I have been waiting for polling data from PA-08 and the results from this Public Opinion Strategies poll appears to have been worth the wait. Mike Fitzpatrick leads Patrick Murphy by 7 points 48% - 41% in a poll of 400 likely voters conducted August 22-23, 2010. Here are the key results:
KEY DATAI fully expect Patrick Murphy to discount the results as nothing more than an internal poll from a Republican pollster. Still, the results seem consistent with other statewide polls such as this Franklin and Marshall poll showing Toomey with a 9 point lead among likely voters and Tom Corbett leading Democrat Dan Onorato by 11 points. Franklin and Marshall notes:
- 1. Fitzpatrick opens the fall campaign with a seven-point lead over Patrick Murphy. Former Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick starts the final push to November 2nd with a 48%-41% lead over Patrick Murphy. Fitzpatrick has an even wider lead in intensity of support, with 36% of voters saying they’re definitely voting for him versus 24% who say they’re definitely voting for Patrick Murphy.
- 2. Fitzpatrick also has a significant image advantage over Murphy. Fitzpatrick’s image in the district is 55% favorable/16% favorable, compared to Murphy’s 51% favorable/31% unfavorable image. And, Mike also has a significant edge among Independents, with a 59%-15% favorable/unfavorable image compared to 48%- 29% for Murphy.
- 3. The political environment here has a strong GOP tilt. Not only is Obama’s job approval here inverted (43%-53%, with 41% strongly disapproving), but the GOP candidate leads the “generic” ballot by 50%-34%, Speaker Pelosi has a very negative image (34% favorable/57% unfavorable), and both GOP statewide candidates lead here (Corbett by eleven and Toomey by eight).
The 2006 election year was the most recent with races for both US senate and governor in Pennsylvania. In the 2006 election, Democrats retained the governor’s office, defeated an incumbent Republican US senator, and picked up four US house seats held by Republicans. Polling in the 2006 campaign showed positive electoral indicators for Democrats that helped them to those victories.This underscores the "bottom line" emphasized in the Public Opinion Strategies memo:
Pennsylvania politicians are facing a distinctly different political environment than they did during the 2006 election cycle. Pessimism about the direction of the state is greater, job performance ratings for the incumbent governor are much lower, the incumbent president is unpopular, and Democrats’ advantage over Republicans in party identification and particularly voter interest has shrunk (see Table 1). While open state-wide races are often competitive in Pennsylvania, these indicators create a context where incumbent office holders will also need to be wary, particularly Democrats.
Patrick Murphy’s electoral victories in this district came during the two best election years for Democrats in decades. Now that the political winds have shifted, Murphy is seeing this recently friendly district slip away. Voters have soured on President Obama and Speaker Pelosi and they’re looking for a Republican to provide a check and balance in Congress.Mike Fitzpatrick appears to have momentum as he seeks to win the seat he lost to Murphy by a mere 1500 votes in 2006. Charlie Cook cited Murphy's narrow margin of victory in 2006 as well as the shifting political winds when he recently downgraded PA08 to "toss up" status on August 17, 2010. Time for Patrick Murphy to start packing his carpet bag.
With an enduring favorable image in the district and the political winds at his back, Mike Fitzpatrick is well-positioned to retake his former seat on November 2nd.
Murphy's campaign manager, Tim Persico, brushed off the numbers: "Former Congressman Fitzpatrick's poll, done by Republican consultants, is as misguided as his job-killing agenda. Recent polling shows Patrick Murphy with a solid lead, which makes sense since the voters have already rejected Congressman Fitzpatrick once after he voted for all of Bush’s failed economic policies - like tax breaks to corporations that ship our jobs overseas and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans."As I noted above, Cook recently moved this race to "toss up" although Cook reported there was limited polling data available at the time. This was a week ago. Cook cited the close margin of the votes in 2006 and the current anti-Dem mood as justification for the change. Presumably he had seen some polling as "limited polling" is quite different than no polling, in my opinion anyway. I think it safe to assume Cook hadn't seen anything to keep Murphy in the "Lean Democrat" category. I search for polling info on the district every day. If Congressman Murphy has polling data showing Murphy with a solid lead let's see it. I am assuming when Cook and other prognosticators see Murphy's solid lead they'll switch the race rating in Murphy's favor. Until then I take anything coming from the Murphy camp with the same grain of salt I give his newfound ability to break with his party.
There were a few interesting reactions to this poll on Twitter as well. It looks as though only Murphy's spokesman is discounting the poll: