cn|2 Poll shows John Yarmuth with a 23-point lead in 3rd congressional district

08/12/2010 12:37 PM

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, has an early 23-point lead over his top challenger, Republican Todd Lally.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth is starting his second re-election bid with a 23-point lead over his nearest challenger, Republican Todd Lally, a new cn|2 Poll on Kentucky’s 3rd Congressional District shows.

The two-term congressman, who was first elected in 2006, received support from  52.1 percent of respondents compared to Lally’s 28.9 percent. About 1.4% picked independent candidate Michael Hansen  and 0.4% said they’d vote for Libertarian candidate Ed Martin. Another 17% enter the fall undecided.

The survey of 502 likely voters in Jefferson County was conducted Aug. 9 and 10 by interviewers from Braun Research Inc., a Princeton, N.J., firm. It has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points. Click here to look at the detailed results and the cross-tabs.

Yarmuth said in a phone interview that the poll numbers were “encouraging.”

“I’m obviously every encouraged by them,” he said. “It’s a strong indication that Louisvillians know this election is about choices, either moving forward or returning to issues that put us backward, like my opponent’s view on Social Security.”

So far, Yarmuth is the first Kentucky candidate tested by the cn|2 Poll who starts the fall with more than 50% of support in his race.

The Lally campaign disagreed with the poll’s findings, saying a poll taken earlier this summer by the Republican Party of Kentucky showed the difference in the single digits.

“We’ve already had independent polls that are closer,” Jay Hill, Lally’s campaign manager, said. “But we also believe that all poll before Labor Day are about name recognition. We’re sincerely making sure we match Yarmuth’s name recognition to his failed votes on the economy and job creation.”

Lally, a UPS pilot and a lieutenant colonel in the Air National Guard, was tied up with National Guard duties on Thursday and unavailable for an interview, Hill said.

Louisville-based political consultant Danny Briscoe said Lally is virtually unknown to voters.

“People don’t know who Lally is,” Briscoe said. “That’s part of his problem. On the other hand, by and large people think Yarmuth has done a good job.”

Being the incumbent also is an advantage because voters are constantly interacting with their representative, even in non-election years, Dewey Clayton, a political science professor at the University of Louisville, said.

“You are constantly in the news, constantly telling your constituents what’s going on in Washington,” Clayton said. “It’s a huge advantage.”

Yarmuth’s job approval rating above 60 percent

Another part of Yarmuth large lead in the poll could be explained by his net approval rating of 61.7 percent, just above the preferred 60 percent threshold incumbents tend to enjoy.

The congressman’s net disapproval is at 31.6%, with 16.9% strongly disapproving.

Hill said the approval rating sounded high considering that 48% of respondents had said they were open to voting for someone else — a reference to those who said they’d vote for Lally, Martin, Hansen as well as those who are undecided.

Yarmuth, meanwhile, called his approval ratings “very flattering.”

“(The numbers) are a reflection that I’ve been out in the community, I’ve held over 2,000 meetings, I’m accessible, I listen to the community and I respond,” Yarmuth said. “But I’ve never considered my primary job to be re-elected. I just wanted to do the job right and I hope I am.”

Briscoe noted that Yarmuth’s support for President Barack Obama hasn’t affected his re-election race in strongly Democratic Louisville.

“He hasn’t turned his back on Obama, but that hasn’t hurt him. These are very good numbers for Yarmuth.”

Obama received a 55.9% approval rating — by far the highest figure for the president’s job rating in Kentucky. Previous statewide cn|2 Polls have shown Obama’s approval rating in Kentucky in the low 40s.

At the same time, Yarmuth said he didn’t think his votes on Democratic issues like health care reform, a usual target for Lally against Yarmuth, played into his approval ratings much.

“Some of that might be the case,” Yarmuth said. “… But I never worried about my vote on health care. It was something I campaigned on in 2006 and 2008.”

- Kenny Colston

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