A chink in the armor?
Survey shows opening, however slight, in congressional races
Apoll question posed recently to Arkansas voters indicated only 36 percent of them would definitely re-elect their respective congressmen.
Conversely, 58 percent of the poll’s respondents said they were “open” to another candidate.
Just what do the numbers, which are well beyond the poll’s margin of error, suggest?
Incumbents may not have an absolute lock on the state’s four seats in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2018 mid-term elections.
We’re talking about U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford, R-Jonesboro, in the 1st Congressional District; French Hill. R-Little Rock, in the 2nd District; Steve Womack, R-Rogers, in the 3rd District; and Bruce Westerman, R-Hot Springs, in the 4th District.
Given the margins by which these Republican incumbents won election in 2016, they would normally be expected to glide to re-election. Each won by no less than 58 percent of the general election vote and three of them won by more than 74 percent.
That was 2016. The new polling is about what could happen in 2018 after two years of a Trump presidency and its tumble-down effect on the Republican-controlled Congress.
Remember, too, that this recent poll was conducted during the U.S. Senate’s intense debate over repeal and replacement of the Affordable Care Act.
The health care law, better known as Obamacare, remains in place. Notably, all four of Arkansas’ congressmen voted for a House plan to repeal and replace Obamacare. But the Senate’s defeat of an alternative has stalled any replacement for the foreseeable future.
All of these factors weigh in on public perspectives and how, on a given day, respondents might answer pollsters.
This particular poll question about Arkansans’ willingness to re-elect their congressmen was part of a statewide survey conducted by Talk Business & Politics and Hendrix College on July 20 among 511 Arkansas voters. The margin of error, with that sample size, was plus or minus 4.3 percent.
Importantly, the question didn’t name Arkansas’ four sitting congressmen. But the answers nonetheless suggest potential re-election problems in 2018 for the men who now hold the seats. Here’s how the question was posed: “Your current congressman is Republican and is up for re-election in 2018. If the election were today, would you vote to re-elect him or are you open to another candidate?”
A staggering 58 percent did say they were open to someone else, encouraging Democrats and likely some other Republicans as well to consider running against one or another of these incumbents.
A few challengers have already said they will run or are thinking about it. But they’ll need a lot more than these poll results to succeed.
Again, the sitting congressmen weren’t even named in the poll question. That was necessary to preserve the statewide sample; but it doesn’t gauge name recognition or any of the other benefits of incumbency.
Factor those benefits — including access to the majority party’s fundraising and organizational skill — into the equation and the chances of upsetting these Arkansas incumbents looks as daunting as ever.
That doesn’t mean, however, that upsets are impossible in a national political climate that seems only to worsen every day.
Those 2018 elections are still a long way away.
Brenda Blagg is a freelance columnist and longtime journalist in Northwest Arkansas. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.