A new poll conducted in the 12th congressional district could spell trouble for incumbent Congressman Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley).
The poll, conducted by Lincoln Park Strategies and commissioned by Democratic challenger Erin McClelland, shows that only 38 percent of PA-12 voters hold a favorable opinion of Rothfus and only 31 percent of voters think Rothfus deserves reelection.
When asked about the government shutdown, 50 percent of respondents said that they oppose shutting down the federal government over ObamaCare while only 40 percent said they support such a move. The remaining 10% were unsure.
If broken down by party, 72 percent of 12th district Democrats do not support shutting down the federal government over funding ObamaCare, and a majority of Independents (51 percent) agree. Even 30 percent of Republicans do not support Republicans shutting down the government over ObamaCare.
The LPS poll comes on the heels of polling conducted by PPP in the 6th, 7th, and 8th districts finding that respondents oppose the GOP’s shut down of the federal government to stop ObamaCare by margins of 63 percent to 31 percent, 62 percent to 31 percent, and 64 percent to 32 percent (respectively).
According to Professor Brandon Lenoir, who teaches Political Science at Oklahoma State University and earned his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh, national polls showing that the Republican Party has plummeted to an all-time low approval rating sets the stage for an interesting midterm election cycle in 2014.
“Most of the roughly 40 self-identified Tea Party House members who insisted on de-funding the Affordable Healthcare Act as a condition for reopening the government live in conservative congressional districts and will likely be reelected,” Lenoir explained.
However, he added that “their Republican colleagues from more competitive districts may shoulder the blame when voters go to the polls in 2014. This will be especially true for House Republicans who are perceived to be too conservative for their home districts.”
According to McClelland’s polling memo, Keith Rothfus looks to be one of those prime targets. LPS strategies concluded that their PA-12 poll shows that “[w]hile Pennsylvania’s 12th congressional district clearly leans to the Republican side (Romney won the district with 58 percent of the vote), Congressman Rothfus’ Tea Party views are not where the voters in the district are.”
McClelland is right that the poll shows serious signs of vulnerability for Rothfus. His job approval is low and most of the district is either unsure if he deserves reelection or thinks he should be replaced. This means that his opponents will be better able to define him going forward.
The results of the poll may provide some guidance on that definitional issue because the poll also asked about preferred approaches to reducing the deficit, finding that 47 percent of voters support plans that don’t solely include additional spending cuts, while 44 percent said that the budget should be reduced only through spending cuts.
That’s good news for McClelland and her Democratic primary election opponent John Hugya, but it’s also good news for Larry Stiles, who is challenging Rothfus in the Republican primary election as a moderate Republican.
According to Professor Lenoir, the major hurdle for an electoral connection with the partial government shutdown is the fact the average voter in the United States has a very short political memory.
“The question remains whether Democrats will be successful in their efforts to remind voters about the shutdown and to reignite the current anger at the GOP as we get closer to November 2014,” Lenoir said.
For those curious about the methodology of the poll, LPS conducted 708 interviews among likely voters from October 8-9, 2013 by interactive voice response (automated phone calls), and the results were down-weighted to 400 respondents to ensure proportional responses. Interactive voice response (IVR) technology is the same method used by Public Policy Polling in their recent Pennsylvania surveys.
The gender breakdown of the respondents was 47 percent men and 53 percent women, and the political breakdown was 38 percent self-identifying as Democrats, 40 percent Republicans, and 22 percent Independents. The margin of error at the 95% confidence level is +/- 4.0%.