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Dems Gaining in 50 Most Competitive House Districts

A new bipartisan poll of likely voters in 50 of the most competitive districts of the U.S. House of Representatives indicates that Democratic candidates have a significant advantage three months ahead of the November elections. The poll, conducted 7/19-23 by Democrat Stanley Greenberg and Republican Glen Bolger for National Public Radio, indicates that Democrats have an aggregate 6-point lead over Republicans in the 50 districts --- up 18 points from 2004, when Republicans won these districts by 12 percent.

The 50 districts were selected according to rankings by leading political analysts, including The Cook Political Report, Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball, the Rothenberg Political Report and National Journal’s Hotline. Of the 50 selected districts, Republican congressmen held 40 of the seats, with 9 for Democrats and 1 Independent. 12 of the 50 seats were open, with 10 held by Republicans, 1 Independent and 1 Democrat. As Bolger says of the 50 districts:

This is where the effort is going to be made. This is where the money’s going to be spent , and this is where the messages are going to be the sharpest…This is where the House hangs in the balance.

Less than a third of the respondents, 29 percent, said they planned to vote for the incumbent. Only 14 percent said they would “definitely” vote for the incumbent, compared to 24 percent who said they would “definitely” vote against the incumbent. The Democrats’ largest -- and most surprising -- margin of support, +13, came on the so-called “values” issues, including flag-burning, stem-cell research and gay marriage.

However, the poll indicated that values issue ranked 7th among voters priorities in chosing a candidate, behind the war in Iraq; jobs and the economy; taxes and spending; health care; and terrorism and national security.

Two thirds (66 percent) of Democratic respondents said they were “very interested” in the November elections, compared to 56 percent of Republicans saying the same. Among all LVs surveyed, 54 percent said they were “more enthusiastic about voting than usual,” compared to 41 percent who said so during the last mid-term election in 2002. Generic Democratic candidates had a +7 point advantage over Republicans among LV’s “if the election were held today.” Dems had a +31-point advantage in voting for competitive Democrat-held seats and a +4 point advantage in contests for GOP-held seats.

President Bush’s job approval among LVs in the 50 competitive districts was 42 percent, with 55 percent disapproval, slightly better for him than recent figures for the nation as a whole.