from The Baltimore Sun
Republican challenger Andy Harris holds an insignificant lead over incumbent Democrat Frank Kratovil in the race for Congress in Maryland's easternmost district, according to a new poll just out.
The survey, the first independent poll to be released in the high-profile contest, suggests that the 2010 rematch could be about as close as the 2008 election, which Kratovil won by roughly 3,000 votes.
In the new poll, Harris, a veteran state legislator from the Baltimore suburbs, is favored by 43 percent of likely voters to 40 percent for Kratovil, a first-term representative from the Eastern Shore. Another 15 percent said they were undecided.
When the poll's 4.9 percent margin of error is taken into account, the contest is a statistical tie. The survey of 400 likely voters was conducted September 28-30.
The results reflect the strong Republican leanings of the district, which went for the Republican presidential ticket of John McCain and Sarah Palin over Democrats Barack Obama and Joe Biden by almost 20 points.
However, the survey offers some flickers of hope for Kratovil, considered one of the most endangered Democrats in the country. It shows him winning independent voters by a 38-35 margin.
Independents make up the largest bloc of undecided voters in the district.
In fact, Kratovil was one of just two freshman Democrats out of 12 nationwide in the new survey to be leading among independents. The former Queen Anne's County prosecutor has been highlighting his independent voting record in his re-election campaign.
The survey was published by The Hill, a Capitol Hill publication, and conducted by Penn Schoen Berland, a Democratic firm that has done work for the Clintons. The poll was co-sponsored by America’s Natural Gas Alliance, a trade association representing gas producers and exploration companies.
Interestingly, the survey asks respondents whether they would favor Obama or Hillary Clinton if the Democratic primaries were held today.
In Maryland One, which includes the entire Eastern Shore and portions of Baltimore, Anne Arundel and Harford counties, the answer was Clinton. But that includes answers from Republicans. Among Democrats in the district, Obama was the pick and they approved of the job he is doing by 72 percent to 24 percent.
Overall, most likely voters in the district disapprove of the job Obama is doing. A total of 59 disapproved compared with 38 percent who approved. Independents gave him a negative job rating, by a 52-44 margin.