New polling from Monmouth University shows a competitive race for the First Congressional District, but it puts incumbent Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick slightly ahead of Democratic candidate Scott Wallace.
The poll of likely voters in the district that spans all of Bucks County and a portion of Montgomery County shows Fitzpatrick leading 50 percent to 46 percent. The gap between the two candidates falls within the poll’s margin of error.
While Fitzpatrick is slightly ahead in the latest poll, political insiders on both sides consider the race a near dead heat.
The poll counted results from 353 First Congressional District voters and was taken between last Thursday and this Monday.
The poll took into account a model that predicts a Democratic “surge” on election day. That model put Fitzpatrick at 49 percent and Wallace at 48 percent. A general low turnout model widened the gap to 52 percent for Fitzpatrick and 45 percent for Wallace.
When the last Monmouth University poll was released in June, Fitzpatrick and Wallace were in an even closer race among the likely voters polled. Fitzpatrick was ahead by only one point on the standard model, behind one point in the Democratic “surge” model, and tied in the low-turnout model.
The latest polling shows that the majority of likely voters in the district strongly disapprove of Trump’s performance in the White House.
“Even though Trump remains a drag on Fitzpatrick overall, the president’s supporters have grown a little more favorable toward the moderate incumbent, boosting potential turnout in the Republican base,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute.
“When you look at the underlying political environment in this district, you would expect the Democrat to be ahead. But Fitzpatrick has been able to overcome this with a solid reputation among his constituents, while many remain uncertain about Wallace,” Murray further said.
Half of polled likely voters in the district reported a favorable view of the congressman who lives in Middletown. Just 22 percent registered an unfavorable view and 22 percent expressed no opinion at all. Wallace received a 38 percent favorable score and 28 percent unfavorable rating with 34 percent having no opinion.
The majority (56 percent) of those likely voters polled said Fitzpatrick was in touch with constituents while 33 percent said he is not. For Wallace, 44 percent of those polled said he was in touch with the district and 32 percent said he is not.
“Republicans have been trying to paint the challenger as a carpetbagger. They may be having limited success on this score, and in a tight race that difference in comfort level might prove to be the margin of victory,” said Murray.
Both campaigns and groups throwing their support behind the candidates are in the middle of a large-scale effort to make their case to voters in the districts. Between TV ads, campaign events, third-party group support, and tried-and-true door knocking, residents in Lower Bucks County will have a hard time avoiding Fitzpatrick and Wallace’s names.
“This race is in a dead heat,” Wallace campaign spokesperson Zoe Wilson-Meyer said. “And every day voters are learning more about Rep. Fitzpatrick’s record of standing with Donald Trump – including his votes to strip protections from people with pre-existing conditions, to defund Planned Parenthood and take away a woman’s right to choose, and his vote for the tax bill which gave billionaires and corporations massive tax cuts at the expense of Medicare and Social Security for Pennsylvania’s working families.”
About an hour after the poll results were released Tuesday morning, Fitzpatrick told NewtownPANow.com at an event in Bristol Township that he hadn’t yet digested the poll but he felt confident heading toward the election.
Fitzpatrick campaign spokesperson Genevieve Malandra said Wallace was an “out-of-touch multi-millionaire” who was attempting to “buy a Congressional seat through false ads.”
“Despite outspending us five to one, this poll shows our position improving and Wallace losing ground because Rep. Fitzpatrick’s message of reuniting our divided country through compromise and bipartisanship is strongly resonating with voters,” she said.
“Scott Wallace is running a campaign that reflects what is at the root of the country’s problems: hyper-partisanship and radical positions and associations. The voters of Bucks and Montgomery counties have historically rejected this kind of polarization. We plan to continue telling the story of Brian’s independent leadership and his ability to work with voters of all political affiliations to deliver results for the 1st District,” she added.
Just last week, the nonpartisan Cook Political Report ranked the faceoff between Fitzpatrick and Wallace, a resident of Buckingham, as a “toss up,” noting how close the race appeared to be.