Republican Lee Terry not only has a money edge in his re-election campaign. The seven-term incumbent also has a sizeable lead over Democratic opponent John Ewing as the two enter the final leg of the campaign, according to The World-Herald Poll.
Terry led Ewing by 13 percentage points in a survey of 400 registered voters in the Omaha-based 2nd Congressional District.
The poll comes as Terry has pulled far ahead of Ewing in fundraising and television advertisements, raising more than $1.3 million, compared with $271,000 for Ewing, according to the latest federal campaign reports, filed in July.
The survey also showed Republican Reps. Jeff Fortenberry (1st District) and Adrian Smith (3rd District) with commanding leads over their Democratic rivals.
Ewing, the Douglas County treasurer, is making his first congressional bid against Terry, a battle-hardened political veteran who has held off numerous challengers over the past several election cycles. In fact, four Republicans tried to deprive Terry of the GOP nomination in the spring.
As an incumbent, Terry enjoys name recognition and financial advantages over his challengers. The average re-election rate for U.S. House incumbents since 1964 is about 93 percent, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
However, Terry's incumbency is offset by the fact that he is seen as the most vulnerable Nebraska Republican, and he represents the state's only swing district. The 2nd District is nearly evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats, and the district went for Democrat Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.
It's one of the reasons Democrats aggressively target Terry every two years.
A big factor in this year's race appears to be that — even at this stage in the election — a good number of registered voters do not know enough about Ewing to form either a negative or positive image of him.
About 43 percent said they were “neutral” when asked whether they had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Ewing. (Twenty-three percent had a favorable view, while 13 percent had an unfavorable view.)
That may change in the final weeks, as Ewing is expected to unleash a media blitz.
Ewing has reserved more than $200,000 in airtime, starting in early October. The question is whether that will be enough to offset the pummeling he has taken on the airwaves by Terry, who has run several television ads critical of Ewing.
Terry, elected in 1998, is far better known, according to the poll.
Forty-two percent had a favorable view of Terry, while 30 percent had a negative opinion. Twenty-three percent were neutral.
An even better number for Terry was his approval rating among voters. More than half approved of the job he was doing in Congress.
The survey was conducted Sept. 17 through 20 by Wiese Research Associates of Omaha. It had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
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