- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 5, 2006

Democratic candidates enjoy an advantage “in almost every campaign” and now stand a better than even chance of winning a House majority, the bipartisan Battleground Poll released yesterday concluded.

The poll’s conclusions closely resemble dismal predictions of a nearly certain net loss of at least 15 and as many as 30 House seats for the GOP that other top-rated Republican campaign pollsters and strategists confided earlier this week to The Washington Times.

Democrats also now show an increased probability of taking the Senate, according to the Battleground survey by Democrat pollster Celinda Lake and Republican Ed Goeas.

“The numbers are just as troubling for the Senate, and this puts the Senate in big jeopardy” for Republicans, Brian Nienaber, vice president of Mr. Goeas’ Republican polling firm, told reporters in a joint breakfast briefing with reporters convened by the Christian Science Monitor at the Sofitel Lafayette Square Hotel.

“As the national trend gets worse, that is a problem for a lot of our top endangered incumbents. As Republican voters are less motivated than Democratic voters, it does make it look like we could potentially lose the Senate as well,” Mr. Nienaber said.

He cited Republican Sens. Mike DeWine of Ohio, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania as three particularly threatened incumbents. Democrats need to a net gain of six seats to take the Senate.

He said an expected depressed turnout of social conservatives will have the “greatest impact on who controls the Senate.”

Mr. Nienaber said the Northeast is the GOP’s worst region for the November elections. It was 37 percent Republican and 36 percent Democrat in February on the congressional generic ballot but now is only 33 percent of voters saying they will vote for the Republican and 57 percent saying they will go for the Democrat.

The Sept. 24-27 Battleground Poll of 1,000 likely voters was conducted before the scandal surrounding Rep. Mark Foley, Florida Republican, began making headlines.

“The political environment is certainly a hindrance for Republicans in almost every campaign, and voters are much more resistant to hearing the Republicans’ side of the story,” Mr. Goeas said in a written analysis.

In 2000, Mr. Bush had been leading most polls before it was reported that he had hidden his youthful drunken-driving arrest. Miss Lake and Mr. Nienaber yesterday agreed that revelation cost Mr. Bush at least 4 million votes. The expectation now is that the Foley scandal — in which the former congressman is accused of making sexually explicit comments to teenage congressional pages — may similarly depress the GOP’s religious conservative turnout this year.

The so-called “security moms” — who worry about terrorism at home and gave Mr. Bush’s party the advantage in the 2002 and 2004 elections — “are not voting terrorism this time,” said Miss Lake. “They give the administration a nine-point advantage on terrorism but give Democrats a 15-point advantage on the problems that matter most to them — education, health care and the economy.”

The Associated Press reported that an AP-Ipsos poll released yesterday, “found that about half of likely voters say recent disclosures of corruption and scandal in Congress will be very or extremely important” in their decisions when they cast their votes next month.

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