New polling from Virginia Rep. Barbara Comstock’s campaign shows a closer race in the 10th District than recent public polling would suggest.
Comstock led Democratic state Sen. Jennifer Wexton 48 to 47 percent in the survey by McLaughlin & Associates. Only 5 percent of voters were undecided.
The poll surveyed 400 likely voters from Oct. 6-8 with 41 percent of interviews conducted via cell phone. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
In its polling memo to the campaign, McLaughlin notes that Comstock is in better shape now than she was at the same point in 2016. This is the first time the Comstock campaign has released internal numbers in either cycle, and it comes amidst a narrative that Comstock, a two-term Republican, is facing troubling re-election prospects in a district Hillary Clinton won by 10 points in 2016. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race Tilts Democratic.
Comstock remained better known than Wexton in the McLaughlin poll, with 44 percent of voters having a favorable opinion of her and 42 percent having an unfavorable opinion. Only 3 percent had never heard of Comstock, compared to 15 percent who had never heard of Wexton. Thirty-nine percent of voters had a favorable opinion of Wexton and 33 percent had an unfavorable opinion.
Wexton has led by margins ranging from 6 to 12 points in public polling of the race released since June, after Wexton secured the Democratic nod. The widest margin appeared in a recent Washington Post/Schar School poll that mailed invitations to voters and asked them to complete the survey online or by phone.
Public polls with more traditional methodologies have given Wexton a single-digit lead. In a Monmouth University survey using a standard midterm model, Wexton led Comstock 50 to 44 percent among likely voters — within the margin of error — at the end of September. That was a slightly narrower margin than in Monmouth’s June survey of the race. Wexton led Comstock 51 to 44 percent among likely voters in a Christopher Newport University poll of the race conducted Sept. 31-Oct. 2 that had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and House Majority PAC have canceled ad buys in the 10th District, signaling confidence in Wexton. Congressional Leadership Fund, the GOP super PAC backed by House leadership, never invested in the district, but the National Republican Congressional Committee is still spending here.
Comstock over-performed Trump in 2016, winning re-election with 53 percent of the vote, while Trump earned just 42 percent of the vote in this well-educated, affluent district where he remains unpopular. Comstock has tried to distance herself from the president and her party, especially on issues that affect federal workers in her district. She voted for the GOP tax overhaul, but opposed the GOP’s health care plan. That hasn’t stopped Wexton and Democrats from trying to tie Comstock to Trump on health care.
McLaughlin & Associates, which has polled all of Comstock’s state and federal races since 2009, notes in its polling memo to the campaign the Republican has “over performed our own internal polls in every election.”
Comstock dropped one spot on Roll Call’s rankings of the 10 most vulnerable incumbents earlier this month.