September 26, 2010 | by Chris Johnson
Patrick Murphy trails opponent in re-election bid

Patrick Murphy (Blade photo by Michael Key)

The champion of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal in the U.S. House is trailing behind his Republican opponent in the race to represent Pennsylvania’s 8th congressional district, according to recent polling data.

Rep. Patrick Murphy (D-Pa.), an Iraq war veteran, is behind Republican Mike Fitzpatrick, an attorney and a former U.S. House member, by a margin of 46 percent to 36 percent among all registered adults in the district.

Still, about 17 percent of registered adults said they’re undecided in the race.

The situation is worse for Murphy when the screen is restricted to likely voters. Fitzpatrick’s advantage increases to 49 percent while 35 percent of respondents continue to support Murphy. Among likely voters, 15 percent say they’re undecided.

The poll, published Thursday by Franklin & Marshall College, is based on phone interviews conducted between Sept. 14 and Sept. 19. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

According to the poll, about 41 percent of registered adults in the district rate Murphy’s job performance as “excellent” or “good” and about the same proportion, 40 percent, say he deserves re-election. Still, almost half of these respondents, 47 percent, say it’s time for a change.

Murphy narrowly unseated Fitzpatrick in the 2006 election by less than one percentage point when Fitzpatrick was a one-term incumbent and Murphy was the challenger.

The situation could be different in 2010 with Fitzpatrick seeking his old job back and pundits expecting major gains for Republicans in Congress.

Murphy dismissed the poll in a recent interview with WPVI, an ABC news affiliate in his district.

“Those are the same folks who had me down nine points with days to go in the last election,” Murphy said. “I’m working hard every day to bring jobs to Bucks County and Northeast Philadelphia.”

Murphy assumed sponsorship last year of legislation that would repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” when the bill had around 150 co-sponsors and gradually built support for the measure.

In May, Murphy introduced on the House floor an amendment that would lead to repeal of ”Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” to major defense budget legislation. The measure succeeded by a vote of 234-194.

Murphy trails behind Fitzpatrick even though the Democratic lawmaker enjoys a fundraising advantage over his opponent.

According to the most recent Federal Election Commission reports, Murphy has raised $2.7 million for the 2010 campaign and has $1.8 million in cash on hand. In comparison, Fitzpatrick has $923,000 in net receipts and $664,000 in cash on hand.

Download a copy of the polling memo here.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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