Though Public Policy Polling’s quickly commissioned survey in South Carolina’s 2nd congressional district shows Rep. Joe Wilson now trailing his Democratic opponent, don’t be fooled. Raising an incredible $1 million since interrupting President Obama’s healthcare speech, the Congressman will again win reelection going away.
The new PPP data gives Democrat Rob Miller a 44-43 percent lead. The analysis suggested a 3.6 percent error factor, but even the pollster indicates the high number refusing to participate could drive that rate higher. The automated calling format tends to be less reliable, though the large sample size does negate some of the inaccuracy.
The Congressman won his last election 54-46 percent over Miller, a former career Marine Corps enlisted man and officer who served two tours of duty in Iraq. The dip in Wilson’s 2008 re-election support – his previous average had been 71.2 percent over four elections – can mostly be attributed to the super-charged African American turnout that was spurred to new highs by Obama’s presidential effort. The African American percentage in SC-2 is 26.2 percent, ninth highest in the country for a Republican district.
Several things still play to Wilson’s favor for the 2010 election, despite the flap with Obama. First, the African-American turnout will likely return to normal off-year election levels, thus significantly changing the composition of the electorate. Second, the Congressman will be better prepared for reelection than during the last cycle because he knows he faces a competitive race. Third, just after his below-average November electoral performance he recruited his former chief of staff, Eric Dell, back from the private sector to rejoin his office, again taking control of the entire operation. Dell is a seasoned political veteran and native of the district who quarterbacked Wilson’s original congressional effort, and whose staff presence dates back to the Congressman’s days in the state Senate.
The polling here will return to normal within the month, but the race will continue to attract national attention and resources, thus helping both candidates but failing to alter the outcome.
Jim Ellis is a former political advisor to the House Republican majority and currently provides election analysis for clients of the PRIsm Information Network. With Bennet Kelley he has formed Filibanter, to provide live presentations and media interviews combining political filibustering and banter.