Poll: Traficant trails in re-election bid
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Maverick Rep. James Traficant of Ohio, a convicted felon running as an independent, trails two major-party candidates by double digits in his re-election bid, according to a new Democratic poll conducted shortly after the May 7 primary.
State Sen. Tim Ryan, a former Traficant aide who ousted eight-term Rep. Tom Sawyer to claim the Democratic nod in the newly drawn 17th district, held a commanding lead, with a 56 percent showing in the poll of 400 likely voters conducted May 8 and 9 by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research Inc., a Democratic polling firm based in Washington.
Republican state Rep. Ann Womer-Benjamin trailed with 24 percent, followed by Traficant, a former Democrat, with 13 percent and labor activist Warren Davis, also running as an independent, with 4 percent. Another 4 percent of respondents said they remain undecided. The margin of error was 4.9 percent.
House GOP leaders decided to target the race in the northeastern Ohio smokestack district that stretches from Youngstown to Akron following Sawyer's surprise defeat.
"Jim Traficant has not had one day to campaign so far this year," said his spokesman, Charlie Straub. "He's been handling his legal situation. But at some point between now and November, he'll start looking at the race and, once he does, his numbers will come around."
Party strategists say Traficant, who was convicted last month on 10 federal counts of bribery and extortion, can take between 25 and 30 percent of the vote, drawing largely from Ryan's Democratic base. If he remains in the race, Davis, who shares a strong labor backing with Ryan and Traficant, could also help the GOP nominee.
Womer-Benjamin has scheduled a May 22 fundraiser with House Majority Whip Tom DeLay of Texas, National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Davis of Virginia and Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri and a June 5 money event with the Ohio GOP delehation. Ohio GOP Gov. Bob Taft also has also agreed to host an event for her, but campaign aides would not release the date of the Taft event.
Pollsters noted that Ryan wins decisively among Democrats and receives support from a plurality -- 47 percent -- of Independent voters. One-third of Republican voters said they will vote for Ryan in November, according to the pollsters, who conducted the survey for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
In a generic match-up, a "Democratic" candidate leads a generic "Republican" candidate by 31 points (58 percent to 27 percent). Twice as many voters prefer a Democrat to balance the Bush agenda than a Republican who has consistently supported President Bush, according to a polling memo.
Womer-Benjamin "simply cannot get traction in this Democratic environment. Not only is she not well known (31 percent name recognition), she is facing an electorate that simply prefers a Democratic candidate. Even after providing information about her record in the state legislature, her share of the vote is unchanged," the memo said.
Womer-Benjamin's chief of staff, David All, dismissed the poll findings, noting that Ryan ran TV ads and received widespread media attention during his primary with Sawyer, helping him boost his name identification levels. "We weren't campaigning for a May poll. We're campaigning for a November election," All said. "No one has started campaigning except Tim Ryan."
Womer-Benjamin had $35,000 on hand April 17; Ryan had $26,000. Traficant reported $42,000 in the bank March 31.
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