NJ-3: Despite Narrow Leads, Adler in Danger Zone

Posted by Sean Trende, Real Clear Politics

Every cycle there are races that are so heavily polled that you can’t help but think about them (say, VA-05 this cycle), and there are races that manage to work their way into the news for other reasons (like FL-08).  But there are also relatively quiet races that are easy to overlook until something comes along to shake things up.

One of those races this year is in New Jersey’s 3rd Congressional District.  Democrat John Adler picked the district up from retiring Republican Jim Saxton in a quiet election in 2008, where the only surprise was that Adler only won by four points over Lockheed Martin executive Chris Myers.  This result echoed Barack Obama’s 52-47 win over John McCain in the district.

This year, Republicans turned to Jon Runyan, who played offensive tackle in the NFL for, among other teams, the Philadelphia Eagles (the 3rd District is essentially the Philly suburbs in New Jersey).  We really haven’t heard much about this race until recently, when we got three nonpartisan polls in a week, all pointing roughly the same way.  Monmouth/Gannett found Adler leading Runyan 42 to 39, Rutgers-Eagleton found Adler ahead 41 to 39, and Stockton/Zogby found Adler ahead 38 to 30.

Odd as it may seem, these polls are pretty bad news for Adler.  He’s well below 50 percent, which is the traditional threshold for a “competitive” race, and he’s even below 45 percent, which is typically a “point of no return” for an incumbent.  Monmouth finds the president upside-down at 44 percent approve/48 percent disapprove and analyzes undecided voters as being demographically similar to voters who are supporting Runyan.

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