Marino, Barletta Ahead, Polls Say

October 14, 2010

Republicans Tom Marino and Lou Barletta are leading in their races for Congress, according to results of the latest Times Leader 2010 Election Poll that was released Wednesday.
The poll, compiled by the research firm Critical Insights of Portland, Maine, shows Marino, of Lycoming Township, with a 44 percent to 38 percent lead over two-term Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Chris Carney of Dimock Township among likely voters in the 10th Congressional District.
In the 11th Congressional District, 13-term Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Paul Kanjorski of Nanticoke trails Hazleton Mayor Barletta 43 percent to 41 percent.
Each sampling reflects the opinions of 400 respondents in each district. The results presented are inclusive of prompted “leaners” among undecided or not-sure voters.
The polling company said the results show that although the Republicans are leading in the races, both are categorized as “statistical dead-heats.”
Ed Mitchell, a spokesman for the Kanjorski campaign, concurred with that assessment.
“This is a statistically insignificant number,” said Mitchell. “It’s a virtual tie.”
The closeness in the poll was noted by Mitchell and his counterpart with the Barletta campaign, Shawn Kelly.
“We knew all along this would be a close race,” Kelly said.
Mitchell said “We think this race is very close and we think we have a very good chance at winning again.”
Local political science professors have continually said the race will come down to who can sway the independents and the undecided as Election Day nears.
Even with the “leaners” included, 18 percent of those polled Sunday and Monday were still undecided in the 11th District and 16 percent had not made up their minds or said they were leaning toward one candidate in the 10th District.
Kelly said the Barletta campaign sees the choice simply.
“If they like the direction the economy and our nation, then Paul Kanjorski’s their guy. If they want more jobs, less spending and lower taxes, then they should vote for Barletta,” Kelly said.
Dave Sosar, a political science professor at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, said he is by no means stunned by the poll results in the 11th. But the 10th District results drew a deeper reaction.
He said he was surprised that not only did Marino, 58, have a lead, but that it was greater than the margin of error rate of +/- 4.9 percent.
Sosar said he interprets the results more as a knock on Carney, 51, and the unhappiness of 10th District residents with what’s going on in Washington and their own district with the economy.
He said Marino’s campaign hasn’t done anything to “write home about,” but the best thing going for them is that their candidate is not a Democratic incumbent. Throw in that the district has an edge in registered Republicans over Democrats and that spells trouble for Carney.
Sosar said that seeing that Marino has been able to hang around in most polls even though he’s been underfunded and hammered by attack ads by Carney and the Democratic National Campaign Committee should worry Carney.
Jason Fitzgerald, a spokesman for the Marino campaign, said people are shortchanging the former U.S. attorney and how well he’s been received throughout the sprawling district by those angered with votes Carney has taken. He said the poll results are “right in line with our own internal poll we conducted recently.”
Carney’s campaign spokesman Josh Drobnyk said an internal poll conducted for the Carney campaign in late September showed Carney up 46 to 38.
He said the poll’s results do not reflect the person-to-person responses they’ve seen on the campaign trail.
“This poll does not reflect what we hear from people every day. The choice in this race is stark: Congressman Carney has represented this district with honor and integrity. Tom Marino has repeatedly abused the public trust and displayed a total disregard for telling voters the truth.”
Mitchell stressed polls “are a snapshot in time” and added many factors play into the responses. He said the only poll that matters is the one voters take on Election Day when they cast their ballots.
He said one thing that Kanjorski, 73, has going for him is that the district is heavily Democratic.
“That’s going to work toward our advantage,” Mitchell said.
Barletta, 54, is in his third term as mayor of Hazleton.
Mitchell also criticized the poll’s sample pool because the percentage breakdown by political party was slightly different than the actual registration breakdown, leaning more toward Republicans than Democrats.
The breakdown by political party registration was as follows:
In the 10th Congressional District, 40 percent of the respondents were Democrats and 46 percent were Republicans.
In the 11th Congressional District, 54 percent were Democrats and 31 percent Republicans.
Mitchell said the actual breakdown in the 11th is closer to 57 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican.
Chris Borick, political science professor at Muhlenburg College, said the poll is “a little bit more inclusive” of voters on the margin.
“These numbers show a bit about the broad political climate that’s out there right now,” Borick said. “There are many districts where Republicans are leading Democratic incumbents.”
Borick said the races in the 10th and 11th districts remain competitive and the incumbents – Kanjorski and Carney – still have a chance.
“But clearly they have work to do,” Borick said. “With those numbers you expect to see a lot of room for movement in the final two and half weeks of the campaign.”
Borick said there are still a lot of undecideds, but he said the two Democrats are fighting an uphill battle.
“It gives evidence why there is so much interest in these races outside of Pennsylvania,” he said. “There are several other congressional districts in other areas of the state where Democratic incumbents are trailing in the polls, or the races are very close.”
“The people of Northeastern Pennsylvania have a deep interest in politics and The Times Leader is committed to providing them with the best election coverage,” said Joe Butkiewicz, Times Leader executive editor. “This wave of The Times Leader election poll sampled more than 800 likely voters which provides results with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percent. The poll gives a credible snapshot of what voters are thinking three weeks before the election.”
Borick said the political climate in Pennsylvania is reflective of a general dissatisfaction with the direction of the country and what’s happening in Washington D.C.
“And since the Democrats control Washington, they are paying the price,” he said. “Kanjorski and Carney are fighting for their seats as much because of the broader political climate as because of their own records.”
Borick said that if Kanjorski was in better shape politically, the partisan demographics of the latest Times Leader poll should show him capable of holding onto his seat.
“Instead, his own liabilities have put that race in play,” Borick said. “It will come down to whether or not he can turn out the vote on Nov. 2.”
Of the 800 people polled, 43 percent of them were between the ages of 18 and 44, 38 percent were 45 to 64 and 20 percent were 65 or older. The group was 54 percent female and 46 percent male.

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