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RealClearPolitics Politics Nation Blog

 

Blog Home Page --> House -- Pennsylvania -- 03

PA 03: English Sports A Lead

Rep. Phil English was at the head of the recent wave of newly-endangered incumbents, but a poll for his campaign shows him narrowly ahead. The Public Opinion Strategies poll surveyed 400 likely voters 10/22-23 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. English and Democrat Kathy Dahlkemper were tested.

General Election Matchup
English.......47
Dahlkemper....45

The last poll we saw in the district showed Dahlkemper leading by seven points. If the truth is somewhere in between, English is still in trouble.

PA 03: Dahlkemper (D) +7

It's no wonder national Republicans have picked Pennsylvania's Third District as one of the first places to run ads backing their candidate. A new survey shows Republican Rep. Phil English trailing his Democratic opponent by a wide margin.

The Research 2000 poll conducted for DailyKos surveyed 400 likely voters 10/6-8 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. English and Lake Erie Arboretum Director Kathy Dahlkemper were tested among a sample made up of 46% Democrats, 40% Republicans and 14% independents and others.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Dahlkemper...48 / 83 / 9 / 48 / 44 / 52
English......41 / 7 / 80 / 40 / 46 / 36

Obama........46 / 80 / 7 / 47 / 42 / 50
McCain.......44 / 8 / 85 / 43 / 49 / 39

President Bush won English's Third District by six points in 2004. But the economy is getting hit hard in northwest Pennsylvania, and English's lower income, largely blue-collar district is feeling the pain.

It's not that English has done anything to get fired. It's that the economy favors Democrats by such a wide margin right now that a political neophyte like Dahlkemper can give English a race.

Republicans are doing all they can to save their incumbent, dropping about $300,000 into the district. But Democrats, who recognized the opportunity for a pickup, have spent about twice that amount so far.

English Down One

Adding to Republican worries in one of the states hardest hit by the 2006 Democratic wave, a new Democratic poll shows Pennsylvania Rep. Phil English could face a difficult re-election battle against a political neophyte in an increasingly Democratic-leaning year. Republicans question the poll's veracity, as Roll Call's Shira Toeplitz reports, but such a close contest is enough to make anyone sit up and take notice of a race that was once off the radar screen.

The poll, conducted by Momentum Analysis on behalf of Democratic nominee Kathy Dahlkemper, surveyed 400 likely voters from 7/8-10 for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. English and Dahlkemper, who works as director of the Lake Erie Arboretum, were tested among a sample size that was 49% Democratic and 45% Republican.

General Election Matchup
Dahlkemper.........41
English................40

Generic Dem.......45
Generic GOPer....35

Though English hasn't been involved in any controversy or scandals, it is no wonder he remains vulnerable. His Third District, which occupies the northwest corner of the Keystone State, includes Erie and several counties heading south towards Pittsburgh, looks a lot like other Pennsylvania and upstate New York districts where Democrats swept Republicans out of power in 2006: Heavy blue collar population, a sagging economy and a falling population.

English knows something about close races and the scares they can provide. After winning his first two runs for Congress with 49%, in 1994 and 51%, in 1996, English didn't face another serious challenge until last cycle, when teacher Steven Porter held him to 54% despite being outspent about six-to-one.

This year, English also has a big cash advantage, with $690,000 in the bank through the April 2 pre-primary filing deadline. Dahlkemper, who won a four-way primary, had just $73,000 on hand three weeks before she won the nomination. Federal Election Commission reports due out tonight will show just how much catching up Dahlkemper has to do. Still, English may need the extra help; Dahlkemper's poll showed just 35% of voters responding positively to English's job performance, while 52% said his performance was negative.

Republicans question the poll results, and especially the party identification makeup of the sample, in a seat that gave President Bush a five-point win in 2000 and a six-point win in 2004. While Democratic registration has surged, national Republicans will point out that Hillary Clinton won the district overwhelmingly, raising questions as to whether Barack Obama can fare any better than Al Gore or John Kerry did.

If English survives this year, he could have a future in the House Republican Conference. A former aide to the Pennsylvania State Senate and a part of Rick Santorum's surprising win in 1990, English is a politico at heart who ran for chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee, finishing third to Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole and Texas Rep. Pete Sessions before the start of the 110th Congress.