Darrell Issa's Challenger Opens Up Lead in Democratic Poll

Hillary Clinton leads Trump by double digits in GOP-leaning California district

California Rep. Darrell Issa trails his Democratic opponent, according to a new poll commissioned by the DCCC. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

No challenger to eight-term Republican Rep. Darrell Issa has come any closer than 16 points in California's 49th District.

But Issa trails Democrat Doug Applegate by 4 points in a Democratic poll obtained first by Roll Call.

The poll, conducted Sept. 28-30 for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee by Tulchin Research, put Applegate at 46 percent and Issa at 42 percent.

Twelve percent of the 400 likely voters surveyed were undecided. The survey was conducted on landlines and cell phones and had a margin of error of 4.9 percentage points. 

In the presidential race, Democrat Hillary Clinton held a 14-point edge in this district, which Mitt Romney carried by 6 points in 2012. Clinton led her GOP rival Donald Trump 49 to 35 percent. The polling memo pointed out that this survey was conducted after the first presidential debate last week. 

[Democratic Gains in the House Depend on Clinton’s Success

Issa’s most recent poll, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies in the beginning of September, showed the incumbent ahead 52 to 38 percent. An August internal poll from Applegate’s campaign put him behind Issa by just 3 points, 45 to 42 percent. 

The Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call recently changed the rating of this race from Safe Republican to Republican Favored.

Applegate, a retired Marine colonel, has been running an ad tying the GOP incumbent to Trump. “Just like Trump, Issa gamed the system to line his own pockets,” the narrator says.

Issa is the wealthiest member of Congress. He was worth at least $254.65 million in 2014, according to Roll Call’s Wealth of Congress Index

A hybrid ad from the DCCC and Applegate that began airing on San Diego broadcast and cable TV this week hits Issa and “the tea party Republicans” for voting against health care for 9/11 first responders. 

Issa recently debuted a positive spot with constituents touting his service, and a negative ad against Applegate. “Nancy Pelosi picked him, but we can’t afford him,” it says.

The Republican congressman has plenty more money to run ads. He ended the three-month Federal Election Commission reporting period in June with $3.8 million in his campaign account. Applegate had only $136,000 at the end of the same period. 

Democrats must net 30 seats to win control of the House, and to even come close, they need recruits to over-perform the Democratic presidential nominee in plenty of tossup and traditionally red districts. The party credits Trump’s candidacy for putting many more districts, including Issa’s, on the map for them.

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