The first poll since state Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-Loudoun) won the primary to challenge Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) shows President Trump appears to be a drag on the Republican’s chances for reelection in her northern Virginia district this November.
In a head-to-head match up, Wexton leads Comstock by 10 points — 49 to 39, with 12 percent undecided or supporting someone else — even though most voters said they had no opinion of the Democrat, according to a Monmouth University poll released Tuesday.
At the same time, 53 percent of potential voters disapprove of the job Trump has done, which is similar to the president’s job approval rating nationally, but nearly half of voters in the 10th District intensely disapprove, the survey found.
And nearly 8 in 10 of all potential voters say it is very important or somewhat important to cast a vote that reflects their attitudes about Trump, according to the poll.
Comstock is seeking a third term in one of the most hotly contested races in the country. Considered a toss-up by independent analysts, the seat is one of 23 held by Republicans that Democrats want to flip to take control of the House.
It also reflects Virginia’s rapid shift from a GOP stronghold to a purple state, where Republicans control the legislature but Democrats have won every statewide office since 2009. Last year, Democrat Ralph Northam won the governor’s mansion by nine points, and Democrats nearly took the House of Delegates.
Much of the Democratic political strength is centered in populous northern Virginia.
“This part of the commonwealth was a critical factor in the blue wave that elected Democrats in last year’s election for governor and state legislature,” said Patrick Murray, director of the Monmouth University Polling Institute. “Not much has changed in the political environment since then, with President Trump creating a significant drag for Comstock.”
The Monmouth University Poll surveyed 400 voters reached on cellular and landline phones from June 21 to June 24. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Comstock has won two terms representing Loudoun County and parts of Prince William and Fairfax counties as well as rural counties of Clarke and Frederick to the west by appealing to moderate voters without turning off her conservative base.
That fine line has been more difficult for her to navigate in the Trump era.
She broke with him on the House bill that would have repealed the Affordable Care Act and has objected to his treatment of women, while at the same time voting with her party on immigration, abortion, gun rights and taxes.
Asked about Comstock’s posture toward Trump, 34 percent of voters said she has been too supportive, 17 percent say she has not been supportive enough, 23 percent say she has struck the right balance, and 26 percent say they do not know. More than 6 in 10 self-identified Democrats say Comstock has been too supportive of Trump, compared with 3 of 10 Republicans who say she has not.
The poll shows a large gender gap on this question, with 43 percent of women saying Comstock has been too supportive of Trump, compared with 24 percent of men, a 19-point gap.
Women are similarly 21 points more likely than men to disapprove strongly of Trump’s job performance. That divide is mirrored in the congressional race, with Comstock leading by 12 points among men while Wexton holds a more than 2-to-1 lead among women, 60 percent vs. 27 percent.
Forty-two percent of voters would rather see Democrats in control of Congress, 34 percent prefer Republicans and 22 percent say it does not matter.
Comstock has tried to focus her race on local issues such as Metro funding and MS-13 gang violence and has worked to streamline the process for reporting sexual harassment on Capitol Hill.
About a third of voters have a favorable view of Comstock, 32 percent, while 36 percent have an unfavorable view and 32 percent have no opinion.
Wexton, a former prosecutor who has been a state senator from Loudoun since 2014, is less well known. Thirty percent of voters have a favorable view of her, 10 percent have an unfavorable view, and 59 percent have no opinion.
Wexton also has a narrow advantage, 45 percent to 36 percent, among voters who identify themselves as independents, and she has more unified support among fellow Democrats than Comstock has among fellow Republicans.
A 78 percent majority of voters who approve of Trump’s performance as president support Comstock, while a similar 82 percent of Trump disapprovers support Wexton.
The poll found Comstock has a significant foothold in the district on the question of constituent services.
Aside from whether they disagree with her on the issues, about half of voters, 46 percent, say Comstock has generally done a good job serving the needs of her constituents, while 31 percent say she has done a bad job.
An almost identical 48 percent of voters say Wexton would do a good job serving constituents, though a smaller 17 percent expect her to do badly.