While a spate of late spending and last-minute plans for a presidential campaign boost underscore how close the race is, a new poll has found Rep. Mike Levin in the 49th congressional district on San Diego’s waterfront has a slight advantage over the challenger Brian Maryott has and Orange County.
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According to a poll conducted by SurveyUSA for The San Diego Union-Tribune and ABC 10News and released Tuesday, Levin, D-San Juan Capistrano leads Republican challenger Brian Maryott 49 percent to 43 percent with 8 percent tied are.
The survey polled 725 borough residents, including 568 as likely voters. The results have a confidence interval—similar to a margin of error—of 5 percentage points, so that’s Levin’s advantage.
The findings come shortly after the bipartisan Cook Political Report changed its rating of the House of Representatives from “lean Democratic” to “tossup,” and political action committees are pouring millions into the contest — one of a few swing races that could decide whether Democrats win their majority in the keep congress.
Democrats have listed the race as one of their latest top 10 “red alert” priorities for resources, and President Joe Biden is expected to campaign in support of Levin in the district this week.
As of Monday morning, more than $11.5 million has been spent on the race by political action committees that have operated independently of the campaigns since March 31 — most of it over the last month, including $1.4 million since Friday . The candidates’ own campaign committees have also poured millions into the race, with Levin spending $5.2 million and Maryott spending more than $4 million from Jan. 1 to Oct. 19.
The race is a rematch between the two candidates who faced each other during the 2018 primary and again in the 2020 general election when Levin beat Maryott by about 6 points. This year, however, the race is more Republican-friendly after district redistribution reduced the district’s Democratic advantage from 6 to 3 points.
The race mirrors national conflicts that animate other pivotal home races, with voters naming abortion and inflation as the issues most important to them in Tuesday’s poll.
More than a quarter of survey respondents chose each of these issues as their top priority from a list of issues, reflecting both widespread frustration at soaring consumer prices and popular opposition to the Supreme Court’s June decision, the landmark Roe v. ruling Wade lifted protected abortion rights for half a century.
The results also revealed partisan disagreements about the importance of these issues, with Democrats far more concerned about abortion and Republicans far more concerned about inflation. These positions led to candidate support, with Maryott winning over 75 percent of inflation voters and Levin winning 87 percent of abortion voters.
Candidates have focused on these feelings in campaign messages. Levin and supporters such as the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have labeled Maryott an anti-abortion extremist, prompting Maryott to do so defends his abortion position.
After Maryott and his supporters accused Levin of helping fuel inflation reckless spendingLevin countered with a TV ad filmed on a farm in front of cattle, calling Republican plans to curb inflation “a bunch of cops.”
The poll also found that large numbers of voters were upset by the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the US Capitol. A majority of the likely voters surveyed said the day’s events were a threat to democracy; 68 percent of those planning to vote for Levin. 16 percent said they consider the event a legitimate protest, and 90 percent of those respondents preferred Maryott.
The importance of this issue varied widely by party, with 89 percent of Democrats viewing the Jan. 6 attack as a threat to democracy versus 21 percent of Republicans. Seventy-nine percent of Democrats versus 16 percent of Republicans said the event would play an important role in their midterm election vote.
However, the deep-rooted opinions on certain issues did not result in unequivocal approval of the candidates.
40 percent of the survey participants expressed a positive opinion of Levin, while 32 percent said the same about Maryott. Their disapproval ratings were narrower, with about a third of voters polled holding an unfavorable opinion of each. Almost as many expressed ambivalence, with 33 percent expressing a neutral or no opinion about Maryott and 27 percent saying the same thing about Levin.
Low approval ratings for the current and former presidents could also affect the 49th District’s campaigns. Among the survey participants, only 28 percent had a positive impression of former President Donald Trump, while 58 percent viewed him negatively. President Joe Biden was rated positively by 38 percent of respondents and negatively by 44 percent.
However, 73 percent of Democrats were positive about Biden, suggesting his expected visit is aimed at increasing Democratic turnout.
In the final leg of the race, independent spending aimed to dampen support for the opposition rather than bolster a favored candidate.
According to Federal Election Commission records, independent committees spent a total of $6,735,334 on advertisements, mailings, and other publicity to help Levin win, with the vast majority of it aimed at attacking his opponent. Ten groups are spending a combined $883,359 to support Levin and seven groups are spending $5,851,975 to oppose Maryott.
The largest contributor was the House Majority PAC, a hybrid PAC, which accounted for $2,712,012 in ad and mailing spend against Maryott. The DCCC spent nearly $1.9 million on political ads to help Levin win.
Of the $4,593,392 in independent spending in support of Maryott’s campaign, one group spent $25,000 in support of Maryott, while three groups spent $4,568,392 against Levin.
The largest independent contributor was the Congressional Leadership Fund, a Republican super PAC. It spent $4,421,852 on advertisements, mailings and other publicity against Levin’s candidacy, more than half of it in October. The PAC also spent $25,000 on ads to support Maryott.
According to OpenSecrets, the Congressional Leadership Fund raised at least $220.5 million overall in the 2022 election cycle. The PAC’s top donors include Chevron, private equity giant Blackstone, and Citadel, the hedge fund firm run by billionaire and top GOP donor Ken Griffin. This includes American Action Network, a PAC used to distribute political “dark money” because it is allowed to spend election funds without publicly disclosing its donors.
Regardless, the National Republican Congressional Committee spent $103,000 in party-coordinated spending to help Maryott win.
Levin has also received support through outside spending from PACs, which receive significant funding from nonprofit “dark money” organizations. For example, the League of Conservation Voters, which is also not required to disclose its donors, is a major contributor to the LCV Victory Fund, a PAC that spent nearly half a million on publicity to help Levin win.