Our new polling for Reuters is just out and it shows Democrats ahead in eleven of the fifteen districts we polled currently held by Republicans. The Democratic edge includes leads in three open seats where well-known Republicans are on the way out -Illinois 6 - Henry Hyde, Colorado 7 - Bob Beauprez, and Ohio 18 - Bob Ney.
Meanwhile, seven Republican incumbents are trailing behind Democratic challengers - Chris Shays in Connecticut 4, Jim Gerlach in Pennsylvania 7, Mike Sodrel in Indiana 9, Chris Chocola in Indiana 2, Charles Taylor in North Carolina 11, Heather Wilson in New Mexico -1, and Thelma Drake in Virginia 2.
If these numbers hold there could be very good news for Democrats this year. Of these 15 Republican-held seats, Democrats lead in 11, while Republicans lead in 4. Nine of the 11 Democratic leads are by five points or more and of the nine Republican incumbents involved, 8 have negative re-elects -- all of which are under 40%. The formula for Democratic victory: in each case where Democrats lead, the candidates are winning near or above 80% of their own party vote and they are leading among independents. In other races I am following closely, there are reasons to see Democrats ahead in other Republican districts, as well. No predictions yet because there are still many undecided voters, but Republicans can breathe a sigh of relief that the election was not held the past few days. These polls were taken during what Queen Elizabeth would describe as 'weekendus horribilis' for the Republicans. However, the polling was conducted from last Thursday through Monday night of this week. We closely examined the figures for Thursday and Friday (i.e. before the Mark Foley scandal really hit) and Saturday through Monday and the results indicated no change in voter sentiment: aggregated, Democrats led 44% to 40% the first two nights and 44% to 40% the last three.
It may just be that the scandal has not played out fully and it could very well be that a scandal of such magnitude could hurt both parties. At the same time,, two caveats are in order - we did not poll Democratic districts and I am doing some districts for private clients and there are more Republican vulnerabilities.
So, Republicans find themselves in a bad news/good news situation. The bad news is they are in grave danger of losing their majority in the House. The good news is that there are still nearly five weeks before Election Day in which to do damage control.