Northern Virginia Rep. James P. Moran is not expected to be one of the Democrats’ many endangered candidates in November, but the campaign of GOP challenger Patrick Murray, a retired Army colonel and political neophyte, says it can see signs the race won’t be the usual electoral cakewalk for the 10-term incumbent.
An internal poll conducted for the Murray campaign gave Mr. Moran, a former Alexandria mayor, a 13 percentage point lead over Col. Murray, but the 45-percent-to-32-percent showing is below the 50 percent a veteran incumbent normally can expect in what has long been a Democratic stronghold.
More hopeful for Col. Murray, who has made his support for Israel an issue in his underdog campaign, is that Mr. Moran’s lead dwindles to eight points - 44 percent to 36 percent - among the six in 10 voters who say they have at least a vague idea of who both candidates are.
Most electoral watchers still put the race safely in the Democratic column, and the Moran campaign has dismissed the internal poll, telling The Washington Times in an e-mail that the “push-poll numbers aren’t worth the paper they were printed on.” Internal polls commissioned by one of the candidates typically are not seen as the most reliable barometer of a race.
A spokesman for Mr. Moran, who has never fallen below 56 percent of the vote since first winning election to the House in 1990, said Col. Murray was not a good fit for the district, which went heavily for Democrats Al Gore, John Kerry and Barack Obama in the three most recent presidential elections.
The Moran spokesman, who declined to be identified by name, said conservative Virginia Republican Attorney General “Ken Cuccinelli and candidates like Murray who share his views and invite him to campaign for them are unelectable in the progressive, enlightened 8th District.”
The Murray campaign has accused Mr. Moran of being one of the most anti-Israel members of the House and of being a recipient of large sums of pro-Arab money.
The pugnacious Mr. Moran has clashed before with Jewish-American groups, saying in the run-up for the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq that “if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this.”
Despite his decided underdog status, Col. Murray also has been able to attract an impressive stable of GOP figures to help raise money for his campaign. Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, Sen. John McCain, former Sen. Norm Coleman and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton all have come to the district to boost the challenger’s campaign.
“There are no safe incumbents,” Mr. Bolton told a Murray fundraising event last month, calling the outspoken Mr. Moran “the very candidate elections were made for, so he can be defeated.”
Mr. Moran countered last month with a fundraiser headlined by Mr. Gore.