A recent survey conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. shows incumbent Dina Titus (D) in a dead heat with Republican challenger Joe Heck in one of the closest races in the country, a high-stakes contest that will help decide whether Democrats keep or lose control of the House of Representatives.
More troublesome for Titus, about as many voters have an unfavorable opinion of her as favorable: 41 percent to 42 percent. That will make it tough to attract more folks to her side in a year in which the people in her district live at ground zero of Nevada’s home fore足closure crisis.
“She’s not in a good place for an incumbent to be at this stage of the race,” said pollster Brad Coker of Mason-Dixon, adding that momentum is on the Republicans’ side this year with voters frustrated by the Democratic Party in power. “Titus is clearly vulnerable.”
Still, prospects have improved a bit for Titus in the past few months.
The latest Mason-Dixon poll shows her edging out Heck 42 percent to 40 percent, with 9 percent undecided, 5 percent choosing “other” and 4 percent picking “none of these” candidates. The survey of 400 likely voters in Congressional District 3 had a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
In April, Heck was narrowly leading in the race, 49 percent to 44 percent, according to a previous Mason-Dixon poll for the Review-Journal with a margin of error of 6 points. Coker attributed the Heck bump then to passage of the health care law, which most Nevadans don’t like and which Titus supported and Heck opposes.
The economy is the main issue in the Titus-Heck race as Nevada suffers a record high unemployment rate of 14 percent as well as record home foreclosure and bankruptcy rates.
The July 12-14 Mason-Dixon poll showed Titus and Heck splitting the non-partisan vote at 39 percent each with the rest undecided or choosing other or “none of these” candidates.
For now, Heck is not widely known in the district; 15 percent still don’t recognize his name, according to the Mason-Dixon poll. Of those who do, 34 percent have a favorable opinion of him compared with 13 percent unfavorable and 38 percent with a neutral view.
Neither Titus nor Heck has started advertising on TV, a costly endeavor.
Titus has far more cash on hand to spend once the campaign heats up in the fall. She reported $1.2 million in the bank after raising $426,000 in the last quarter ending June 30. That compares with $362,139 cash on hand for Heck, who raised only $124,361 during the most recent fundraising period.
Nathan Gonzales, a House race analyst with the Rothenberg Political Report, said the challenge for Titus and Heck is to get their messages out to voters while the highly competitive U.S. Senate race between Reid and Angle is taking up all the TV and media oxygen along with the gubernatorial race.
“It’s not a matter of resources. It’s a matter of cutting through all the clutter,” Gonzales said.
Titus could benefit by a highly successful get-out-the-vote effort by the Reid campaign and Democrats hoping for a replay of 2008, although Obama isn’t on the ballot.
But in the end, she and Heck need to reach beyond their bases to win, with Heck having an advantage among voters who are upset by the dour economy, Gonzales said.