Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais’ poll ratings among likely voters in the 4th Congressional District have plunged enough to leave him in a “dead heat” with Democrat Eric Stewart, according to a poll conducted for Stewart’s campaign.
Pollster Andrew Myers credited the DesJarlais drop to publicity surrounding a conversation the Jasper physician had 12 years ago with a former patient about their sexual relationship and an abortion. DesJarlais has said the woman was not actually pregnant and there was no abortion.
The poll of 400 voters, conducted Oct. 14-15, showed DesJarlais still ahead, 49 percent to 44 percent. That was an 11-point drop for DesJarlais since a June poll, Myers said. He said the poll’s margin of error is 4.9 percent.
“This has become an extremely competitive race. It has become a dead heat,” Myers said in a telephone news conference.
The same poll showed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romey leading Barack Obama 56 percent to 38 percent in the district and respondents showing a “generic” preference for Republicans over Democrats by a 52 percent to 39 percent margin, Myers said.
DesJarlais’ decline was especially severe among voters who said they attended church at least weekly and among women, Myers said.
Romney had a 30-point lead among regular church attendees, he said, while DesJarlais had just an 11 point lead. He said there was “a profound gender gap” with women now favoring Stewart over DesJarlais while more men still prefer the Republican.
Note: Press release and polling memo below.
News release from Eric Stewart campaign:
Winchester, Tenn. -Voters in Tennessee’s 4th Congressional district are not reacting favorably to the news that U.S. Congressman Scott DesJarlais, a licensed medical doctor, admits to having four affairs, sleeping with one of his patients, and then phoning the patient, encouraging her to have an abortion. (The transcript of that conversation can be found by clicking here.)
On October 10th, Huffington Post broke the news of DesJarlais’ scandalous past. In 2010, DesJarlais was elected to Congress after representing to voters that he was both “pro-life and pro-family,” positions which can also be found on the Congressman’s website. Since Wednesday, the story has been reported in print, web and broadcast outlets across the district, and many voters have expressed their disgust and intolerance for DesJarlais’ hypocrisy and ethics violations.
On Monday, October 15th, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington filed a complaint with the Tennessee Medical Examiner’s Board asking that DesJarlais be investigated immediately for having sex with one of his patients. A clear violation of the conduct expected of a medical doctor. DesJarlais’ breach of the public trust has been rebuked by editorial boards across the country and faith based groups are denouncing him for his actions. A conservative group in Tennessee has announced that it will be asking the Congressman to resign.
A poll conducted by Myers Research on Oct. 15th and 16th shows that DesJarlais is now in a statistical dead heat with his opponent, Democratic State Senator Eric Stewart. The memo from the poll can be found by clicking here: www.votestewart.com/pollingmemo
“The people of Tennessee deserve to have a Congressman to represent them that has not caused the type of national embarassment that we’ve seen from Congressman DesJarlais. He has been an embarrassment to elected officials, to the state of Tennessee, and to the medical profession. He’s violated his oath of marriage, the oath he took as a doctor, and the trust of the voters,” Stewart said.
“I decided to run for Congress because I believe working families in the 4th Congressional district need a voice. We need to bring our jobs back home, keep the promises made to our seniors and protect Medicare, and we need to give our veterans and active military members the support and respect that they deserve,” Stewart said.
Myers Research Polling Memo TN04: http://www.votestewart.com/pollingmemo
Text of memo:
To: The Eric Stewart Campaign
From: Andrew Myers
Tennessee CD4 – Statistical Dead Heat
According to the findings of our recent survey of 400 likely November voters in Tennessee’s 4th Congressional District, embattled Republican incumbent Congressman Scott DesJarlais finds himself locked in a statistical dead heat, leading Democrat Eric Stewart by just 5 points, 44 to 49 percent.1 Notably, DesJarlais significantly underperforms both the top of the ticket, where Romney bests Obama by an 18-point margin, 38 to 56 percent, and in a generic Congressional matchup where a Republican candidate also leads by double-digits, 39 to 52 percent. Make no mistake about it — DesJarlais is in serious trouble in this strongly pro-life, pro-values district.
Just one example that reflects the trouble DesJarlais has created for himself here is the trend among voters who attend church weekly or more than weekly. Among these voters, who favor Mitt Romney by a 30-point margin (33 to 63 percent), DesJarlais leads by just 11 points today, 41 to 52 percent. After these voters are presented with the fact that DesJarlais urged his patient/mistress to get an abortion and they hear DesJarlais’ response, the contest narrows even further among them to 40 to 48 percent.
Indeed, in other signs of the free-fall DesJarlais has seen since last week, DesJarlais’ personal standing has fallen dramatically from our baseline survey in June and today his cool, or negative impressions have more than doubled to 29 percent, while warm, positive impressions of him have remained frozen at 26 percent. Consequently, his overall mean personal feeling thermometer has taken a remarkable tumble, from 56-degrees in June, to a tepid 46-degrees today, as measured on a scale from 0 to 1002.
Importantly, just six in ten voters today report having read, seen or heard something about Congressman DesJarlais in the past week, and by a two to one edge, these voters report that it has made them less likely to support DesJarlais for Congress. Clearly, as more voters learn about the Congressman’s scandalous behavior, this contest is likely to close further.
Bottom line, DesJarlais is in serious jeopardy today and if Eric Stewart can harness the resources necessary to press his case here, Democrats have a great chance to put this district in the win column Election Day.
1 These findings are based on a survey of 400 likely November 2012 general election voters in TN CD4. Calling took place from October 14-15, 2012 and interviews were conducted by professional interviewers supervised by Myers Research | Strategic Services staff. The data were stratified to reflect the projected geographical contribution to the total expected vote. The margin of error associated with these data at a 95 in 100 percent confidence level is +/- 4.9 percent. The margin of error for subgroups is greater and varies.
2 Myers Research | Strategic Services uses a mean thermometer scale of zero to one hundred to measure candidate personal standing. Zero represents a very cool, negative feeling, one hundred represents a very warm, favorable feeling, and 50 means neither warm nor cool. The mean thermometer score is derived among respondents who can rate the candidates.