2008.10.20: October 20, 2008: Headlines: Figures: COS - Fiji: Politics: Congress: Newsday: Polls show Shays and Himes in dead heat

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Polls show Shays and Himes in dead heat

Polls show Shays and Himes in dead heat

The race between Republican U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays and Democratic challenger Jim Himes in Connecticut's 4th District is a dead heat, according to a poll released Monday. Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Fiji in the 1960's.

Polls show Shays and Himes in dead heat

Poll: Shays and Himes in dead heat

By SUSAN HAIGH | Associated Press Writer

October 20, 2008

HARTFORD, Conn. - The race between Republican U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays and Democratic challenger Jim Himes in Connecticut's 4th District is a dead heat, according to a poll released Monday.

Shays and Himes both received support from 44 percent of the 501 likely voters surveyed by University of Connecticut/Hearst Newspapers pollsters in the wealthy southwestern Connecticut district.

Ten percent of voters are undecided, and two third-party candidates each received support from 1 percent of voters polled.

"The race is really up in the air because of the number of voters still wrestling with their decision," said Samuel Best, director of UConn's Center for Survey Research and Analysis. "But if the vote stays as evenly divided as we see now, the eventual outcome will come down to which candidate can get more of their supporters to the polls."

Of those likely voters who said they preferred a candidate, 18 percent told pollsters they might change their minds.

The telephone poll was conducted from Oct. 9 to 15 and has a sampling error margin of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. Among those defined by UConn as likely voters are unregistered voters who said they plan to register for this year's election.

Michael Sachse, a spokesman for Himes, said the campaign's internal polling shows the Democrat with a small lead and about the same amount of undecided voters.

"We're very encouraged by this poll because it shows that after 21 years, fewer than half the voters support Chris Shays," Sachse said. "As undecided voters become more familiar with our message over the next couple weeks, they're gong to break out way."

Michael Sohn, Shays' campaign manager, said the congressman always knew this would be a close race. But he said Shays plans to continue focusing on his accomplishments in Congress, "against the noise of the negative, partisan attacks of Jim Himes and his campaign and the Democrats in Washington."

"Chris has never run a negative campaign in his entire career and he never will," Sohn said.

Best said the political climate in the 4th District is a tough one for a Republican incumbent. Eighty-six percent of likely voters polled believe the country is on the wrong track, 72 percent disapprove of the job Congress is doing and 54 percent support Democratic U.S. Sen. Barack Obama for president.

The economy is the top issue for voters. Fifty-five percent ranked it No. 1. Among those who are concerned a great deal about the impact of the economy on their financial situation, Himes leads Shays, 47 percent to 38 percent.

Among those who said they have little or no concern about the economy, Shays leads Himes, 57 percent to 34 percent.

Fifty-two percent of those polled said they either strongly or somewhat approve of the job Shays is doing in Congress. Best said that relatively high popularity rating is helping Shays.

Sohn said Shays has a strong record on the economy, including voicing concerns about mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and calling for hearings and more regulation. He said voters in the district will look at the Shays' record and the issues and not just vote along partisan lines.

"They choose the candidate, not party," he said. "The voters of this district have been consistently doing that for decades now."

The poll shows 20 percent of Obama supporters plan to cast split tickets and vote for Shays.

"He is a guy that's able to sort of create that own identity that's different from the party identity, which typically takes down people running on the ticket's name," said Best, adding how that's an unusual quality for an incumbent.

But the Himes' campaign still believes it can tap into the Obama enthusiasm in the 4th District.

"Jim is someone who offers change like Barack Obama does," he said. "We feel like Jim is well positioned to benefit from people looking for a new direction on the economy."

Shays has represented the 4th District since 1987. Himes, a former Goldman Sachs vice president, runs Northeast operations at Enterprise Community Partners, an affordable housing operation.

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Headlines: October, 2008; RPCV Chris Shays (Fiji); Figures; Peace Corps Fiji; Directory of Fiji RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Fiji RPCVs; Politics; Congress; Connecticut

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Story Source: Newsday

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