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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Michigan -- 07

MI: Knollenberg, Walberg Lead

Two Michigan Republicans facing tough races lead their Democratic challengers according to a new poll, but in both cases, the incumbents are well under the crucial 50% mark, giving national GOP strategists another reason to worry.

The poll, conducted by Michigan-based EPIC-MRA for the Detroit News and four television stations, surveyed 400 likely voters in both the Seventh and Ninth Districts for margins of error of +/- 4.9%. The Seventh District poll, which tested Rep. Tim Walberg and State Senator Mark Schauer, was conducted 8/20-22. The Ninth District poll, which pitted Rep. Joe Knollenberg against former State Lottery Commissioner Gary Peters, independent candidate Jack Kevorkian (Yes, that Jack Kevorkian) and Libertarian Adam Goodman.

General Election Matchups
Walberg...........43
Schauer...........40

Knollenberg.......43
Peters............36
Goodman............5
Kevorkian..........4

Both incumbent Republicans have bad job approval ratings. Just 35% say they have a positive impression of Knollenberg's job performance, while 47% say they think of his performance in a negative light. Walberg gets a similarly anemic 32% positive to 43% negative rating.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved $1.5 million in television airtime aimed at Walberg and $1.1 million targeting Knollenberg. If they drive down both incumbents' favorable numbers any further, Republicans may find themselves on the wrong end of the next poll.

MI 07: Schauer Down 3

We love dueling polls. And not more than three hours after Rep. Tim Walberg put out his own poll in Michigan's Seventh District, Democratic State Senator Mark Schauer has his own poll, albeit almost three months old, ready to go.

The Myers Research & Strategic Services poll, conducted 5/8-15 for Schauer's campaign, surveyed 600 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 4%. Walberg and Schauer were tested.

General Election Matchup
Walberg..........40
Schauer..........37

The polling memo reports that just 35% of respondents say they would vote to re-elect the incumbent, while a nearly equal 33% said they prefer someone new. Walberg's job approval rating is an upside down 34% excellent or good to 42% fair to poor.

Battling Over Battle Creek

A new poll conducted for Republican Rep. Tim Walberg shows the freshman leading his Democratic opponent by a big margin, but national Democrats have other ideas, as they've made Walberg one of their top targets.

The National Research poll, conducted 7/8-9, surveyed 300 likely voters for a margin of error of +/- 5.7%. Walberg and his likely Democratic rival, State Senate Minority Leader Mark Schauer, were tested.

General Election Matchup
Walberg..........47
Schauer..........31

McCain............48
Obama.............37

Walberg beat an underfunded Democrat by just four points in 2006, and this year Schauer has a big bank account and the benefit of DCCC-funded advertising. Schauer's State Senate district also overlaps part of the congressional district, meaning voters have heard his name before.

The eleven points by which John McCain is leading Barack Obama is slightly bigger than the nine points by which President Bush won the district in 2004. Democrats are holding out hope that they can paint Walberg as just too conservative for the area.

Walberg Opponent Running Strong

A peculiar obstacle for Michigan Rep. Tim Walberg's reelection hopes is that he will likely face a Democratic opponent who can claim similar, if not more incumbent-like, advantages in fundraising, name recognition, and political experience within the district.

A top target of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Republican Walberg will face one of two experienced Democrats competing in the primary held August 3. Although Democrat Sharon Renier has reasonably high name recognition from running in the last two races, having barely lost to Walberg in 2006 despite being outspent $1.2 million to $56,000, State Senator and Democratic Minority Leader Mark Schauer is expected to win the primary and is a favorite of national Democrats.

With leadership experience, the support of party leaders, and a state senate district that covers about 40% of the Seventh Congressional District, which takes in Battle Creek and the western suburbs of Ann Arbor, along the Indiana border, Schauer has high name recognition and will make for a formidable opponent in November. Too, in the last three fundraising quarters, Schauer has not only dwarfed Renier in fundraising, but he has beaten out Walberg as well.

As our last post in March indicated, a Quinnipiac poll showed Walberg with a 51%-40% lead over Schauer. Yet Walberg's approval numbers in the district are relatively low and the district's overwhelmingly negative views of the direction of the country pose large hurdles for any incumbent. Republicans are worried as well, listing Walberg in their 'Secondary Defense' category.

What remains interesting is how Schauer has chosen to run as the "experience" candidate against a sitting incumbent. The Democrat is touting his influence in the recent decisions of two companies in the district, Brembo North America and Production Engineering, to stay put and expand their manufacturing operations. Schauer's Communications Director, Zack Pohl, says that both companies claim Schauer was instrumental in passing legislation influencing their decisions.

"He has a long history of creating economic development projects, working across the aisle and getting things done with businesses," Pohl said. "Walberg doesn't have the same kind of record of job creation and working with companies to get real results."

Walberg's campaign manager Justin Roebuck says that Walberg is working hard to be as visible and accessible in the district as possible, having held over 150 town hall-type meetings which the campaign trumpets as "listening sessions." But with Schauer expecting high Democratic turnout in this Presidential election, especially in Eaton and Washtenaw Counties with their high number of state employees, the Seventh District's incumbent will most likely be facing a tough challenge against a well-financed, well-known, and experienced challenger in November.

-- Greg Bobrinskoy

Walberg Has Tough Fight

Michigan Republicans may have felt good in 2006 when they voted to oust a moderate freshman and replace him with more conservative Rep. Tim Walberg, but today that decision looks a little risky. Walberg, who represents the south-central Seventh District in Michigan, may face a difficult challenge from a top state Democrat.

The survey, conducted by Michigan-based EPIC-MRA, tested 400 voters who have participated in previous elections within the Seventh District for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. The poll tested both Walberg and State Senate Democratic Leader Mark Schauer.

General Election Matchup
Walberg 51
Schauer 40

Despite a nasty primary two years ago, made worse thanks to the involvement of the Club for Growth, which ran several hard-hitting ads against Walberg's opponent, Walberg is seen in a generally positive light, as 42% view him favorably and just 30% see him unfavorably. And fortunately for the incumbent Republican, John McCain runs ahead of both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in the district, by 16 points and 25 points, respectively.

But the good news ends there for the incumbent Republican: President Bush is seen in an extraordinarily unfavorable light for a district he carried twice. Only 37% rate Bush's job performance positively, while 62% say he is performing negatively. Just 17% of district voters say the U.S. is headed in the right direction, while 68% say the country is on the wrong track. With numbers that negative, voters in a firing mood could look at Walberg. Also, Walberg isn't seen as doing an excellent job to begin with: 39% rate his job performance positively while 38% rate it negatively.

The Republican could also be in trouble thanks to lackluster fundraising. Through the end of the year, Walberg had hauled in $562,000 and retained $438,000 in the bank. Schauer, though, had both outraised his opponent, pulling in $577,000, and outbanked Walberg, retaining $500,000. President Bush carried the district twice, though by nine points, in 2004, and five points, in 2000. Michigan Democrat Bart Stupak represents a similar district, though in the state's Upper Peninsula, meaning Democrats can win slightly Republican seats in the state.

National Democrats are also targeting Michigan Republican Joe Knollenberg, though given the amount of money Knollenberg has raised, Walberg looks like Democrats' best chance for a takeover. If Schauer is to win, he will have to overcome the presidential votes of what looks like a district that favors John McCain.