This morning, MoveOn.org released the results of a poll it commissioned, one that contains bad news for U.S. Representative Tim Walberg, who represents rural northern, western, and southern Washtenaw County in the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the Seventh District. The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, showed that Walberg would lose an election held today to a generic Democratic challenger by nine percentage points, 51% to 42%, after poll respondents were told he supported the federal government shutdown.
Walberg was not alone in receiving unfavorable news. Public Policy Polling surveyed twenty-four Congressional districts represented by Republicans in states won by Barack Obama last year. Those surveyed indicated that they would vote against the incumbent in seventeen districts, including all three in Michigan, without being prompted about the shutdown. The number increased to twenty-one after being told of their Representative's support for the shutdown. It would take the loss of only seventeen seats to flip control of the U.S. House of Representatives from Republican to Democratic in 2014.
"Democrats must pick up 17 seats to win control of the House. These poll results make clear that if the election were held today, such a pickup would be well within reach," pollster Jim Williams told National Journal. "The surveys challenge the conventional wisdom that gerrymandering has put the House out of reach for Democrats."
The shutdown alone was not to blame for Walberg's poor poll numbers. Even before the poll participants were reminded of Walberg's position on the shutdown, they said they would vote against him by eight points, 49% to 41%. They also expressed their disapproval of Walberg's performance by a thirteen percent margin with 46% disappoving of his performance to 33% approving.
In Walberg's district, 58% opposed "Congress shutting down major activities of the federal government as a way to stop the health care law from being put into place," while 36% approved. When they found out that Walberg supported the shutdown, 53% said they would be less likely to support Walberg, while 35% said they'd be more likely. This translated into both the two percent increase in people who said they would vote against him and the one percent more expressed support.
To a lesser extent, poll participants in Walberg's district disapproved of the possibility of not raising the debt ceiling, with 54% opposing "Congress holding back on increasing the nation’s borrowing limit, which could result in a default, as a way to stop the health care law from being put into place," while 33% supported it.
Of those surveyed in Walberg's district, 50% expressed an unfavorable view of the Tea Party, while 35% had a favorable view. Those supporting the Tea Party matched closely not only with the percentages of those who approved of Walberg's performance and the shutdown, but also the people who would be more likely to favor Walberg because of his support of the shutdown.
Of course, Walberg is not facing a generic Democratic challenger. He is facing Democrat Pam Byrnes, who is already trying to capitalize on the poll. In an email to her supporters, Byrnes trumpeted the results.
"We knew jeopardizing the well-being of our economy for political posturing wouldn't sit well with everyday Michiganders. Now we have the polling to prove it. The poll released today shows 46% of voters disapprove of Walberg's job performance. And even better, 60% of Independent voters would vote for the Democratic candidate over Tim Walberg after they learn of his views."
In Washington, Walberg has been touting his efforts to alleviate the most visible effects of the shutdown. On Saturday, his office announced that he voted to pay back federal workers impacted by government shutdowns.
Following his vote, Walberg said, "The House continues to pass more straightforward, common-sense solutions to problems created by the shutdown. Our federal workforce shouldn’t be caught up in the partisan politics demonstrated by the Senate Democrats and president. I remain committed to finding a negotiated solution to move this country forward and provide relief to the American people."