Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Indiana 3: Democrats Claim Souder Is Vulnerable — Again

By Nathan L. Gonzales

A new poll done for young Democratic attorney Mike Montagano’s campaign claims that voters in Indiana’s 3rd district are tired of their incumbent, Rep. Mark Souder (R). But the results show Montagano still has some considerable ground to make up, and the polling looks similar to two years ago, when Souder ended up winning by 8 points.

The just-released Sept. 9-10 Cooper & Secrest Associates poll showed Souder leading Montagano 50 percent to 37 percent in a general election matchup. That’s an improvement from April, when the Democrat trailed by 27 points, but Montagano has been on television since, boosting his name identification.

Recently, the problem for Democrats hasn’t been fundraising or keeping Souder near 50 percent. The problem is winning the district.

Two years ago, Democratic polling at the end of July showed Souder with a 50 percent-to-32 percent lead, and it found almost half of the voters willing to elect “someone new” to Congress. A late October poll by the nonpartisan Research 2000 showed the Congressman with an underwhelming 52 percent-to-40 percent advantage as well.

On Election Day, Souder prevailed over Democrat Tom Hayhurst 54 percent to 46 percent.

Montagano also likes to boast about his fundraising this year, compared with Souder’s lackluster totals. Through June 30, the challenger had more cash on hand than the incumbent, $352,000 to $323,000, and held his own in fundraising, $468,000 to Souder’s $559,000.

But the money discrepancy is no surprise. Two years ago, Hayhurst outspent Souder $708,000 to $642,000 and it wasn’t enough.

It’s unlikely Souder will ever have stellar poll numbers, and Democrats picked up three seats in the Hoosier State last cycle, but Democrats have dozens of better opportunities than Indiana’s 3rd. Montagano remains on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s list of “Emerging Races” this cycle, meaning that the contest has not yet broken through to the top tier of competitive “Red to Blue” races.

This story first appeared on RollCall.com on September 12, 2008. 2008 © Roll Call Inc. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.