A Northern Arizona pollster says the GOP is threatened with losing control of the U.S. House during the mid-term election and the Arizona Congressional District 1 seat is shaping up to be a key battleground again.
"Because CD1 can no longer be considered a safe Republican seat, I expect the race to capture national attention as Democrats challenge the Republican party for control of the House of Representatives," maintains Fred Solop.
The opinion is based on fresh numbers from polling by NAU's Social Research Laboratory, of which Solop is director.
"Rick Renzi starts off with less to work with and higher negatives," Solop compared polling of the General Election candidates with the same race in 2004 in which Paul Babbitt was the Democratic nominee and John Crockett the Libertarian candidate.
During the polling conducted between Sept. 15-17, Renzi is shown with a 13-point lead over challenger Ellen Simon; 45 percent of likely voters say they would vote for the Republican and 32 percent would vote for the Democrat. Two percent would vote for Libertarian David Schlosser. Still, one in five likely voters (22 percent) are undecided.
Of people familiar with the candidates, the poll shows Simon is thought of more favorably than Renzi or Schlosser. "60 percent familiar with Ellen Simon hold a favorable impression of her. 55 percent of people familiar with Rick Renzi have a favorable impression. 23 percent of people familiar with David Schlosser think of him favorably."
"Conversely, a larger proportion of likely voters surveyed hold an unfavorable impression of Rick Renzi. More than one-in-three (36 percent) hold an unfavorable impression of Renzi." 20 percent of people familiar with Ellen Simon hold an unfavorable impression and 17 percent of people familiar with David Schlosser hold an unfavorable impression of him.
"In 2004, the negatives for Renzi were at 27 percent, now they are in the mid-30s. Babbitt they already knew. This time 80 percent of respondents says they know Renzi. 60 percent of likely voters say they don't know Ellen Simon. Many voters don't have a sense of who she is. Both campaigns will try to define Ellen Simon."
There are also other factors at play nationally, explains Solop. "The GOP numbers are low nationally. There are several stories about financial improprieties surrounding Renzi and his office.
The FEC was reviewing campaign spending, an investigation that was recently dismissed. There are questions about whether Renzi staff member Patty Roe was also doing fundraising improperly and there are links to Abrahamoff and Ney.