Incumbent Republican Representative Brian Fitzpatrick leads Democratic challenger Scott Wallace in Pennsylvania’s newly-drawn 1st Congressional District. While the survey results would seem to indicate a good election for Democrats, the incumbent’s previous constituents hold a positive view of him.
Most voters in PA-01 disapprove of the job Donald Trump is doing as President and a plurality indicated they would like to see Democrats take control of the U.S. Congress, according to the Monmouth Poll.
However, Rep. Fitzpatrick holds a 50% to 46% lead over Mr. Wallace among likely voters using Monmouth’s standard midterm turnout model. That’s a critical 50-percent threshold result, which if accurate would make it highly unlikely for the challenger to prevail.
“When you look at the underlying political environment in this district, you would expect the Democrat to be ahead,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “But Fitzpatrick has been able to overcome this with a solid reputation among his constituents, while many remain uncertain about Wallace.”
In the model that assumes a Democratic precinct surge, the race only narrows to 49% for Rep. Fitzpatrick and 48% for Mr. Wallace. A model projecting lower overall turnout shows Rep. Fitzpatrick with a much larger 52% to 45% edge over Mr. Wallace, surpassing that critical 50-percent threshold.
Worth noting, the Monmouth Poll released results depending on three different turnout models for the highly-contested special election in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District held on March 13, 2018. The model proved remarkably unreliable, indicating the complete reverse result would occur under various circumstances.
For instance, the model predicted the higher the turnout, the larger the lead would grow for Democratic candidate Conor Lamb, who ultimately won by a margin of less than 0.4%. In reality, the Democratic candidate in PA-18 and other special elections benefited from low turnout and, in fact, Republicans’ shares of the vote grew the higher the turnout.
Also worth noting, trends still matter. This race was much closer in the Monmouth Poll conducted in June, when Rep. Fitzpatrick was ahead by a single percentage point in the standard model (48%-47%), and Mr. Wallace was ahead by a single percentage point in the Democratic surge model (48%-47%).
The race was tied in the low turnout model (48%-48%) and in no scenario was the incumbent at the critical 50-percent threshold. Now, Rep. Fitzpatrick leads in all of the current likely voter models, and he is at or above the 50-mark in two of the three turnout models.
All are also within the margin of error for the poll.
“Republicans have been trying to paint the challenger as a carpetbagger,” Murray added. “They may be having limited success on this score, and in a tight race that difference in comfort level might prove to be the margin of victory.”
Rep. Fitzpatrick leads Mr. Wallace on the question of who is seen as being in touch with voters in the district. A majority, 56%, say the incumbent is in touch with his constituents, while just 33% say he is not. Just over 4-in-10 (43%) say the Democratic challenger is in touch and 32% say he is not. That compares to June’s results of 58% in touch and 30% out of touch for Fitzpatrick and 39% in touch and 28% out of touch for Mr. Wallace.
“Republicans have been trying to paint the challenger as a carpetbagger. They may be having limited success on this score, and in a tight race that difference in comfort level might prove to be the margin of victory,” said Murray.
Rep. Fitzpatrick leads among both men (51% to 46%) and women (50% to 47%). Interestingly, even though his lead with men is smaller than it was in June (57% to 38%), he has reversed a significant deficit among women (40% to 56% for Wallace) since the summer.
White voters without a college degree back Fitzpatrick by a 53% to 44% margin, which is smaller than the 58% to 37% lead he held in June.