Larry Kissell could have a tough fight for reelection this fall but only if Harold Johnson wins next week's Republican runoff to be his general election opponent. Kissell leads Johnson just 41-35 in a hypothetical contest, while his advantage expands to 48-26 in a match up against Tim D'Annunzio.
The various controversies that have cropped up around D'Annunzio over the last six weeks have been devastating for his poll numbers. 39% of voters say their opinion of him has become more negative over the last month while just 10% say they now hold more positive feelings about him. Overall 38% have an unfavorable opinion of him now compared to just 19% with a favorable one. And only 25% think he's fit to hold public office while 41% think he is not.
Kissell's seen a steep decline in his approval numbers since PPP last polled the district in January. Then he was at a positive 45/30 spread, now he's at a negative 30/39 spread. The decline has come across partisan lines but has been most dramatic with Democrats. What was a +37 approval at 58/21 is now just +7 at 40/33, a drop of 30 points. With Republicans he's gone from -14 at 28/42 to -33 at 15/48 for a drop of 19 points. And with independents he's gone from +3 at 40/37 to -9 at 31/40 for a 12 point drop.
At this point a third party bid from Wendell Fant actually works to Kissell's benefit, likely because voters haven't heard anything from Fant yet and don't know what his angle is. When he's included in a three way match Kissell gets 40% to 30% for Johnson and 14% for Fant. Fant actually gets slightly more Republican support at 12% than he does Democratic support at 11%.
Although there's no doubt Kissell's health care vote has eroded enthusiasm for him with the Democratic base it appears to largely be a wash politically. With voters who can correctly identify that he opposed the bill he leads Johnson 42-35. Among those who erroneously think he supported it he's up 45-42. As much attention as Kissell's vote has received, still only 46% of voters know that he voted against it with 31% thinking he was in favor and 22% not making a guess.
No matter what happens next Tuesday Kissell is favored for a second term but the outcome of the GOP runoff will determine how hard he needs to work for it.
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