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NV-02: PPP Shows a Toss-Up in September House Special Election

There are two House special elections on September 13, filling two of the three current vacancies in Congress. The third, in OR-01 to replace David Wu, won’t be filled until January 31, 2012.

Because it’s a short ride off the Acela for DC types and right in the New York media backyard, attention has focused on NY-09, the election to replace Anthony Weiner. There’s only been one poll of the race, and Democrat David Weprin leads Republican Rob Turner by 6 points, but that’s been enough to spawn long takeouts in the New York Times about the exciting race and what it means for national trends. Even most of the sources in that story acknowledge that Weprin will probably win.

The other election is over in Reno, an NV-02 election to replace Dean Heller, who moved up to the Senate when John Ensign resigned. National reporters don’t spend a lot of time in Reno. They figure it’s a pretty conservative place and things will work itself out. I wonder what they’ll do with this information:

Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos & SEIU (8/18-21, likely voters, no trendlines):

Kate Marshall (D): 42
Mark Amodei (R): 43
Timothy Fasano (AI): 3
Helmuth Lehmann (I): 3
Undecided: 8

There has only been one other poll of the race, from Republican pollster Magellan for the astroturf Tea Party group Americans for Prosperity. That had Mark Amodei, the former Republican Party chair in Nevada, up 48-35 on Marshall, the state Treasurer. Something tells me that the PPP poll is more reliable. Especially because they’ve been on a huge winning streak, nailing pretty much every election this year, including hard-to-poll state Senate recalls in Wisconsin.

I hadn’t realized that the NRCC, the campaign arm for House Republicans, already sunk $400,000 into this race. Comparatively, the DCCC and other outside groups have done nothing, and yet here’s a poll showing the race a dead heat. They will probably have to jump in for Marshall not to be swamped by an ad blitz.

PPP’s sample of the race definitely had a more Democratic lean than other pollsters, and the truth might be more in the middle of them and Magellan. But it does seem close enough to merit attention. Marshall has been running a bunch of ads using the Democratic playbook of tying the Republican to the Ryan budget that ends Medicare. It’s possible that has been effective. And general disgust with Washington hurts the party in power, and in an area with a past Republican incumbent, when the Republicans control the House, that may have an impact on the race.

Marshall isn’t completely well-positioned here, but it’s definitely a closer race than NY-09, based on the available evidence. And a pickup would put Democrats within 23 seats of a takeover of the House. The media might want to take note.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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