2016-10-20 / Columns

Toss-up in Congressional Race

Michigan Politics
By George Weeks

Recent independent polling indicates Democratic president nominee Hillary Clinton has a solid lead in Michigan over Republican Donald Trump. But it’s more of a toss-up, even in partisan polling, in the highly competitive 1st congressional district race between Democrat Lon Johnson and Republican Jack Bergman.

A word of caution: Polls are not reliable predictions.

A statewide telephone poll conducted by EPIC-MRA and published October 7 in the Detroit Free Press had Clinton regaining the 42% to 32% lead over Trump that she had after the Democratic National Convention in July.

The paper headlined: “Has Trump Lost Michigan For Good?”

EPIC-MRA pollster Bernie Porn said, “It’s hard to imagine” Clinton losing Michigan unless she has a health or other issue. “I think the perceptions of Trump are pretty baked in.”

On October 13, The Detroit News published a Glengariff Group poll with a 12-point Clinton lead in Michigan. Glengariff President Richard Czuba said, “Donald Trump is making it increasingly difficult for Republicans to consider themselves Republicans. And that’s what I think is going to play down the ballot.”

He said the expansion of Clinton’s Michigan lead over Trump is not because she’s gaining any new support since a September 27-28 Detroit News- WDIV-TV poll had her leading Trump found her leading 42% to 35% after their first debate.

Czuba said: “She’s not adding voters. But the problems for Republicans is their candidate is losing voters.”

Just as the Trump-Clinton race has a ripple effect on control of Congress, it could have a down-the-ticket impact in Michigan.

Brian Began, a GOP consultant at the Lansing firm Grassroots Midwest, said if Trump falls below 40%, Michigan Democrats would be poised to win back the Michigan House.

Up North, a question is what will be the impact of the outcome of the presidential vote on the 1st District congressional race?

Dueling Polls in Johnson-Bergman Race

It was nip and tuck October 13 as Johnson and Bergman rolled out their latest polls.

Johnson cited an Anzalone Liszt Grove poll that gave him a 43 to 42 percentage lead and asserted: “The race has trended our way since August, as Jack Bergman’s favorability has continued to decline. …

“Jack Bergman is sinking with seniors, due to his desire to privatize Social Security.”

Bergman cited figures from Harper Polling that he has a 5% lead over Johnson “earning some separation from Johnson after the race was tied in our August survey.”

A future column will focus on issues in the congressional race.

George Weeks, a member of the Michigan Journalism Hall of Fame, for 22 years was political columnist for The Detroit News and previously with UPI as Lansing bureau chief and foreign editor in Washington. His Michigan Politics column is syndicated by Superior Features.

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