Republican challengers to seven-term incumbent Democrat Rep. Diana DeGette in Colorado’s 1st Congressional District centered on Denver have traditionally been doormats or placeholders–or, in one election, non-existent.
In 2010, DeGette faces her most formidable challenge yet. And while she is unlikely to lose, a recent internal poll indicated that her opponent, ER Doctor Mike Fallon, was more than a political patsy:
A new poll has come to light, showing Republican Mike Fallon trailing longtime paperweight Representative Diana DeGette by only 10 points, with DeGette unable to break 50%. The telephone poll of 700 likely voters has DeGette at 44%, Fallon at 34%, and the undecideds at 22.5%. The poll was conducted by ccAdvertising, one of the larger national Republican polling firms, and has a margin of error of 3%.
A couple of things to note. First, as mentioned above, DeGette is under 50% in a district she’s held for, well, forever. The pollsters did adjust for expected voter turnout, using a fairly complex model. I have no idea how their track record for accuracy compares to, say, Rasmussen.
I also note that the sample appears to over-weight Republicans considerably, with the D-R-U breakdown coming in at 40-31-28. The actual voter registration in Denver is about 50-20-30. That said, the party breakdown is a result of voter self-identification. The pollsters apparently called in the prevailing proportions, but about 10 percentage points’ worth of Democrats refused to identify themselves as Dems, calling themselves Republicans or unaffiliated instead. How to treat party identification is an unresolved problem in poll methodology, but in this case, the pollsters are also trying to account for expected turnout, and probably used self-identification as a response rather than a demographic.
Cautionary notes aside, Fallon has been recognized by the National Republican Congressional Committee with “On the Radar” status, and may put a dent in DeGette’s routinely 70+ percent victory threshold.
In CO-1, Democrats lead Republicans 50.2 percent to 18.6 percent, while unaffiliateds comprise 30.3 percent of the remaining vote. As Fallon notes, it is not just about electing Republicans in the district that is important, but that Republican turnout–and pulling along independents–is key to GOP chances statewide. There were 277,000 votes cast in the U.S. Senate race in 2008 in Denver county. Adding 60,000-70,000 votes for statewide candidates like Republican Ken Buck goes a long way in paving a path to victory, according to Fallon: