Democratic Rep. Brad Ashford is vulnerable this year because he’s defending a Republican-leaning seat. But a new internal poll released Wednesday showed the Nebraska incumbent holding off his Republican challenger by 10 points.
The poll, conducted Sept. 14-18 by the Global Strategy Group, put Ashford at 50 percent and his GOP opponent, retired Brig. Gen. Don Bacon, at 40 percent, with 10 percent of likely voters undecided. The margin of error was 4.9 percentage points.
Ashford has been trying to downplay his party ID in a district that Mitt Romney carried by 7 points in 2012. When asked at a parade this summer whether he was Democrat, Ashford responded, “Aw, I don’t know. Whatever you want me to be.”
Ashford is one of the few Democrats the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has endorsed. He’s also backed by the National Federation of Independent Business.
The poll found Ashford with a 65 percent job approval and 19 percent disapproval rating. More Republicans approve (50 percent) than disapprove of his job performance (34 percent), according to the poll. The polling memo did not include favorability numbers for Bacon.
Nebraska’s 2nd District is one of the GOP’s few pickup opportunities this year. The party maintains that Ashford’s narrow defeat of gaffe-prone Rep. Lee Terry in 2014 was more a rejection of Terry than it was an endorsement of Ashford’s candidacy.
Republicans have been hammering the Democratic freshman for previously voting to close the Guantanamo Bay prison even though one of his ads says he wants to keep the detention center open. Last week, Ashford joined Republicans in blocking the Obama administration from transferring prisoners out of Guantanamo.
“Now that Brad Ashford is up for re-election, he only tells you half the story,” concludes a recent ad from the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Democrats in the state have been touting their success registering voters, which they say gives them a registration advantage in the district’s most populous county.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign is making a play for the district since Nebraska, along with Maine, splits its electoral votes by congressional district. Her campaign announced in August that it would air ads in the Omaha media market as part of an $80 million multistate reservation.