U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis' recent votes on federal spending issues, including defunding or delaying the federal Affordable Care Act, place his reelection next year at risk, according to a poll commissioned by MoveOn.org.
But the poll also suggests that Davis' votes are firmly in sync with his Republican base.
The poll of 685 voters in Davis' 13th Congressional District, taken Oct. 2 and 3, also found that 41 percent of those polled disapproved of the job Davis is doing, and that if the election were held today, a generic Democratic opponent had a slight advantage of 44 percent to 43 percent over Davis. But the 1-point difference is well within the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percent.
Davis won election to his first term last November by 0.3 percent, or 1,002 votes, over Democrat David Gill and independent John Hartman.
The 13th District poll commissioned by the liberal interest group and performed by Public Policy Polling was one of 24 taken nationally in competitive, Republican-held districts.
It found that 59 percent of those surveyed in the 13th District opposed "Congress shutting down major activities of the federal government as a way to stop the health care law from being put into place," according to the wording of one poll question. Only 34 percent support the shutdown.
Davis — and all but two other House Republicans — voted on Sept. 29 in favor of a resolution to delay implementation of President Barack Obama's health care law for one year.
Since that time he has argued that he did not vote to shut down the federal government, and in fact tried to avoid it.
"Whatever decisions are made in Washington, all parties bear some part of the blame. But we, the House Republicans, have tried through four votes to avoid a government shutdown," Davis said last week. "But each and every time the Senate has said 'we're not even going to talk about this,' and the administration still has said 'we don't want to talk to anybody about finding a solution.'"
Although the poll found that voters overall opposed the government shutdown, Republicans in the 13th District — which runs from Champaign-Urbana on the northeast to Collinsville on the southwest — strongly support it by a margin of 55 percent to 34 percent.
And before Davis runs against a Democrat in November 2014, he has to get through a Republican primary election in March. Urbana attorney Erica Harold says she intends to challenge Davis in the GOP primary.
"It's sort of a pick your poison sort of vote," Tom Jensen, the director of Public Policy Polling, said of Davis' need to appeal to his Republican base. "It might help him get through the primary, but it then puts him in a much more perilous position for the general elections and that's a concern a lot of these Republican House members are facing in the balance they have to strike.
"These are all folks who for the most part, the Republican base in their districts do support the shutdown, but voters overall in their districts strongly oppose the shutdown. So casting the vote that gets them through the primary might also be the vote that causes them to lose in November. Clearly Rodney Davis at this point has taken the side of the party base, and what we're also seeing, though, is that puts him in a pretty tough position for the general election."
While self-identified Republican voters in the 13th District support the shutdown, the poll said that Democrats oppose it by a margin of 80 percent to 17 percent, and independents are against it by 61 percent to 32 percent.
Among other findings of the poll:
— Men disapprove of Davis' performance, 43 percent to 37 percent, while women disapprove, 40 percent to 29 percent.
— Among Republicans, 52 percent approve of Davis' job, while 23 percent disapprove.
— Among independents, 46 percent disapprove of Davis and 30 percent approve.
— 13th District voters overall have an unfavorable view of the tea party, 49 percent to 38 percent. But Republicans have a favorable view of the tea party, 63 percent to 22 percent.
— Davis' approval rating is strongest in the 30-to-45 age bracket (41 percent) and weakest in the 45-to-65 age bracket (28 percent).
Also Monday the liberal super PAC House Majority PAC announced that it had begun running an anti-Davis television spot on broadcast and cable television stations in central Illinois. Titled "No More Tantrums," the 30-second spot, which House Majority PAC spokesman Andy Stone said would run "for at least a week," features a crying baby with a voiceover saying: "Rodney Davis and tea party Republicans recklessly shut down the government, threatening the economy and throwing a tantrum, just to score political points."
In response to the TV ads, Davis spokesman Andrew Flach said, "While the Democrats resort to playing political games, the House will continue passing legislation to fund federal government operations and bring an end to the shutdown. Our hope is that the president and the Senate will stop trying to score political points and come to the table to negotiate a commonsense solution to our nation's fiscal crisis."