Poll: Dem challenger narrowly leads 30-year incumbent Rohrabacher

Poll: Dem challenger narrowly leads 30-year incumbent Rohrabacher
© Greg Nash

Democratic nominee Harley Rouda narrowly leads Rep. Dana RohrabacherDana Tyrone RohrabacherThe most expensive congressional races of the last decade George Papadopoulos launches campaign to run for Katie Hill's congressional seat The Hill's Morning Report - Trump, Biden go toe-to-toe in Iowa MORE (R) in one of California’s most competitive House races this cycle, according to a new poll.

A Monmouth University Poll released Tuesday found Rouda ahead of Rohrabacher by 3 points, 46 percent to 43 percent, among all potential voters. Rouda’s small lead is within the survey’s margin of error, of 4.9 percentage points.

Rouda still maintains a slight edge when using different likely voter models. Rouda leads Rohrabacher, 47 percent to 45 percent, when using a historical midterm model. And Rouda extends his lead to 4 points when turnout is surging in Democratic precincts.

ADVERTISEMENT

Rohrabacher holds a double-digit lead among white voters without a college degree. But the two candidates are nearly tied among college educated white voters. Rouda has a 27-point lead over Rohrabacher among Asian, Latino and black voters.

“Rohrabacher came into this race with a target on his back that included some opposition within his own party. He retains strong support in GOP strongholds centered around Newport Beach, but voters in the rest of the district are willing to look at someone new,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

“Minority voters tend to show less interest in the election at this point, so a key for Rouda is motivating this part of his base to turn out," he continued.

In terms of favorability, voters are split on Rohrabacher: 32 percent have a favorable opinion, while 33 percent have an unfavorable one.

Unlike the 30-year incumbent, Rouda — a businessman and political newcomer — is more unknown. Twenty-seven percent have a favorable opinion, 13 percent have an unfavorable one and 60 percent have no opinion. But the survey found that Democrats are more satisfied with Rouda as their nominee than Republicans are with Rohrabacher.

“Partisan voters are basically satisfied with their standard bearers in this race. But the fact that GOP voters are slightly less content with Rohrabacher could be decisive if this race is ultimately decided by a few thousand votes,” said Murray.

Rohrabacher and Rouda are in one of the most heated House battles in California, as both parties eye the longtime Republican seat in Orange County.

Rohrabacher, who's considered one of the most pro-Russia members of Congress, is facing his toughest reelection race to date. He's won reelection by double-digits, but the change in demographics has made his district more favorable for Democrats.

Democrats feel emboldened about the district since Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonThe Democratic demolition derby Juan Williams: Don't count Biden out Candidates in Obama's orbit fail to capitalize on personal ties MORE won it by a little more than a point in 2016. Rouda, who had the support of national Democrats, eked out a tough primary race against Democrat Hans Keirstead for a second spot on the November ballot.

The poll was conducted from July 11-15 and surveyed 402 voters from the district. The margin of error was 4.9 percentage points for the full sample, and 5.2 percentage points for likely voters.