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Bright Anything but in Roll Call Poll on Alabama

Despite a pair of Democratic special election victories this spring in Louisiana and Mississippi, a recent poll in Alabama’s 2nd district doesn’t bode well for House Democrats’ chances of capturing a GOP-held seat in the Deep South this November.

A SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for Roll Call found state Rep. Jay Love (R) ahead of Montgomery Mayor Bobby Bright (D), 56 percent to 39 percent, in the race to succeed retiring Rep. Terry Everett (R).

While Bright ran stronger than his party’s ticket headliner and Love ran behind the Republican at the top of the ticket, the poll showed the downballot effect of the presidential race is not helpful to the Democrat. In addition, the survey revealed the stark reality Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) faces in his effort to compete in staunchly conservative areas of the South. Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) led Obama 69 percent to 26 percent, according to the poll.

Democratic polls have shown both the Congressional and presidential contests to be tighter in the 2nd district. Those polls have used higher sample sizes of African-American voters and of Democrats than SurveyUSA did. For example, 16 percent of the poll’s survey sample was African-American; the district is 29 percent black. A huge black turnout could make the Congressional race considerably tighter. Obama was favored by 90 percent of black voters in the poll; McCain got 83 percent of the white vote.

The poll also showed that McCain had more solid support from the Republican base than Obama had among the Democratic base. Eighty percent of self-described Democrats said they would vote for Obama, while 95 percent of Republicans said they would vote for McCain. Fifteen percent of Democrats said they would cross party lines to vote for McCain, while only 4 percent of Republicans said they would vote for Obama.

Although candidate preference in the presidential race broke almost exclusively along racial lines, in the Congressional race Bright had the support of 82 percent of African-Americans and 30 percent of white voters. Love had the support of 66 percent of whites and 11 percent of African-Americans.

The largely rural southeastern 2nd district stretches from the Montgomery suburbs to the state’s Wiregrass region.

Love led among both men and women and in all age groups, the survey found. The Republican state lawmaker held a slight lead with independent voters, 48 percent to 42 percent. However, Bright had more crossover appeal as 16 percent of self-identified Republicans said they would vote for him and only 9 percent of Democrats said they would vote for Love.

Both Congressional candidates had similar favorable and unfavorable ratings — another indication that party affiliation will likely be the biggest handicap Bright will have to overcome. Further underscoring Democrats’ disadvantages, the poll found that President Bush had a 55 percent approval rating in the district, one of his highest approval numbers in any district in America.

Meanwhile, McCain had a 62 percent/19 percent favorable/unfavorable rating and Obama had a 26 percent/62 percent favorable/unfavorable rating. Overall, 12 percent of respondents said they approved of the job Congress is doing while 76 percent disapproved — a finding that mirrors national polls.

As in other polls conducted in districts across the country by SurveyUSA for Roll Call, the economy was the far and away the issue that voters said should be the priority over all others. Terrorism and high gasoline prices tied as the second-most-pressing issues.

But unlike other polls in GOP-leaning districts that Roll Call has published in recent days, more voters said they favored offshore drilling as a way of solving the country’s energy problems than supported finding alternative sources of energy. Forty-six percent said they supported offshore drilling, while 42 percent said they backed alternative energy sources.

The poll queried 622 likely voters in the from Aug. 26 to 28. It had a 4-point margin of error.

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