Poll: Dem freshman Kratovil down by double digits in rematch with Harris

Rep. Frank Kratovil (Maryland) would be one of the first Democrats to go if Republicans make significant gains during mid-term elections, and a new poll shows he has reason for concern.

The Tarrance Group poll, which was conducted for state Sen. Andy Harris’s (R) campaign and obtained by The Hill, shows Harris taking a 52-39 lead in a rematch of his 2008 contest with Kratovil.

To members in districts that went heavily for Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in the presidential race, the poll should serve as notice that the political environment can have localized consequences. Kratovil maintains a 43 percent favorable rating and only 30 percent unfavorable, yet just 29 percent of voters say he “deserves reelection.”

Nearly half of voters — 49 percent — would prefer somebody new.

The polling memo states that Kratovil is suffering from the environment but also doesn’t appear to have done himself any favors. Notably, the incumbent has voted with his party on the stimulus bill and cap-and-trade, while other members in such districts sided with Republicans on those votes.

“Incumbent Democrat(ic) Congressman Frank Kratovil is not likely to be a part of the next Congress once it is convened in 2011,” the memo says bluntly.

The poll was conducted Sunday, Monday and Tuesday among a relatively small sample of 300 likely voters in Maryland’s 1st district. It has a margin of error of 5.8 percent.

Kratovil defeated Harris 49-48 last year, even as the district went 59-40 for McCain. Harris was hurt in part by a bloody primary with centrist Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R), after which Gilchrest crossed party lines and backed Kratovil.

It is one of the reddest districts held by a Democrat.

Harris might not have the GOP field to himself, though. Wealthy fellow state Sen. E.J. Pipkin looks like a good bet to contest the primary for the second straight cycle. Pipkin finished third in the primary last year.

UPDATE 2:35 p.m.: Kratovil spokesman Kevin Lawlor responds with the following: "If there is one lesson to be learned from 2008, it is that Andy Harris polls aren't worth the paper they are printed on."

Lawlor's reference is a July 2008 poll Harris released showing him leading Kratovil 44-28. It's a valid point, in that Harris eventually lost the race, despite his poll showing a big early lead.

But it should also be noted that, at that point, Harris's hard name recognition was 49 percent and Kratovil's was only 28 percent. So Harris's big lead could have been more a reflection of his superior name ID and the partisan breakdown of the district.