News & Election Videos

September 17, 2008

Barletta Leads, Framing Debate

Mix an incumbent's ethics issues with a popular and well-known challenger and Republicans may have found a winning recipe for beating a Democrat. A new poll shows ethically troubled Rep. Paul Kanjorski trailing his Republican opponent in a northeast Pennsylvania district that could become the GOP's most high-profile pickup chance.

The survey, conducted by Franklin and Marshall University, polled 547 registered voters between 9/9-14 for a margin of error of +/- 4.2%. Kanjorski and Hazleton Mayor Lou Barletta were tested among a sample made up of 58% Democrats, 34% Republicans and 8% independents and others.

General Election Matchup
(All / Dem / GOP / Ind / Men / Wom)
Barletta.......44 / 28 / 69 / 54 / 49 / 39
Kanjorski.....35 / 51 / 11 / 27 / 36 / 35

Obama/Biden...43 / 65 / 10 / 31 / 42 / 44
McCain/Palin....40 / 17 / 77 / 47 / 45 / 36

Barletta has a good image in Pennsylvania's Eleventh District. The small-town mayor turned anti-illegal immigration activist is seen favorably by 49% of respondents, while 22% see him unfavorably. Kanjorski has a less impressive 40% favorable to 38% unfavorable. Just 35% say Kanjorski deserves re-election, while 54% think it's time for a change.

Barletta is succeeding because he's been able to frame the debate around his issues, the poll shows. 17% of respondents say illegal immigration will be the most important issue in their vote for Congress, while 19% say a troubled government and politicians will be key to their vote. Barletta wins both those groups by wide margins.

The economy should be a top issue -- 47% say it will be the most important in their vote for president but just 21% say it will be their top issue when deciding how to vote for Congress. Kanjorski wins economic voters and those who say gas and energy prices are their biggest problems, but by smaller margins than Barletta wins his base.

Democrats have been hammering Barletta for months, both in voters' mailboxes and over the airwaves, but it doesn't seem to be working. Republicans have long crowed about Barletta's chances at knocking off the twelve-term incumbent. It's getting harder to see Kanjorski's path to victory.