The government shutdown is taking a bite out of the standing of U.S. House Republicans who represent two dozen battleground districts, according to a new series of polls in those districts.
Conducted by Public Policy Polling for the liberal group Moveon.org Action, the surveys suggest the shutdown may already be taking a bigger toll than most analysts think.
In Pennsylvania, the Seventh District of Republican U.S. Rep. Patrick Meehan and the Eight District of Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick were surveyed.
“Democrats must pick up 17 seats to win control of the House. These poll results make clear that if the election were held today, such a pickup would be well within reach,” PPP pollster Jim Williams wrote in a memo analyzing the results. “They surveys challenge the conventional wisdom that gerrymandering has put the House out of reach for the Democrats.”
Of course the election won’t be held today – it’s 13 months out – and any number of scenarios could influence the outcomes. For one thing, the incumbent Republicans were measured against a generic Democrat; flesh and blood opponents may well do worse than the idea of a Democratic alternative seems right now.
Other independent polls have shown that voters are blaming the GOP more than Democrats for the shutdown, now entering its second week. Approval ratings for most of the incumbents in the polled districts were underwater, meaning that more registered voters disapproved of their performance in office than approved.
The new PPP polls were conducted on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of last week, with sample sizes of between 600-700 registered voters in each of the 24 districts they surveyed.
GOP incumbents trailed the generic Democrat in 17 of the districts even before respondents were provided information about their support of the shutdown, and that includes the two Pennsylvania districts. In four districts, Republicans were leading until respondents were given information about the shutdown. And in three districts, Republicans lead the generic Democrat even after the respondents were told about the incumbent’s support of the shutdown.
In PA 07, 28 percent approved of Meehan’s performance, 39 percent disapproved and the remainder were not sure. Fifty-five percent of respondents said that Meehan’s votes for the legislation that led to the shutdown would make them less likely to support his reelection, and he was trailing a generic Democratic opponent, 41 percent to 47 percent. Here is a link to the PA 07 results.
In PA 08, 42 percent of respondents said they approved of the job Fitzpatrick is doing, compared to 43 percent who disapproved; the remainder said they were not sure. Fifty-four percent said the shutdown would make them less likely to vote for Fitzpatrick, and he was trailing a generic Democrat, 42 percent to 50 percent, after the respondents were told he supported the shutdown. Here is a link to the PA 08 results.
Two Democrats are actively campaigning for the nomination to face Fitzpatrick in the Eight District, which is in Bucks County: businesswoman Shaughnessy Naughton, and Kevin Strouse, an Army veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who recently moved to the district after working for the CIA in Northern Virginia.
Both Meehan and Fitzpatrick have joined with other GOP House members from moderate districts, including Pennsylvania's Charlie Dent (R-15th) and Jim Gerlach (R-6th) to call for an unconditional funding resolution that would end the shutdown.
Both Meehan and Fitzpatrick have