Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos. 9/18-9/19. Likely Voters. MoE 3.9% (No Trendlines)
Rep. Dan Lungren (R) 46
Ami Bera (D) 38
Former state Attorney General Dan Lungren has been the representative of this district (which rings around the southern end of Sacramento) since 2005. He has won here three times, but his margin of victory has grown more narrow with each passing election.
In 2010, despite this being a cycle that seems likely to be a GOP-friendly climate, it looks like this race could even be narrower than Lungren's six-point margin of victory over Bill Durston in 2008.
Dr. Ami Bera is one of the better challengers being fielded by the Democrats in this cycle. A physician by trade, he has proven to be an adept campaigner as well as a top-flight fundraiser.
The good news for him in this poll is twofold. For one thing, the enthusiasm gap in California is not nearly as wide as we find it in other states. This district was split evenly in 2008 between Barack Obama and John McCain. Among this sample of likely voters, McCain only enjoys a five-point edge (by way of contrast, our poll in Wisconsin had that gap between 2008 and today at fourteen points). Furthermore, Bera still has a ton of upside--he is still unknown to 60% of the electorate.
Lungren's personal favorabilities, given his status as an incumbent in what must be described as a red-tinted district, are pretty awful. His favorability numbers are upside down at 39/46. One of the biggest groups of voters still undecided in this race are moderate voters, and Lungren's numbers with that demographic group are even worse (28/55).
Lungren is not without saving graces. President Obama's approval numbers are also upside down in the district (44/53). While, in the grand scheme of things, those numbers aren't horrible (Obama has polled worse in states that he easily carried in 2008), they present an additional challenge for Bera.
Furthermore, this is still a pretty conservative district. Both Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman are both doing better here than Lungren is, and could drag him across the finish line. Conversely, Bera is not likely to be helped by having Barbara Boxer and Jerry Brown at the top of the ticket.
That said, Ami Bera has ample resources ($1.14 million in the bank as of his most recent FEC filing). He will have plenty of time, and plenty of money, to define both himself and Lungren.
If he is able to do both, this could very easily become one of the relatively few opportunities for Democrats to play some offense in November.
Quite clearly, I am not alone in that assessment, as the nonpartisan ratings service provided by CQ and Roll Call (in an article where they downgraded the prospects for a number of Democrats) also downgraded Lungren's re-election to toss-up status.