SPRINGFIELD — A recent poll of Republican voters in the 13th Congressional District gives incumbent Rep. Rodney Davis a 4-to-1 lead over his Republican challenger, Urbana attorney Erika Harold.
The poll of 859 Republicans, taken Oct. 10, showed that Davis was the choice of 63.15 percent of the likely Republican voters, to 15.95 percent for Harold. About 21 percent of those polled were undecided. The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.34 percent.
A poll taken exactly four months earlier, on June 10, by the same Springfield polling firm, We Ask America, found that Republicans favored Davis, 53.55 percent to 16.38 percent.
"This is going to be a very tough road for a challenger in a Republican primary," said Gregg Durham, the CEO of We Ask America. "Republicans seem to be favoring the incumbent, and for a challenger with limited means who is not willing to throw bombs — I think she's more or less said she's going to run a positive campaign — absent a major scandal, it's hard to find a path to success for her."
Durham said it's unlikely that Davis would be badly damaged, at least in the Republican primary, by the national discontent with Congress.
"You could argue that Davis was around as a staffer for a while (having served for Rep. John Shimkus for 16 years), but he's been in Congress for less than a year. I think it's pretty hard to put the sins of the last decade onto the back of a freshman congressman," Durham said. "For this poll's purposes, in the primary I think it shows that this is going to be a very tough road for Ms. Harold."
For her part, Harold sounded unmoved by the poll results.
"Without knowing the methodology of the way in which the poll was conducted, I cannot comment on the poll's veracity," the candidate said by e-mail. "However, as we are still five months away from election day, I remain focused on expanding our team of volunteers and supporters and engaging voters throughout the district."
The Oct. 10 poll found that Davis had a 62.5 percent approval rating among Republican voters in the district, while Harold still remained largely unknown. Nearly 56 percent of those polled said they had never heard of her. In June, 61 percent of Republican voters said they had never heard of the former Miss America and Harvard Law School graduate.
Durham said that Harold's limited financial resources — she had about $99,209 on hand Sept. 30, compared with Davis' $882,146 — won't allow her to sound "a very compelling message that is different than everybody else's.
"I wouldn't suggest right now that these will be the final numbers," he said of the poll, "but I would suggest that I've never seen someone with these type of numbers win, absent a major scandal."
The June poll was taken for the CapitolFax website. The poll taken last week wasn't for a client, said Durham.
"It was an internal tracking poll," he said. "We're just trying to keep abreast of what's going on in some of the more interesting races."