- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Democrat Jennifer Wexton leads GOP Rep. Barbara Comstock in Virginia’s closely watched 10th Congressional District race, according to a Monmouth University poll released Tuesday.

Ms. Comstock has gained ground since June, but Ms. Wexton still leads the incumbent by 6 percentage points — 50 percent to 44 percent — among likely voters in a “standard” midterm turnout model.

In a June Monmouth poll, Ms. Wexton had led by 9 percentage points — 50 percent to 41 percent.

“Wexton maintains a lead, but the gap has narrowed slightly since the summer. Favorable opinions of Comstock have increased in that time, while the challenger has been met with a mixed response as voters have gotten to know her better,” said Patrick Murray, director of the nonpartisan Monmouth University Polling Institute.

In a “Democratic surge” model similar to last year’s governor’s race, Ms. Wexton led by 9 percentage points, 52 percent to 43 percent. A lower turnout model gave the Democrat a 4 percentage point edge, 50 percent to 46 percent.

Ms. Wexton’s leads in the standard and low turnout models fell within the survey’s margin of error, though several independent political handicappers have given the Democrat a slight edge in the race.

Ms. Comstock won re-election by about 6 percentage points in 2016, even as Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton carried the district by about 10 points over President Trump.

The Comstock campaign dismissed the poll as a “modeling experiment,” saying Ms. Comstock has led consistently in internal polls this year and overperformed forecasts in both 2014 and 2016.

“So good year or bad year, Barbara Comstock has overperformed and the Democrat and media predictions have been wrong,” said Comstock campaign manager Susan Falconer. “Barbara hasn’t won seven elections in nine years by listening to the pundits.”

Ms. Comstock, a former state delegate, won her 2009 and 2013 statehouse races by about 400 votes each time.

Forty-two percent of likely voters in the poll say they have a favorable view of Ms. Comstock, compared to 45 percent with an unfavorable view. That’s an improvement on her 34 percent favorable/43 percent unfavorable split from the summer.

Ms. Wexton had a 42 percent favorable/31 percent unfavorable split, compared to a 36 percent/12 percent split over the summer.

Outside groups on both sides and the two candidates’ campaigns have blanketed the airwaves with message ads in recent weeks, which could be affecting those numbers. There’s close to $1.5 million in airtime reserved this week, according to the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in politics in the commonwealth.

The 10th District stretches from the suburbs of Washington, D.C., to the West Virginia border, so the ad buys include time in the expensive D.C.-area media market.

Mr. Trump had a 43 percent approval rating in the poll, with 53 percent disapproving. Eighty-two percent of Trump opponents said it’s very important to vote in the race to show how they feel about the president, compared to 74 percent of Trump supporters. In June, 77 percent of Trump opponents felt that way, compared to 61 percent of Trump supporters.

“These results suggest that the Republican base has been able to narrow the enthusiasm gap Democrats enjoyed over the summer. The problem in this particular contest, though, is that they have not closed it,” Mr. Murray said.

The poll also found that the recent news involving allegations of sexual assault leveled against Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh, Mr. Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, isn’t having much of an impact on the race, as 8-in-10 voters have said the situation hasn’t caused them to change their vote.

The survey of 374 likely voters was conducted Sept. 26-30.

• David Sherfinski can be reached at dsherfinski@washingtontimes.com.

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