By nominating Harold Johnson last night Republicans in the 8th Congressional District ensured Larry Kissell would have a competitive race for reelection this fall. Just how competitive that race ends up being will be determined by the willingness of Democratic base voters unhappy with Kissell to hold their noses and vote for him anyway this fall.
Our polling on the race last week found Kissell leading Johnson 41-35, but perhaps the most noteworthy thing about the numbers was the high level of undecideds at 24%. A deeper look at who those undecided voters are shows that they are overwhelmingly Democratic base voters who have been disappointed in Kissell's voting record so far:
-60% of them approve of Barack Obama to 31% who disapprove, compared to a 51/46 approval spread for Obama with all voters in the district.
-55% of them support the health care bill with 36% opposed, compared to 45% supporting and 47% opposing the bill with all voters in the district.
-53% are Democrats and 23% are Republicans compared to 50% who are Democrats and 33% who are Republicans among all voters in the district.
These Democratic voters unhappy with Kissell basically have three choices about what to do with their Congressional votes this fall:
-They can forgive Kissell and support him despite their unhappiness with some of his votes in Congress.
-They can not vote at all this fall, or come out to vote and skip the House race.
-They might have the option of voting for a union backed third party candidate.
It doesn't seem likely many of these folks will go in the Johnson column. My guess is at the end of the day most of the unhappy Democrats will go with option 1, and that Kissell will end up being reelected by a healthy if not overwhelming margin. But the 8th District race has already seen plenty of strange twists and turns and it's only June so any outcome is possible.