WASHINGTON – District 1 Republican challenger Andy Harris leads 53 percent to 42 percent in the contentious House race against incumbent Rep. Frank Kratovil, according to a Monmouth University poll released Thursday.
Harris’s 11-point lead represents a huge surge in a race that has been neck-and-neck since the outset. An Oct. 6 poll by Penn Schoen Berland, as reported by The Hill newspaper, showed Harris with a slight numerical lead, but with the margin of error the candidates were essentially tied.
The most recent poll, an automated survey of 637 likely voters by the Monmouth University Polling Institute, was conducted from Oct. 16 – 19 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. But that margin increases when breaking down the results into categories such as political party or gender.
When the two candidates faced each other in the 2008 election, Kratovil won by 2,852 votes – a margin of less than 1 percentage point.
“In that race, Kratovil won a narrow victory by racking up an 11-point margin in his native Eastern Shore to offset Harris’ 12-point advantage in the western part of the district,” the new report said. “That scenario is unlikely to play out this year.”
Kratovil campaign manager Jessica Klonsky said their camp isn’t putting too much weight into the poll’s results. She said internal polling shows Kratovil is still in a “very strong position,” but neither camp has published internal polling results since Kratovil released information on Sept. 17 that showed he was up by six points.
But whatever advantage he had then has disappeared, according to the Monmouth poll, which shows Harris, who has been an anesthesiologist at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins Hospital for 26 years, leading the Western Shore by an even wider margin than last time, 56 percent to Kratovil’s 40 percent.
And now, Kratovil’s Eastern Shore may be leaning red too, according to the Monmouth poll.
The poll shows Kratovil’s influence on independents waning as well. In the Oct. 6 poll, he had a slight lead, with 38 percent of independents favoring him, compared to 35 percent for Harris.
In the new poll, Harris had a resounding 24-point advantage, with 58 percent of independents for Harris compared to 34 percent for Kratovil.
There is also notable animosity for the Democratic Party as a whole. While 78 percent of 1st-District Democrats said they had an “unfavorable” opinion of the Republican Party, 91 percent of Republicans said they had an unfavorable view of the Democrats.
Harris released a new commercial Oct. 18 telling voters to “break up the team” of Kratovil, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Obama.
“I think people are upset with Washington as a whole, and Democrats are running Washington,” said Harris spokeswoman Anna Nix. “When things aren’t going well, the voters switch teams.”
Nix said recent polls have given the campaign a new sense of momentum.
“Our internal polls have us up, independent polls have us up,” Nix said. “People are ready to send Frank Kratovil home.”