s side and the DCCC’s salvo against her.
Those outside factors are in addition to the massive spending spree in which the candidates themselves are engaged.
Johnson — who flexed her fundraising muscles by taking in $2.2 million for her easy 2004 contest — stepped it up in this cycle and had raised $3.6 million as of Oct. 18. Even with $4.4 million in expenditures, including money left over from past and less competitive contests, she had $406,000 left on hand as of that date.
But Murphy has proven one of the most formidable fundraisers among non-incumbent House candidates this cycle, raising $2.2 million and holding $351,000 on hand as of Oct. 18.
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Last edited by motivez; 11-03-2006 at 04:17 AM..