Special election polls: Djou up in HI, Burns in dead heat in PA

posted at 8:48 am on May 3, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

While most Congressional districts prepare for the midterms coming in six months, two districts have special elections this month to fill open seats.  Both have traditionally been held by Democrats, but the Republicans in both have surprisingly good polling results.  Charles Djou has the benefit of running against two Democrats, who have split the vote and vaulted him into the lead:

Honolulu City Councilman Charles Djou has the advantage in the special election for Congress, a new Hawai’i Poll has found, giving Republicans the best opportunity in two decades to claim the urban Honolulu district.

Djou leads with 36 percent, former congressman Ed Case is chasing at 28 percent, and state Senate President Colleen Hanabusa is trailing with 22 percent. Thirteen percent were undecided.

The poll, taken for The Advertiser and Hawai’i News Now, confirms fears among Democrats that Case and Hanabusa could split the Democratic vote in the winner-take-all election and help Djou score a rare Republican upset.

This is an unusual special election in that Hawaii will conduct it entirely by mail. Voters have to fill out ballots and send them back no later than May 22nd. That makes polling a real challenge, as it becomes difficult to determine the likelihood of voters to cast an effective ballot in the race. The Advertiser’s poll of likely voters is self-determined (and a bit on the small side for a reliable sample), but it does break out as one would imagine in a three-way race.

As Hotline reports, that may also be due to the two Democrats attacking each other as well as Djou:

But unfortunately for Dems, Djou isn’t the only target for some on their side. Hanabusa began airing ads this weekend attacking Case for his votes for the Bush tax cuts and against prescription drug coverage. The ad didn’t mention Djou once.

Earlier this month, the DCCC was reported to have interest in siding with Case, but so far that has not played out publicly. Those rumors emboldened Hanabusa’s camp, and although she still trails the pack, she shows no signs of going away. That will make any comeback either she or Case very difficult.

This district went for Barack Obama by 70% in 2008. Even if one combined the polls for Case and Hanabusa, the Democrat brand seems to have suffered a significant decline in Obama’s home district.

Djou produced a video hailing the results of the poll but warning his voters not to take victory for granted:

Interestingly, the NRCC has decided not to put money in this heavily Democratic district for fear of backlash from voters. They have no such reticence in Pennsylvania’s 12th CD, which is split more evenly between the two parties. Tim Burns and Mark Critz will find out on May 18th which one will replace the late John Murtha in Congress, and a new DCCC internal poll has them in a dead heat:

A Democratic poll taken last week in Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District showed the race for the late Rep. John Murtha’s seat a total toss-up between Democrat Mark Critz and Republican Tim Burns. The survey, taken for the DCCC’s independent expenditure arm by pollster Anzalone Liszt, showed Critz taking 43 percent of the vote to Burns’s 41 percent. The poll was in the field from April 27-29 with a sample size of 406.

Murtha served over 30 years in Congress from this district and won his last race by a significant margin. Although the registration split is near even, it’s a tough district for Republicans. Again, in a special election, the question will be mainly one of turnout and organization. The DCCC poll may or may not have sampled likely voters, which will be almost as hard to identify in PA-12 as they will be for Hawaii’s mail-only election.

Two wins in May, in traditionally Democratic districts, would send a big message about momentum in the midterms. The GOP would probably be thrilled to get just one of these two seats.


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