Poll: Skelton in dead heat

October 20, 2010

Voters in west central Missouri like Ike, they just haven’t yet settled on sending him back to Washington, according to the first public poll of the Show-Me State’s 4th Congressional District.

A new GOP survey taken independent of either campaign and released Wednesday is a mixed bag for 17-term Democratic Rep. Ike Skelton.

The bad news: The chairman of the House Armed Services Committee has less than 50 percent support with two weeks until the election. The good news: His favorability rating is still far better than his GOP opponent’s.

The Wilson Research Strategies poll, taken on behalf of Kansas City Republican consultant Jeff Roe, found that Skelton is in a dead heat with former state lawmaker Vicky Hartzler, with each candidate garnering 42 percent apiece. It’s the first poll of the race released on the contest since April, when GOP affiliated robopollster We Ask America gave Skelton a 3-point lead.

The caveat, however, is that only 300 likely voters were surveyed by Wilson Research, producing a margin of error of 5.7 percent.

Missouri Republicans privately acknowledge that it will take a perfect storm to knock off the highly respected Skelton, but Roe said the numbers are illustrative of the rising tide the party is building in districts across the map.

“This race has been considered a bellwether measurement for how Republicans will fare in the midterms. If this data is any indication, we are in for a tidal wave,” Roe said.

While Hartzler has tried to portray the anti-abortion, National Rifle Association-backed Skelton as a pawn of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the 78-year-old congressman has responded with a ruthless counterattack, questioning her support for the military and veterans.

Skelton’s strategy appears to be working: Hartzler’s favorability rating sits at just 38 percent, according to the poll. Skelton’s sits 18 points higher at 56 percent, a key finding in a conservative district where self-identified Republicans outnumber Democrats by double digits. That’s also helped Skelton peel off 23 percent of Republicans.

Even so, Roe — who advised the campaign of Hartzler’s main opponent during the primary — said the Republican has a shot at upending Skelton if she can narrow his margin in the Kansas City area. “She has sustained two months of negative attacks, and it is still tied. If this race is tied on Election Day, Hartzler will win on voter enthusiasm alone.”

Democrats don’t buy that Hartzler is that close, and those familiar with internal polling conducted this week say Skelton is at the 50 percent mark, holding a lead in the high single digits.

“If this race was a tie, the Republican campaign committee would be increasing their television ads, not canceling them. It appears Vicky Hartzler and her friends are cooking the books in an attempt to paint a picture that just doesn’t exist,” said Missouri Democratic Party spokesman Ryan Hobart, referring to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Hartlzer won the endorsements of radio talk show host Mark Levin Tuesday and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee on Wednesday. With Missouri likely to lose a House seat after the 2010 census, the 4th District may be eliminated as part of a redistricting plan.

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