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Poll Shows Sali Trailing in Idaho

A pair of new Roll Call polls offer mixed news for beleaguered House Republicans, with freshman Rep. Bill Sali (R-Idaho) trailing wealthy businessman Walt Minnick (D) by 6 points in his overwhelmingly conservative district, but the GOP candidate in the race for Wyoming’s open at-large seat leading by the same margin.

The two auto-dial telephone polls were conducted for Roll Call on Saturday and Sunday by SurveyUSA.

In Idaho’s 1st district, Sali appeared to be in serious jeopardy with just over two weeks to go until the Nov. 4 elections, as this new survey found the incumbent trailing Minnick, 51 percent to 45 percent, with 4 percent undecided.

In the Republican bastion of Wyoming, former state Treasurer Cynthia Lummis (R) led Internet entrepreneur Gary Trauner (D) 50 percent to 44 percent, with 2 percent undecided and 4 percent supporting the Libertarian candidate. Rep. Barbara Cubin (R), whom Trauner nearly defeated in 2006, is retiring.

The poll memo prepared by SurveyUSA for the data it collected in Idaho’s 1st district described the race for that seat as “tough sledding” for Sali. The results of the survey suggest that Minnick’s commanding position has more to do with voters’ negative view of Sali than any other factor.

The poll memo compiled for the Wyoming survey indicates Lummis has the edge, while suggesting that attorney David Herbert, the Libertarian candidate, could be a wildcard and noting that Trauner is running 7 points ahead of Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). Possibly boosting Lummis is President Bush’s relatively solid 42 percent job-approval rating — much higher than it is nationally and in several other red states.

The Idaho poll rested on a sample of 613 likely voters; the Wyoming poll used a sample of 604 likely voters. Each survey had an error margin of 4 points.

For Sali, the problems are acute, and assailing him from several directions, with the numbers suggesting that the freshman Congressman is his own worst enemy.

Despite the fact that Republican presidential nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) led Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) in Idaho’s 1st district, 57 percent to 37 percent, Sali not only trailed Minnick in the horse race, his net favorable rating was the same as Obama’s: minus-14. The survey found Sali’s favorable/unfavorable rating to be 33 percent/47 percent, and revealed Obama’s to be 37 percent/51 percent.

Conversely, Minnick’s net favorable rating was a solid plus-22 — the same as McCain’s. The poll showed Minnick’s favorable/unfavorable rating to be 45 percent/ 23 percent, and McCain’s to be 53 percent/ 31 percent.

Furthering the narrative that Minnick’s position in the lead might be more a function of Sali’s negatives than the Republican Party’s problems nationally, the GOP was still seen as “best equipped to handle the economy” in this poll by a margin of 54 percent to 37 percent.

Among the survey’s additional findings: Bush’s approval rating in the district was 35 percent, with 56 percent disapproving; Congress’ approval rating is an abysmal 9 percent, with 78 disapproving — the lowest in any poll conducted for Roll Call this year.

Fifty-three percent of those polled said the economy was the issue they are most concerned about. Immigration was a distant second, with 12 percent saying they were most concerned about that issue.

Financially, Minnick’s wealth alone has swamped the Idaho Republican.

Sali had raised $887,000 for the election cycle as of Sept. 30, reporting just $202,000 on hand and $137,000 in campaign debt to close the third quarter. Minnick had raised $1.6 million for the cycle as of the end of September, which included more than $700,000 of his own money. Minnick closed the third quarter with $177,000 on hand and $300,000 in campaign debt.

Minnick’s deep pockets, and Sali’s penchant for controversy, appear to have helped the Democrat make headway with Republicans and conservatives.

In the poll, Minnick’s supporters included 20 percent of those who described themselves as conservative, 23 percent of those who had a favorable opinion of McCain, 20 percent of those described themselves as registered Republican, and 50 percent of those who they were most concerned about the economy.

In Wyoming, Trauner was only 6 points back — 50 percent to 44 percent — according to poll numbers culled over the weekend. That’s not bad considering that Obama trailed McCain by 21 points, 58 percent to 37 percent. But in a solidly Mountain West state that is home to Vice President Cheney, not bad might not be good enough.

Lummis led among most key voter demographics, and was not far behind in others. Among men she led by 12 points, 53 percent to 41 percent; among women she trailed by just 1 point, 47 percent to 46 percent; among voters 18-34 years old she led 47 percent to 44 percent; among voters ages 50-64 she trailed by 6 points, 50 percent to 44 percent; and among voters 65 years old and up she led by 8 points, 51 percent to 43 percent.

Trauner was ahead rather significantly among independents (46 percent to 41 percent) and self-described moderates (62 percent to 33 percent), and he did relatively well with survey respondents who described themselves as conservative (17 percent) and those who said they have a favorable opinion of McCain (19 percent).

The survey found Lummis and Trauner to have similar, plus-6 favorable/unfavorable ratings, with the Republican garnering a 41 percent favorable/35 percent unfavorable rating, and the Democrat receiving a 42 percent favorable/36 percent unfavorable rating.

However, Trauner clearly outperformed Obama, who had a net minus-15 favorable rating, while Lummis fell short of McCain’s net plus-25 rating. Obama’s favorable/unfavorable rating was 38 percent/53 percent, with McCain coming in at 56 percent favorable/31 percent unfavorable.

Additionally, two other new polls show Trauner leading by 1 point. Both an Oct. 14-16 Research 2000 poll for Daily Kos and an Oct. 13-14 Mason-Dixon poll for the Casper Star-Tribune had Trauner ahead of Lummis 44 percent to 43 percent.

Cubin, who is retiring after seven terms and beat Trauner in 2006 by less than 1 percent of the vote, reported a net favorable rating of minus-30, with 23 percent giving her a positive rating and 53 percent viewing her unfavorably. Still, that was better than Congress’ approval rating overall, which clocked in at 12 percent, with 75 percent disapproving.

Just like Idaho — and most of the country — Wyoming voters are most concerned about the economy, with 53 percent saying Congress should focus on the issue above all else. Terrorism came in a distant second at 10 percent.

Unlike most of the country, however, the Republicans remain more trusted to handle the economy, by a 57 percent to 36 percent margin. This information could provide the most useful clue as to why Lummis is leading in the poll.

Among the 57 percent who gave Republicans higher marks on the economy, 88 percent of them preferred Lummis. Lummis even picked up the support of 36 percent of those who believed the Democrats are better equipped to handle the economy.

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