I checked my e-mail after dinner Wednesday night and just about sprayed my beverage onto my computer screen.
Republican Congressman Joe Walsh was crowing about a new poll that had him ahead of Democrat Tammy Duckworth.
What the heck? The loudmouthed tea partier leading a bona fide war hero in a district drawn to elect a Democrat?
But, yes, there it was. We Ask America polled 1,171 likely voters October 9th and had Walsh with 47.4 percent to Duckworth’s 45.9 percent - a one and a half point lead.
Walsh’s lead is within the poll’s +/- 2.9 percent margin of error. So, maybe he isn’t really ahead. But maybe he is.
Either way, this was the second poll taken by We Ask America in that district in about a week. The last one, conducted on October 3rd for me, had Walsh trailing by about six points, 50-44. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee conducted a poll the next day and had Walsh trailing by ten. 52-42. A poll taking by Public Policy Polling in mid-September had Walsh down by 14, 52-38.
Three polls in a row had Duckworth getting between 50 and 52 percent. But then the latest poll has her at 46.
Well, if you average all four polls together, which is commonly done, you get Duckworth 50 to Walsh’s 43.
But things have changed a lot since President Obama got his hat handed to him in the October 3rd presidential debate. First Obama’s poll numbers tanked, and then down-ballot candidates started feeling the impact in their own polling.
So, it’s very possible, even quite likely, that Obama’s horrific performance in his first debate has had some very real impact on the Duckworth vs. Walsh contest.
The We Ask America poll taken the evening of the debate had Obama leading Mitt Romney in that congressional district by about eleven points, 51.4 to 40.6. The October 9th We Ask America Poll showed Obama’s lead had dropped to five points, 49-44.
Independents went from backing Obama 50-34 before the debate was over, to backing Romney 47-41 six days later. And men went from being strongly for Obama 50-41, to being marginally for Romney, 48-45. Among folks 65 and over, Obama initially led 48-43, but then trailed Romney 48-43 after the debate.
The same thing happened to Duckworth, only bigger. She was leading Walsh 52-39 among independents on October 3rd, and losing them 51-41 by October 9th. Duckworth led Walsh among men 50-45, but was then losing men 53-41. Her lead among seniors had been 50-44. But Walsh led among oldsters in the October 9th poll 51-43.
According to that last poll, Duckworth’s problems are obviously worse than the president’s. There’s a reason for that, too.
Two years ago, the Democrats didn’t take Walsh seriously and he defeated a sitting congresswoman by a couple of hundred votes. This time around, with a favorable new district map and what they believed was a strong candidate, they figured they had it in the bag. Early polling confirmed it. “Everybody” knew it.
But outside groups have spent well over $2 million on TV ads attacking Duckworth and also bolstering Walsh’s flagging image. Duckworth and the national Democrats and their friends with super PACs have not kept pace. So, Duckworth hasn’t been able to respond to the attacks.
This isn’t over. Duckworth isn’t cooked yet (and neither is Obama). But Walsh has always been a better campaigner than the Democrats have ever admitted. They need to wake up, or they just might lose to him again.