WASHINGTON – Party teeth will be clenched all the way through Nov. 7, as Democrats and Republicans take solace in polls that show their candidates are gaining ground in key battleground races.
Democrats need to pick up 15 seats to wrest control of the House from Republicans, and six to take the Senate. The numbers suggest many contests will come down to white-knuckle finishes.
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Texas Shoot Out in the 22nd
A new Zogby International poll in Texas' 22nd District shows Republican Houston Councilwoman Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, the write-in candidate, in a statistical tie with former Rep. Nick Lampson, the Democrat ousted after redistricting in 2004.
The poll shows Lampson and a generic write-in candidate tied. Most of those who said they would cast a write-in vote, are opting for Sekula-Gibbs, the pick to replace former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who resigned in June amid growing legal concerns relating to campaign money laundering charges.
Among the X-factors, the Houston Chronicle reported that 25 percent of voters were undecided. The only other candidate on the ballot, Libertarian Bob Smither, is pulling 4 percent of the poll. In 2004, President Bush won the district in 2004 with 64 percent of the vote.
Long Held Connecticut 5th Up for Grabs
New numbers out of Connecticut's 5th District might dash hopes of Republicans looking to return 12-term Rep. Nancy Johnson to her Capitol Hill office. Johnson is trailing Democrat Chris Murphy by 4 points in the most recent Hartford Courant/University of Connecticut poll, which had a 3.6 percent margin of error.
The Oct. 24-28 poll of 762 likely voters showed a 9 percent undecided count. According to the accompanying Hartford Courant story, the poll shows Johnson appears to be losing support in previously strong, wealthy precincts. A growing contingent of unaffiliated and non-major party voters — who make up 45 percent of the state's registered voters — is leaning toward Murphy.
Illinois 6th Could Be Decided by Undecideds
In the race to fill the seat being vacated by retiring Republican Rep. Henry Hyde, an Oct. 24-26 poll by RT Strategies/Constituent Dynamics put Iraq war veteran and Democrat Tammy Duckworth ahead of Republican state Rep. Peter Roskam by 1 percentage point — 48 to 47 percent. That makes the seat too close to call. In 2004, President Bush beat Democratic Sen. John Kerry 53-47 in the district where Hyde, the chairman of the House International Relations Committee, served 16 terms.
Of the 990 likely voters surveyed, 4 percent said they are still undecided.
Closing in on Illinois' 8th
Incumbent Democratic Rep. Melissa Bean looked to be in good shape in last week's Chicago Tribune poll, where she was ahead of GOP contender David McSweeney by 9 points. But an Oct. 18-24 Daily Herald/ABC 7 Chicago poll of 500 likely voters cuts the apparent lead to a mere 3 points, within the 4 point margin of error.
One factor that could help McSweeney is a third-party run by Bill Scheurer, who's polling at 8 percent in the latest poll. Another issue is that despite the late date of the poll, large chunks of voters for Bean and McSweeney say they are not "strong backers," meaning they could be swayed in their vote before Election Day.
Kentucky 3rd Toss-Up
Two polls for the Louisville area district have reached opposite conclusions. In an RT Strategies/Constituent Dynamics survey of 1,010 likely voters conducted Oct. 24-26, Republican Rep. Anne Northup, who has fought a tight race for the previous five terms she served, was down 6 points to Democratic challenger John Yarmuth, founder and executive editor of the Louisville Eccentric Observer, a 15-year-old newsweekly.
But in an Oct. 23-25 poll for the Louisville Courier-Journal, Northup was holding strong with a 6-point lead over Yarmuth among 669 likely voters. The margin of error there is 3.8 percent with 7 percent undecided.
And Fit to Be Tied in the Senate
A Research 2000 poll for the St. Louis Dispatch conducted Oct. 23-26 showed Republican Sen. Jim Talent and Democratic challenger Claire McCaskill in a dead heat — each with 47 percent of the 800 likely voters. Left undecided is 4 percent of the vote. The margin of error is 3.5 percent.
An Oct. 23-24 poll by Survey USA of 780 likely voters also showed a tie between GOP candidate Bob Corker and Democrat Rep. Harold Ford Jr. In the poll is a 3.6 percent margin of error and 5 percent undecided. The two candidates are vying to fill the seat being left by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a possible presidential contender.
The latest Rasmussen poll of 500 likely voters taken Oct. 29 shows Republican Sen. George Allen trailing Democrat Jim Webb by 5 points. That's a 7-point differential from one week ago, when Allen was up by 2 points in Rasmussen's survey.