Exclusive: Bill Shuster Stomps Tea Party Challenger in Early GOP Poll

Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa., holds a more than 50-point lead over his Republican challengers in the 9th District primary next year, according to a new automated telephone poll from a GOP firm.

In the survey — shared first with CQ Roll Call — nearly two-thirds of likely GOP primary voters, 63 percent, said they would back Shuster in a primary. Ret. Coast Guard Capt. Art Halvorson had the support of 11 percent of respondents, while 5 percent backed veteran Travis Schooley. Twenty-one percent of respondents said they were "not sure" in the poll.

In recent weeks, Pennsylvania GOP operatives have questioned if Shuster is vulnerable to a primary challenge from Halvorson. The House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman has ramped up his fundraising over the past year, and his campaign manager insisted to CQ Roll Call that his team takes every challenge seriously.

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Name identification helped Shuster's standing in the poll. Shuster was known to 70 percent of respondents, and his favorability ratings nearly matched those of his father, former Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., whom he succeeded in Congress.

More than 80 percent of those surveyed said they were "not sure" about Halvorson and Schooley.

When asked if they supported "the goals and ideals of the tea party," 57 percent of respondents said yes. Eighteen percent said no, while 25 percent said they were unsure. Both Shuster and his father have wielded the gavel of Transportation and Infrastructure Committee — an entity that has drawn the ire of tea party Republicans because of its reputation for federally funded projects.

Pollster Brock McCleary of Harper Polling conducted the automated telephone poll of 555 likely Republican voters between Sept. 30-Oct. 1. He is not aligned with any of the campaigns. The margin of error was 4 percent.

The race is rated Safe Republican by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.