MoveOn/PPP Polls: Shutdown Threatens Fitzpatrick & Meehan

A pair of polls commissioned by a national liberal group shows two Pa. Republican congressmen losing ground over the government shutdown.

The wide poll release is an effort by MoveOn.Org to add to the pressure on Reps. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) and Pat Meehan (R-Delaware).

Though the won re-election by 13% and 19% in 2012, respectively, the surveys released Sunday suggest the shutdown could make them more vulnerable in 2014.

Fitzpatrick, PA-8

Public Policy Polling surveyed 809 registered voters in PA-8 from October 3-4. 42% identified as Republicans, 39% as Democrats.

Respondents said they disapprove Fitzpatrick’s job performance by a narrow margin, 43% to 42%. In a head to head matchup, a generic Democratic challenger edged him 46% to 44%.

64% to 32%, respondents said they oppose, “Congress shutting down major activities of the federal government as a way to stop the health care law from being put into place.”

54% of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for Fitzpatrick is he supported a shutdown. 33% said they would be more likely.

57% to 31%, respondents said they oppose, “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.”

The Tea Party is viewed unfavorably 58% to 29%.

Finally, the pollster repeated the head to head matchup question “Now that you know Congressman Fitzpatrick supported the government shutdown”. The numbers moved 6 points in the generic Democrats’ favor, 50% to 42%.

Meehan, PA-7

Public Policy Polling surveyed 672 registered voters in PA-7 from October 3-4. 48% identified as Republicans, 35% as Democrats.

Respondents said they disapprove Meehan’s job performance by a double-digit margin, 39% to 28%. In a head to head matchup, a generic Democratic challenger edged him 43% to 40%.

62% to 31%, respondents said they oppose, “Congress shutting down major activities of the federal government as a way to stop the health care law from being put into place.”

55% of respondents said they would be less likely to vote for Meehan is he supported a shutdown. 30% said they would be more likely.

55% to 32%, respondents said they oppose, “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.”

The Tea Party is viewed unfavorably 54% to 35%.

Finally, the pollster repeated the head to head matchup question “Now that you know Congressman Meehan supported the government shutdown”. The numbers moved 3 points in the generic Democrats’ favor, 47% to 41%.

Messaging battle

Fitzpatrick and Meehan are 2 of 24 GOP Congressmen around the country tested by this series of MoveOn.org/PPP polls.

As with any poll commissioned by an interest group, the results should be taken with a grain of salt. When a group pays for a poll, in this case MoveOn.org, they get the final say about the wording of questions.

Case in point: the question about the “borrowing limit.” Almost any voter who has heard of this knows it by another term, the “debt ceiling.” Using the word “borrowing” instead of “debt” affects the poll outcome in a way that doesn’t mirror the actual public debate.

PPP is a Democratic polling firm, although it was credited with highly accurate polling in 2012.

Additionally, the performance of a “generic” Democratic doesn’t necessarily correspond with the party’s chances in any given race (especially in Meehan’s case; he has not declared opponent). Plus polls of “registered voters” versus “likely voters” tend to advantage Democrats.

All of that said, the poll results make clear that Democrats will try to repeat their experience with the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns, which helped lead to the re-election of President Clinton and modest gains in the House.

Both of Fitzpatrick’s declared challengers have already hit him over the shutdown. Kevin Strouse pointed out that Fitzpatrick has voted for the attempts to repeal Obamacare which precipitated the shudown.

“Talk is cheap, he said he wouldn’t take votes that would lead to a shutdown. Well now it’s time to put his money where his mouth is,” Strouse said.

Shaughnessy Naughton linked Fitzpatrick to the Tea Party, saying, “He is a hypocrite. He refused to vote for the clean spending bill that was negotiated last night and he hasn’t signed a discharge petition.”

The incumbents are clearly concerned. Both are among a small group of so-called moderate Republicans calling for a detente and a “clean” continuing resolution that would reopen the government and defer the Obamacare battle.

Fitzpatrick, Meehan, and 5 other representatives co-wrote an op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer to that effect on Sunday.

“We’re writing amid the first government shutdown in 17 years. This is an extraordinary time, and as a regional group of Republicans, we wanted to make clear what we’re doing and why. None of us wanted this shutdown,” they wrote. “We worked tirelessly to stop it and to keep the government funded. And that continues today.”

Of the 7 co-authors, only Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Lehigh) has voted against the GOP majority at any point during the shutdown showdown.

Keegan Gibson contributed to this report.