On the heels of a heavily lobbied health care vote in Congress, a new Republican poll shows challenger Joe Heck with a slight lead on incumbent Rep. Dina Titus in the race for U.S. House from the 3rd Congressional District.
Heck leads 40 percent to 35 percent for Titus and 7 percent for Barry Michaels, who is running as an independent. The poll showed 18 percent undecided.
Republicans noted Titus' favorability ratings are underwater, with 37 percent having a positive impression of her and 52 percent carrying a negative impression. They also contend her support is shallow, with only 27 percent of respondents saying they plan to vote for her no matter what, meaning others might be persuaded to switch.
The poll was conducted for Heck by Wilson Research Strategies on March 24 and 25, after President Barack Obama signed into law the controversial health care reform bill.
Leading up to the final House vote on March 21, Republicans and interest groups targeted Southern Nevada with a barrage of ads critical of health care reform.
Pollsters surveyed 400 likely general election voters in the 3rd Congressional District that includes Henderson, Boulder City, parts of North Las Vegas and Summerlin and most of the unincorporated outskirts of Clark County. The error margin was plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
(As a side note, the poll also indicated Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., continues to lag in the district, with a 34 percent favorability rating against 61 percent unfavorable.)
"This is going to be a long campaign, but the message is clear, Southern Nevada wants a new direction and I'm honored to have the support of so many people who believe that we can do better,” Heck said in a statement on the poll.
Titus spokesman Andrew Stoddard said, "Our focus isn’t on a poll seven months away from election day, especially one that comes on the heels of more than $1.3 million in ads against Dina Titus."
Mark Peplowski, a political science professor at the College of Southern Nevada, said the Titus-Heck race has yet to heat up.
Polls conducted at this point serve more as a candidate's calling card to recruit volunteers and conduct fundraising. A truer measure of the race probably won't be clear until Titus starts advertising, Peplowski said.
It is too early to declare Titus in trouble, Peplowski said, "although there is no denying that this has never been a safe seat" for an incumbent. "It is going to be a fight."
"What is significant here is there hasn't been much television sparring between the two candidates," Peplowski said. "Much of what is happening now is the fallout from the health care debacle and all the hits they were throwing at Dina before.
"If she was already doing her positive media and her numbers were this I would be a little bit worried but she hasn't."