Moran won't stray from winning ways

By Ben Pershing
Monday, October 18, 2010

In an election year when even the most entrenched politicians are scrambling to project a message of "change," Rep. James P. Moran is doing something different - he is promising more of the same.

That's what you do when you are an incumbent who typically gets reelected with ease, representing a district that leans heavily toward your party and where, unlike in much of the country, the economy is still humming along at a decent clip.

"The message is that our unemployment rate is half what it is in the rest of the country," Moran (D-Va.) said in an interview Wednesday. "We've been judged the best place to ride out the recession. . . .We have the strongest economy in the country, so we don't want to do a whole lot different than what we've been doing."

In the prosperous 8th Congressional District - which includes Arlington, Alexandria, Falls Church and part of Fairfax County - at least one man does want change: Patrick Murray, a retired Army colonel who won a competitive Republican primary contest in June to be the decided underdog against Moran.

First elected in 1990, Moran has won with at least 60 percent of the vote in each of the past six elections. He also has enormous advantages in fundraising and name identification over Murray, who left the military in 2009 after 24 years of service and has never held elected office.

If those long odds worry Murray, he doesn't show it.

Walking in Old Town Alexandria on a recent sunny afternoon, Murray cheerfully asked shop owners for their votes and listened to their problems big and small. Some complained about high taxes and the rising cost of health insurance, others lamented the scarcity and price of parking along King Street.

"We really have a good shot this year, and we have some good poll numbers to prove it," Murray told one owner.

The Murray campaign has been touting a survey - conducted in mid-September by the Alexandria-based GOP firm - that showed Moran with a relatively small 13-point lead among likely voters, 45 percent to 32 percent. "

Jim Moran is personally a weak incumbent and has significant negatives associated with him," pollster John McLaughlin wrote.

But Moran scoffs at the poll's results, and his campaign has a survey of its own - conducted in mid-September by a Springfield-based Democratic firm - that showed the incumbent leading among likely voters, 58 percent to 31 percent, and found that Moran is viewed much more favorably than the GOP poll suggests.

"Bottom line: the strong Democratic leanings of this district and Moran's strong personal connection with voters puts him in a rock-solid position to win reelection in November," wrote Moran's pollster, Andrew Myers.

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