Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos & SEIU (8/18-21, likely voters, no trendlines):
Kate Marshall (D): 42
Mark Amodei (R): 43
Timothy Fasano (AI): 3
Helmuth Lehmann (I): 3
These unexpected results for the 2nd Congressional District special election to replace now-Sen. Dean Heller are starkly different from the only other public poll numbers so far — a survey by Republican pollster Magellan, which put former GOP state Sen. Mark Amodei up 48-35 over Democratic state Treasurer Kate Marshall. The closeness of PPP's numbers is quite surprising, given the redness of this district (it voted 57-41 for Bush over Kerry), Marshall's weak favorables (43-47), President Obama's poor job performance ratings (41-55), and the fact that the NRCC has already poured in over $400,000 on Amodei's behalf, much of it on negative ads. Outside Democratic groups (including the DCCC) have not gotten involved in the special, which is just a few weeks away (Sept. 13).
Yet nonetheless PPP shows it to be a very tight race. One immediate reason is that our sample turned out to be much less red than Magellan's, at 41% R, 37% D & 22% I. (Magellan had it as 48R-38D-14I.) Another possible explanation is that we're seeing disgust register toward both parties. Indeed, Congressional Republicans score a miserable 24-69 job approval rating — though I suspect that if we had asked a companion question about Congressional Democrats, they'd do about as poorly. (Also note that two Some Dude-level independent candidates whom no one has heard of together pull 6% of the vote, a figure which strikes me as at least a little bit high.)
Even with such close numbers, the difficulty for Marshall at this point is two-fold. The first is that the remaining undecided voters tilt much more heavily Republican (9%) than Democrat (3%). This suggests they're more likely to gravitate toward Amodei in the end. The second is that in order to overcome the first problem, Marshall needs outside help. If the DCCC continues to stay on the sidelines, she'll remain outgunned on the air. So will they get in? Nathan Gonzales, in his piece yesterday analyzing the race, said: "Party strategists on both sides of the aisle agree that Amodei starts the final weeks of the race with the advantage, even though they also insist the race is closer than the Magellan margin." Translation: They don't think this contest is as tight as we're showing it.
Given PPP's track record for accuracy this year, it would be a mistake for Democratic leaders to write them off. So I think the key thing to watch for will be DCCC involvement. If they get in, then they think we have a chance; if they don't, then they've written it off. Still, the fact that this race is even competitive enough for Republicans to dump six figures into such a red district is remarkable in its own right. Hopefully Democrats will find a reason to do the same.