Charlie Rangel Under 40% in First Primary Poll
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In the first poll of Democrats who are likely to vote in the September 14 primary, Rep. Charlie Rangel leads with only 39%, according to a new poll by Public Policy Polling for Democrats.com. (Full results)
Incumbents who fall below 50% are generally viewed as endangered.
Rangel leads a crowded field of challengers led by Adam Clayton Powell IV with 21%, Joyce Johnson with 7%, Jonathan Tasini with 6%, and Vince Morgan with 2%. These candidates filed enough petitions to qualify for the ballot, but Rangel's campaign is trying to throw some of those candidates off the ballot by challenging their petitions.
The race is largely a referendum on Rangel himself: 49% approve of Rangel's job performance, 27% disapprove, and 24% are unsure. Rangel's ethics problems are likely to become a central issue in the weeks ahead, as his opponents highlight an ongoing House ethics investigation.
Among likely voters, 47% think Rangel should stay in Congress to deal with the ethics charges, while 35% would prefer Rangel to retire with his reputation intact. Several of Rangel's opponents predict he will retire before the 2012 election, even if he wins another term in 2010. Rangel turned 80 in June.
Powell, who lost badly to Rangel in a 1994 primary, has his own ethics problem: a 2008 arrest for drunken driving that resulted in a conviction for a lesser charge of driving while impaired.
On a key national issue, likely voters oppose Rangel's proposal to re-institute a military draft by 47%-33%. A plurality of 37% want U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan in 2010, and a solid majority of 69% want them home by the end of 2011. Just 17% want to U.S. troops stay until the Taliban is defeated. On July 1, Rangel cast a key vote for $33 billion to increase U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan to expand fighting against the Taliban. Democrats.com, an online community of 635,000 Democratic activists based in Queens, is supporting Jonathan Tasini because of his strong opposition to additional war funds.
On a key local issue, likely voters are divided on Rangel's responsibility for gentrification in Harlem. 20% hold him very responsible, 32% somewhat responsible, 19% not very responsible, and 19% are not concerned about gentrification.
Voters also reject the idea that the district, which covers diverse areas of northern Manhattan, should be represented by any particular ethnic group. Just 10% think the seat should be held by an African-American and only 5% by a Latino, while 83% think it should be held by the best candidate of any race. Respondents identified themselves as 37% African-American, 31% white, 10% Puerto Rican, 10% Dominican, and 12% other. Women outnumbered men by 60% to 40%, and voters over 45 were 82% of respondents.
The poll of 682 likely Democratic primary voters was conducted on July 17-18 by Public Policy Polling, a national firm based in North Carolina. According to the Wall Street Journal, PPP was the second most accurate pollster in swing Presidential states in 2008.