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September 05, 2008

Republicans Worried About Schmidt?

The National Republican Congressional Committee could be nervous about yet another Congressional seat that should otherwise be safe Republican territory. This time, it's perpetually targeted Ohio Republican Rep. Jean Schmidt's Second District that is causing the GOP heartburn.

The NRCC spent $11,000 to commission a poll from McLaughlin and Associates in Schmidt's district, which runs east of Cincinnati along the border with Kentucky, according to new Federal Election Commission filings. Schmidt won election to her first full term in 2006 by just 2,500 votes after surviving a special election in 2005 by a tiny 52%-48% margin.

That's far too close for comfort in a district that gave President Bush a nearly two-to-one margin in 2004. And with Schmidt's 2006 opponent, physician Victoria Wulsin, in a much better financial position now than she was two years ago, it's no wonder the GOP is worried. The party also reserved $485,000 in advertising time to defend Schmidt, an equivalent of more than 2200 points.

National Democrats have yet to reserve airtime in the district, but they have set aside $928,000 to attack neighboring Rep. Steve Chabot, whose district includes Cincinnati. That purchase will reach much of Schmidt's district. Neither party will rule out increasing or beginning advertisements backing their candidate in the Second District.

Democrats say they will focus on Schmidt's series of misstatements and gaffes. The party also thinks businessman David Krikorian, running as an independent candidate, will take more votes from Schmidt than from Wulsin, perhaps enough to swing the election. Not every Republican in the district is enamored of their incumbent, either. In a primary challenge in 2006, Schmidt got just 48% of the vote. She improved to 58% this year, while her closest opponent received 40%.

What's the official line on the poll? "The NRCC doesn't comment on strategy," was all committee spokesman Ken Spain would say. Don't expect this polling memo to make its way into the public domain unless the news is surprisingly good for Republicans.