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September 16, 2008

Post-Ike Politics

What do you call a Democrat running for a seat that's been held by Republicans since George H.W. Bush first won it in 1966? Either an optimist or someone about to get a painful lesson in politics. But a new poll in Texas' Seventh District shows businessman Michael Skelly is within striking distance in what would surely be the upset of the year.

The polled, conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research for Skelly's campaign, surveyed 500 likely voters between 9/7-9 for a margin of error of +/- 4.4%. Rep. John Culberson and Skelly were tested, along with Libertarian nominee Drew Parks.

General Election Matchup

That Skelly polls even anywhere close to Culberson in the district, which includes part of Houston and some of suburban Harris County, is remarkable. Wealthy, largely white and historically Republican, the Seventh gave President Bush almost two in every three votes in 2004.

But by 2006, Culberson beat a middle school teacher he outspent about six-to-one by a 59%-38% margin, a five-point drop from his 64% showing in 2004 and the lowest winning percentage of any of Culberson's four terms in office.

Culberson won't get a chance to outspend Skelly this year. Skelly made his money on wind energy, and he's pledged to spend some of his own fortune on top of the nearly $1.5 million he had already raised through the end of the Second Quarter (He's loaned himself $200,000 so far). Culberson had yet to break the million-dollar mark by the end of June.

Skelly is the serious underdog in his bid to replace Culberson. But Skelly's money and the new poll could at least make the Republican sweat.

A sidenote: The Seventh felt the effects of Hurricane Ike, which made landfall a few miles southeast in Galveston on September 13. One might wonder how much people are thinking about politics the week before a hurricane was slated to whack their community.