Democrats have released a new poll this week that shows Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, is vulnerable in the next election.
Republicans, in turn, have said the party is just shopping for a candidate after two high-profile Democrats refused to challenge the powerful seven-term Congressman.
According the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poll, only 32 percent of respondents said they would definitely vote for Pombo in the next election.
This "re-elect number" is barely more than half of the 61 percent Pombo polled in beating Democratic challenger Jerry McNerney last fall.
Sixteen percent of respondents said they would definitely vote against Pombo, while another 28 percent said they would consider it. The remaining 24 percent were unsure or declined to answer.
The results came from a random telephone survey of 402 people between May 31 and June 2. It was conducted by the Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, a company which conducts surveys for Democratic candidates.
The poll also found 11th District voters would favor a Democrat over a Republican by 41 percent to 31 percent if another presidential election were held. And 53 percent said the country was headed in the wrong direction, compared to 34 percent who said the direction was right.
Sarah Fienberg, press secretary for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said that Pombo's 32-percent reelect number was "perilously low."
"This poll tells us what we have known all along: that the voters in Congressman Pombo's district are sick and tired of the fact that day in and day out, he puts special interests ahead of the priorities of the families of his district," Fienberg told the Tracy Press.
In particular, Democrats have said that Pombo's emphasis on overhauling the Endangered Species Act shows his interest is to help rich landowners and corporations over rank-and-file constituents.
Pombo, in turn, has frequently touted the money he has brought into the district in the form of funds for transportation, and agriculture, among other things.
Fienberg said that the numbers reflect a growing dissatisfaction with Republicans in general. For instance, California's Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has seen his approval rating drop by 30 points in the last nine months to 37 percent, according to a Field Poll released last week.
President George W. Bush has seen his own approval numbers drop to 42 percent, according to a June 16 CBS/New York Times poll, with voters citing Iraq and the economy as reasons for dissatisfaction. However, Bush overcame similar numbers late last year to win reelection.
Wayne Johnson, a Republican campaign consultant and president of JohnsonClark Associates of Sacramento, dismissed the poll as part of a failing attempt to bring in a high-profile candidate to challenge Pombo.
"Apparently the numbers were so convincing that Mike Machado decided not to run," Johnson said about an announcement last week that the state senator, D-Linden, would not challenge Pombo.
Jodie Fuji, Machado's chief of staff, confirmed that her boss knew about this poll, as well as others that have been carried out in Pombo's district in recent months. She said the numbers had nothing to do with Machado's decision to finish his state senate term.
Machado's announcement was followed a day later by word from Assemblywoman Barbara Matthews, D-Tracy. Matthews' chief of staff, Cathleen Galgiani, said they had not seen the poll.
Matthews and Machado are both big-name locals whom Democrats hoped to recruit. Johnson said that no other Democrats would have the combination of name recognition and local appeal of those two.
Johnson said that even in this fast-growing and changing district, nothing has changed fast enough to counter Pombo's overwhelming win in the last election or Republicans' 47-40 edge in registration in the district.
The high number of "unsure" responses reflects the fact that the poll was taken outside of the election season, Johnson said.
"Richard Pombo runs and wins," Johnson said. "He's always done well at the polls."