In what looked to be a potential surprise in New Jersey’s 5th House district contest, GOP incumbent Scott Garrett has extended his lead to a more comfortable 11 points over Democrat Roy Cho, according to a new Monmouth University Poll.
A poll earlier this month showed the race to be a closer 5 point margin, but Garrett’s renewed engagement in the campaign since then has built his advantage to a level the six-term incumbent is more accustomed to seeing.
Among voters likely to cast their ballot in next week’s congressional race, 53% say they will support Scott Garrett and 42% will vote for first-time candidate Roy Cho. Another 2% say they will vote for the third party candidate and just 3% are undecided. Garrett’s support has grown over the past few weeks while Cho’s has remained stable. Two weeks ago, Garrett led Cho by 48% to 43%.
Independents have shifted more decisively for Garrett, now supporting the incumbent 51% to 42% for Cho. Monmouth’s earlier poll had Garrett’s edge among this group at a more narrow 45% to 42%.
The poll also finds that Cho has lost the advantage he held in the Bergen County portion of the district. He trails Garrett there by 48% to 46%. Two weeks ago, Cho actually led in Bergen by 51% to 39% for Garrett. Garrett continues to maintain a large lead in the more conservative western portion of the district – 65% to 31%.
“This race was flying under the radar just one month ago. Garrett was running a phone-it-in campaign that was compounded by a misstep around Sandy recovery. The incumbent is now much more engaged in the race,” said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute. “While Cho has run a strong campaign, the national environment, as well as the underlying fundamentals of this district, are too favorable to Republicans for him to overcome a full Garrett offensive without outside help from national Democrats. That help never materialized, but it may not have been enough this year once Garrett swung into campaign mode.”
Murray said the race seemed to turn on a Garrett campaign flyer touting his actions after Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012. Two weeks ago, 5th district voters were divided on Garrett’s assistance to New Jersey residents, but they were more positive about his actions for his own constituents. That distinction has evaporated. Nearly half of voters (44%) now say he did a good job helping people in New Jersey recover from Sandy while 28% say he did a bad job. Two weeks ago, 38% said he did a good job and 35% said he did a bad job statewide. Turning to his own district, 46% say Garrett did a good job helping his own constituents and 27% say he did a bad job. These findings are nearly identical to the Monmouth poll conducted two weeks ago.
The Monmouth University Poll found that positive views of the incumbent have increased over the past two weeks while there has been a similar increase in negative views of the challenger. Currently, 46% of voters have a favorable view of Scott Garrett – which is up from 40% – while 30% have an unfavorable view – similar to 29% from two weeks ago. A smaller number of voters (29%) have a favorable view of Roy Cho – which is basically unchanged from 30% – while 16% have an unfavorable opinion – up from 7% two weeks ago. Fully half (54%) of likely voters in New Jersey’s 5th district have no opinion of Cho and 24% have no opinion of Garrett.
Garrett has a very slight edge on the issue of voter trust. When asked which candidate is honest and trustworthy, 26% of 5th district voters say only Garrett is, 19% say only Cho is, and 15% say both are. Another 24% of likely voters say that neither candidate is honest and trustworthy and 16% have no opinion.
Monmouth University conducted the poll by telephone from October 27 to 29, 2014 with 427 New Jersey voters likely to vote in New Jersey’s 5th Congressional District November general election. This sample has a margin of error of + 4.8 percent. The poll was conducted by the Monmouth University Polling Institute.