Poll shows Emerson in lead in Eighth District race

Friday, April 23, 2010
Jo Ann Emerson

A poll sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jo Ann Emerson's re-election campaign shows the seven-term incumbent holds a commanding lead over Democratic rival Tommy Sowers and that associating Sowers with the policies of President Barack Obama could damage his campaign.

The poll of 400 Eighth Congressional District voters, conducted this week by American Viewpoint, showed 71 percent of respondents preferred Emerson, R-Cape Girardeau while 18 percent chose Sowers, with 10 percent undecided. Emerson had a 71 percent favorable rating, a 73 percent approval rating, and only 17 percent of voters have an unfavorable opinion, according to a memo detailing the poll results.

American Viewpoint polls for Republican politicians and numerous corporate clients. The survey had a margin of error of about 5 percent.

Tommy Sowers

The poll was released today by Lloyd Smith, executive director of the Missouri Republican Party and former chief of staff for Emerson. "It shows Jo Ann's strength throughout the Eighth District," Smith said. "It reinforces what we thought we knew, what Team Emerson thought, that people appreciate her service, view her as a good listener and that she has as good a case work organization as anyone in the nation."

Sowers, of Rolla, Mo., is a former U.S. Army major who has been raising large amounts of money to challenge Emerson. He remains relatively unknown in the 28-county district, the poll found. Of the voters surveyed, 37 percent had heard of Sowers but only 15 percent know enough to have an opinion, the memo said. Voters who expressed an opinion of Sowers were split, with 8 percent favorable and 7 percent unfavorable.

In an e-mail response to the Southeast Missourian, Sowers campaign manager Jonathan Feifs expressed little worry about the poll data.

"Emerson should enjoy these numbers while they last, because the more people find out about her record of siding with Wall Street against the interests of her district, she's going to have to answer to the 77 percent of this district and the 86 percent of her own party that disapprove of her support of the big bank bailout," Feifs said. "And future polls will show that."

Feifs did not give details showing where he took his figures. He did not return a call seeking comment.

The pollsters also point out several factors that are potential trouble for Sowers. Obama's job approval rating is only 29 percent in the district while 65 percent disapprove. During the 2008 presidential race, Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain carried the Eighth District by 26 percent.

In addition, 63 percent of voters oppose the federal health care overhaul approved by Congress last month, with only 23 percent in favor. Sowers endorsed the health care reform measures last year.

"While Tommy Sowers has shown the ability to raise some money from liberal outside interests, he has not shown that same prowess in garnering support from voters in Southeast Missouri," the memo states. "It is extremely difficult to see how Sowers would win this race given Emerson's strong standing and voters' anger towards the Obama-Pelosi agenda."

Sowers raised more money than Emerson in two of the last three quarters by relying heavily on individual donations from outside Missouri. Emerson continues to raise much more than Sowers within the Eighth Congressional District. Out of $222,651 raised by Emerson in the most recent quarter, $66,180, or 29.7 percent, came from individual donors in the Eighth District. Sowers, by contrast, took in $294,652, of which $38,272, or 13 percent, came from individuals living in the district.

The Emerson campaign has reported 495 donors living in the Eighth District. Those people, who may have given only a small amount, are as important as any other asset the campaign has, Smith said.

And Smith, who has run several campaigns, said he wouldn't want to be in Sowers' position.

"When only 15 percent know you well enough to have an opinion and they are equally divided, it is not a strong position to be in 190 days out from an election," Smith said.

Sowers is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Emerson faces a challenge from conservative farmer Bob Parker in the GOP primary. Rick Vandeven of Chaffee will be the Libertarian Party nominee and Larry Bill of Jackson is seeking to get on the ballot as an independent candidate.



Pertinent address:

Cape Girardeau, MO

Rolla, MO

U.S. Capitol Building, Washington, D.C.

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