Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
October 2, 2014

Illinois: Does Joe Walsh Have a Shot at Coming Back to Congress?

Illinois: Does Joe Walsh Have a Shot at Coming Back to Congress?

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Not everyone thinks Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) is a political goner. There are some signs his re-election race could be competitive.

This week, Now or Never Super PAC dropped $810,000 worth of television advertisements into the 8th district to boost Walsh’s uphill re-election bid against Iraq War veteran Tammy Duckworth (D).

For more than a year, there was consensus among Democrats and, privately, Republicans that Walsh stood very little chance of winning the redrawn, Democratic-leaning district. The controversial conservative barely won a first term, and now he’s facing one of Illinois Democrats’ most-beloved candidates.

The super PAC’s spot “displays a positive side of the Congressman,” according to a press release. Walsh attracted a fair amount of poor press during this term for a six-figure child support lawsuit eventually settled outside court.

“Joe Walsh is a different kind of Congressman,” the spot says. “He turned down his Congressional health care and pension so the taxpayers didn’t have to foot the bill.”

The super PAC, which recently spent $500,000 in the Missouri Senate primary, announced the spot will run on five broadcast stations around Chicago: WLS, WGN, WMAQ, WFLD and WBBM

Could this mean Walsh has a shot of keeping his seat? Republicans say maybe.

A little over a month ago, a Republican poll showed Walsh in a statistical tie with Duckworth. The Tarrance Group survey, obtained by Roll Call from a third-party source, showed Walsh trailing Duckworth by 2 points, 45 percent to 47 percent. In a generic ballot test, respondents picked a Republican with 41 percent and a Democrat with 42 percent.

The poll, taken Aug. 13-15, surveyed 400 likely voters in the 8th district. It’s not clear who paid for the poll, and a phone call to the Tarrance Group was not returned.

But much can happen in a House race in five weeks. For the past week, Duckworth’s campaign has aired cable television spots. Walsh’s team has been airing spots since the first week in August.

Democrats say their internal polls show Duckworth ahead and outside the margin of error.

“We expect a tough race but when voters hear about Joe Walsh’s record — that he was the only member of the Illinois delegation to vote to allow student loan rates to double, that he wants to turn Medicare into a voucher program and is anti-choice even in cases of rape, incest and danger to the mother — they will vote him out of office,” said Kaitlin Fahey, a spokeswoman for Duckworth’s campaign.

For now, Roll Call will maintain its rating of this race as Likely Democratic.

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