Poll Shows Barletta Up on Kanjorski

October 13, 2010

Republican Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta held a solid lead over Democratic U.S. Rep. Paul E. Kanjorski in a new Franklin & Marshall College/Times-Shamrock Newspapers poll released Tuesday.

With about three weeks to Election Day, Mr. Barletta led Mr. Kanjorski by 47 to 40 percent among likely voters with 12 percent undecided and 45 to 38 percent with 16 percent undecided among all voters, according to the poll.

The 7-percentage-point margins are slightly larger, though statistically insignificant, than a 5-point advantage that Mr. Barletta had in an F&M poll during almost the exact same week in 2008 before he lost to Mr. Kanjorski three weeks later.

Unlike 2008, when Democrats rode a wave of dislike for President Bush to control of Congress, voters are angry at Democrats this year, which could hamper Mr. Kanjorski’s efforts to catch up, said G. Terry Madonna, Ph.D,. director of the F&M poll.

“They’re the exact reverse,” Dr. Madonna said. “In ’08, the environment worked in favor of Kanjorski.”

The poll was conducted between Oct. 5 and Sunday. It surveyed 414 likely voters and 493 voters overall.

It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.8 percentage points for the likely voters and plus or minus 4.4 points for all the voters. This means Mr. Barletta’s advantage was within the margin of error.

Besides Times-Shamrock Newspapers, the poll was produced in conjunction with the Philadelphia Daily News, WGAL-TV in Lancaster, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, WTAE-TV in Pittsburgh, WPVI-TV6/ABC in Philadelphia, the Harrisburg Patriot-News and Lancaster Newspapers.

Ed Mitchell, Mr. Kanjorski’s campaign spokesman, sarcastically welcomed the news, noting that Mr. Kanjorski won after F&M polls had him behind in 2008. He questioned their reliability.

“We must be on the path to winning,” Mr. Mitchell said. “His polls generally predict our victory when he has Barletta ahead.”

Mr. Mitchell pointed to a large lead F&M reported for the Republican candidate, Mike Fitzpatrick, in a suburban Philadelphia congressional district recently when a poll by the Democratic incumbent, Rep. Patrick Murphy, had him narrowly ahead.

“The fact of the matter is we don’t place a lot of stock in it,” he said of the F&M poll.

Mr. Mitchell, citing his long-standing policy, declined to release Mr. Kanjorski’s poll results.

“The poll result is consistent with what we’ve seen in other polls across the district,” Barletta campaign spokesman Shawn Kelly said. “Lou Barletta’s message is resonating with the voters. They’ve had enough of Paul Kanjorski’s record of job losses and Medicare cuts. While we’re encouraged, the only poll Lou is focused on is the one taken on Nov. 2.”

Other poll findings might also spell trouble for Mr. Kanjorski.

– Fewer than two in five voters (36 percent) believe Mr. Kanjorski deserves re-election, and almost three in five (57 percent) believe it is time for a change, though that is not much different than the 2008 poll when 35 percent said he deserved re-election and 53 percent said it is time for a change.

– Fewer than two in five voters (36 percent) say Mr. Kanjorski is doing a good or excellent job compared to almost three in five (58 percent) who believe he is doing a fair or poor job. The question was not asked in the 2008 poll. That poll showed an equal percentage of voters, 37 percent, having favorable and unfavorable opinions of the congressman. The favorability question was not asked in the latest poll.

– There is a distinct enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans. More than three-quarters (78 percent) of Republicans favored Mr. Barletta while about an eighth (12 percent) backed Mr. Kanjorski. Three in five Democrats (60 percent) said they favor Mr. Kanjorski while a quarter (25 percent) backed Mr. Barletta. The 11th Congressional District is about 58 percent Democratic, 31 percent Republican.

– Among independents, a key constituency for Mr. Barletta, he led 50 to 25 percent with 8 percent saying they favor someone else and 17 percent undecided. About 12 percent of district voters are registered as independents or in third parties.

Dr. Madonna and many analysts believe Mr. Kanjorski won the 2008 race because of a wave of support for Barack Obama in the presidential race. They point to the narrowness of Mr. Kanjorski’s win, 3.2 percentage points, compared to Mr. Obama’s 15-point victory in the district, and argue he carried Mr. Kanjorski to victory.

This time around, Mr. Obama has become problematic for the congressman, who has supported the president’s major policies.

In the 2008 poll, 47 percent had a favorable opinion of the former Illinois senator and only 31 percent had an unfavorable opinion. Though the favorability question was not asked, this poll found 36 percent said Mr. Obama is doing a good or excellent job and 65 percent said he is doing a poor or fair job.

With district voters having soured on Mr. Obama, it is highly unlikely he can help Mr. Kanjorski, Dr. Madonna said.

“He has no one to take him over the line. He’s on his own,” he said. “The only hope he has is (boosting) the Democratic turnout unless there’s some issue argument he can use at the final moment of the campaign.”

Mr. Mitchell challenged the view on Mr. Obama’s influence.

“If Obama pulled us over the line, it was more or less adding onto what we already had,” Mr. Mitchell said.

Evidence in the poll suggests two possible strategies for closing the gap for Mr. Kanjorski, both of which he is already employing.

– Though almost two in five voters (37 percent) named the economy as the most important problem facing their families, almost the same number (36 percent) said former President George W. Bush is the most responsible for the country’s economic woes compared to only 12 percent who blamed President Obama. Another 23 percent said both presidents were equally to blame, 9 percent said no one is to blame. Only 15 percent blamed Congress.

As they did in 2008, Mr. Kanjorski’s television commercials have focused heavily on tying Mr. Barletta to President Bush.

– Though fewer than 10 percent of district voters live in Hazleton, most had an opinion on the way Mr. Barletta is running Hazleton. More than two in five voters (42 percent) said he is doing a good or excellent job as mayor while more than a third (36 percent) said he is doing a fair or poor job.

The large number who dislike his job performance likely reflects weeks of television commercials that criticize Mr. Barletta’s tenure as mayor, Dr. Madonna said. Mr. Kanjorski and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have both run such ads.

Contact the writer: bkrawczeniuk@timesshamrock.com

Click here to read the full story.