Ann Womer Benjamin's campaign manager is pleased with the poll results, even though she still trails Ryan.
By DAVID SKOLNICK
VINDICATOR POLITICS WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- A Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee poll shows Democrat Timothy J. Ryan with a double-digit lead over Republican Ann Womer Benjamin in the 17th Congressional District race, with independent James A. Traficant Jr. just a blip on the screen.
The poll, conducted Sept. 16-18 of a random sample of 500 likely voters, shows Ryan, of Niles, with 52 percent of the vote, Womer Benjamin, of Aurora, with 31 percent, Traficant, of Poland, with 10 percent, and 7 percent undecided.
John Green, director of the University of Akron's Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, said the numbers are not surprising because the 17th is a strong Democratic district.
Ryan's being above 50 percent is great news for his campaign, Green said. "If he was below 50 percent, it would mean he was facing trouble," he said.
Also, Traficant should not be dismissed just because his support in the poll is weak, Green said.
"Conventional wisdom is Jim Traficant doesn't poll well," he said. "There are a lot of people who will not admit, even anonymously over the phone, that they'll vote for him and then they do it. His real number is probably 15 percent and he has the potential for 20 percent."
Pat Lowry, Ryan's campaign spokesman, said the results show that Traficant's support is waning and that Womer Benjamin is failing to gain momentum.
"She's had four months to make her case to the public and she's 21 percent behind," he said. "It's not a close race."
As for Traficant, Lowry said the former congressman will not "be a factor in this race. He won't have an impact on the outcome."
Ryan's 21-percent lead is a drop from his 32-percent lead over Womer Benjamin in a DCCC poll taken during the two days after his startling victory in the May 7 Democratic primary.
David All, Womer Benjamin's campaign manager, said the 11-percent gain by his candidate is a "tremendous erosion" in Ryan's support and indicates a "huge shift in momentum."
The telephone poll, conducted for the DCCC by the Feldman Group of Washington, D.C., has a 4.4 percent margin of error.
Ryan's name identification is 87 percent among those polled, including 46 percent who have a favorable opinion of him and 13 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of him.
Womer Benjamin's name identification is 73 percent, including 29 percent who have a favorable opinion of her and 11 percent who have an unfavorable opinion of her.
The poll results do not disclose Traficant's name identification or the favorable and unfavorable opinion those polled have of the ex-congressman, who is serving an eight-year federal prison sentence for bribery, racketeering and tax evasion.
Green said Traficant probably has high name recognition in the congressional district, which includes portions of Mahoning, Trumbull, Portage and Summit counties.
All said he is pleased by the poll's results and expects his candidate to continue to improve in the polls as her major advertising push gets going. The election is Nov. 5.
"The election will be highly competitive and it will likely come down to a handful of voters," he said.
A polling memo written by the Feldman Group to the DCCC, and released today to subscribers of the Nationaljournal.com's House Race Hotline, states: "Ryan's lead rests on more than name recognition. When we give voters positive profiles of both candidates, the race is virtually unchanged. We read voters paragraphs based on their current advertising and positioning, using Womer Benjamin's current advertising script almost verbatim."
After descriptions of Ryan, a state senator, and Womer Benjamin, a state representative, were read to those polled, the Democratic candidate led the Republican 54 percent to 35 percent with 7 percent for Traficant and 4 percent undecided.
A subsequent paragraph on Traficant "takes Ryan's support down but only marginally," the poll states.
After the Traficant paragraph was read to those polled, Ryan got 50 percent of the vote, Womer Benjamin got 33 percent, Traficant got 13 percent, and 4 percent were undecided.