Politics & Government

GOP congressman says he’s down in the polls – and he wants his supporters to know

Rep. George Holding, R-N.C., attends a meeting with President Donald Trump in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, July 17, 2018, in Washington.
Rep. George Holding, R-N.C., attends a meeting with President Donald Trump in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Tuesday, July 17, 2018, in Washington. AP

Rep. George Holding, a Wake County Republican who has won each of his three terms with more than 56 percent of the vote, told supporters Monday that he is trailing Democratic candidate Linda Coleman in North Carolina’s 2nd Congressional District.

In a fundraising email, Holding announced internal poll numbers that he says show him down three points. His campaign manager, Carter Wrenn, confirmed the results in an interview with The News & Observer on Monday and explained why the campaign made them public.

“We want people to understand where we are. We don’t want people to take this election for granted,” Wrenn said. “George has always won by a pretty comfortable margin. This is a completely different election.”

The polls were conducted by the Holding campaign and have not been made public.

Midterm elections tend to favor the party out of power. In the last 20 midterm elections, the president’s party has lost seats 18 times, according to The American Presidency Project. In 11 of those elections, the president’s party lost more than the 23 seats Democrats need to regain the U.S. House, including a 63-seat swing for Republicans in 2010, the first election after Democrat Barack Obama was elected president.

In this election period, Democrats have consistently led in polls that ask if they plan to vote for a Democrat or a Republican, according to polling compiled by RealClearPolitics.

Holding’s district, which includes parts or all of Franklin, Harnett, Johnston, Nash, Wake and Wilson counties, is not considered one of the most at-risk for Republicans in the state. The major outlets that rate House races consider the 2nd a “likely Republican” district, and Nate SIlver’s FiveThirtyEight.com model gives Holding an 89 percent chance of winning.

“I’m glad George Holding’s DC pollsters were able to show him what we in North Carolina’s 2nd district have known for quite some time — it is time for a change,” Coleman said in a statement issued to The N&O. “Voters are sick and tired of George Holding selling us out in favor of the powerful special interests that bankroll his campaign, which is why we are ahead and are poised to win in November.”

Unlike many Republican incumbents who have been outraised by Democratic challengers, Holding has posted strong fundraising numbers. He has raised more than $1.8 million for his re-election bid, according to the Federal Elections Commission, money that has allowed him to air television ads throughout the summer.

Holding attributed some of the poll numbers to television ads being run by North Carolinians for a Fair Economy, a super PAC that is not required to name its donors. The group said it exists to “inform residents about Congressman George Holding’s consistent record of voting against working-class families.”

We can’t judge what will happen this election by what happened in elections two or four or six years ago. The wind has changed. The ground beneath our feet has shifted. And it’s all but certain, since Democrats take polls too, more negative ads are on the way,” Holding wrote in the email which promotes an Aug. 21 fundraiser in Raleigh.

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a super PAC associated with House GOP leadership, announced earlier this month it would open an office in Holding’s district as part of its effort to keep the House.

“Some on the Republican side are trying to raise alarm bells a little bit,” Jonathan Kappler, executive director of the North Carolina Free Enterprise Foundation, said in an interview with The N&O. “It’s clear that the 2nd is somewhere on the radar.”

Wrenn said the political environment reminds him of midterms in 1982, 1994 and 2010, when the president’s party suffered big losses. In 1982, Republicans lost 26 seats in the U.S. House. In 1994, Democrats lost 52 seats in the House.

“If you’ve been in enough elections, you’ve seen elections where the wind changes and that’s what we have this time,” Wrenn said.

Despite predictions of a “blue wave” in favor of Democrats, President Donald Trump has been predicting the opposite. He has tweeted about a “red wave” six times since June.

“Presidential Approval numbers are very good - strong economy, military and just about everything else. Better numbers than Obama at this point, by far. We are winning on just about every front and for that reason there will not be a Blue Wave, but there might be a Red Wave!” Trump tweeted earlier this month.

Wrenn said he has seen no evidence of a red wave in his polling. To the contrary, he said he is seeing Republicans trail Democrats in questions that ask about a generic Democrat and a generic Republican, and in questions that measure intensity of support for either side.

Coleman, a former Wake County commissioner who has lost twice in bids for lieutenant governor, lags far behind Holding in fundraising and has yet to air television ads. Coleman has raised more than $299,000, according to campaign finance reports.

“She may not necessarily need to be the most stellar candidate. If she is a credible vessel for an electorate that wants change, if that manifests itself come November, then she has a legitimate shot,” Kappler said. ”Holding still has more of the advantages. If she wins, it’s probably less to do with her and her campaign than it is outside groups and the national environment.”

Brian Murphy: 202.383.6089; Twitter: @MurphinDC
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