Exclusive–South Carolina Poll: Democrat Rep. Joe Cunningham Trails Republicans in Battleground House District

The Associated Press
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Breitbart News obtained a poll exclusively which details that Republicans have an early edge over freshman Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) in South Carolina’s first congressional district, a key battleground district that could determine whether Republicans have a shot at retaking the House majority next year.

The poll, conducted for GOP businessman Mike Covert’s congressional campaign by McShane LLC, details that the Democrat Cunningham is extraordinarily vulnerable heading into his 2020 re-election bid.

The poll found that strong enthusiasm for voting for a generic Republican candidate during the 2020 election. The survey found that 47.4 percent responded that they would “definitely” vote for a Republican, another 5 percent would probably vote for a Republican, 30.7 percent would definitely vote for a Democrat, 3 percent would probably vote for a Democrat, and 13.9 percent remain undecided.

When stacked up against GOP candidate Covert, Cunningham trails by several percent. The survey found that 38.8 percent would “definitely” vote for Covert over Cunningham, with another 5.1 percent saying they probably would support Covert over Cunningham. Cunningham only gets 35.7 percent saying they would definitely support him, and another 6.1 percent saying they probably would vote against Covert–with 14.3 percent undecided.

In total, that means in a hypothetical matchup between Covert and Cunningham–including definite and probably supporters–Covert leads with 43.9 percent to Cunningham’s 41.8 percent.

While Cunningham took the seat in the 2018 midterm elections, the Democrat’s win came under extraordinarily unique circumstances that differed from much of the rest of the national trends in 2018. Never Trumper and former Gov. Mark Sanford, who served several terms in Congress after he had made a political comeback from a sex scandal, lost his primary to Katie Arrington–a conservative woman and state representative. Arrington then, shortly after defeating Sanford with the support of President Donald Trump in the primary, was involved in a fatal car accident that forced her off the campaign trail for several weeks–throwing this normally-deep-red district into contention.

While Arrington did return to the campaign trail in a wheelchair, and attempted to fight for the seat, Cunningham ended up narrowly edging her out for the seat–beating her by just over 1 percent, less than 4,000 votes.

South Carolina’s first congressional district is one of the 13 House seats that Democrats took from Republicans during the 2018 midterm elections that President Trump won during the 2016 presidential election by more than six points. There are another 18 districts that Democrats currently represent that Trump also won, by less than six points, for a total of 31 seats Democrats sit in that are districts in which Trump defeated Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton.

After now Rep. Dan Bishop (R-NC) defeated Democrat Dan McCready in North Carolina’s ninth congressional district special election earlier this month, if the GOP can retake a net gain of 19 or more seats in the 2020 congressional elections the Republicans will retake the House majority. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, in August, laid out the plan for Republicans to do just that in an hour-long exclusive interview with Breitbart News that aired on Breitbart News Saturday and Breitbart News Sunday on SiriusXM 125 the Patriot Channel.

“There are 31 seats that Democrats sit in today that President Trump carried,” McCarthy said. “Of those 31, 13 of them President Trump carried by more than six points. So, here you have the socialist wing of the party trying to take them further left, when the only way they have the majority is actually winning in Republican areas—areas that would be swing districts.”

National Democrats have been unable to point to any legislative successes since retaking the majority–they have failed to pass any infrastructure, paid family leave, healthcare, prescription price reduction, or any other substantive legislation, period, and have thus far blocked President Trump’s replacement of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S.-Mexico-Canada (USMCA) trade deal–and self-proclaimed moderates such as Cunningham seem to be in the crossfire. Democrats have, rather than solving problems for American families and workers, opted since retaking the majority for a more confrontational anti-Trump approach led by congressional inquiries into various lines of attack against the president and a hard-left, socialist agenda championed by the new freshman members of the so-called “Squad.” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) have driven the agenda to the left, while leftist primary challenges launched against approximately half of Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s committee chairs have crippled the ability of members like Cunningham and other more self-described centrist Democrats to push any bipartisan solutions with the GOP-controlled Senate and Trump administration.

All of that and more may pave the way for Republicans to win back districts like South Carolina’s first, and make a serious bid to retake the majority in the House. Most of it, as McCarthy noted in his summer exclusive with Breitbart News, is tied directly to President Trump’s personal success, however.

Trump remains popular in South Carolina’s first congressional district, according to the McShane polling memo, but has room for improvement in the deep-red state.

A total of 48.9 percent in this survey say that they have a very favorable opinion of the president, and 9.1 percent have a somewhat favorable opinion of Trump–compared to 33 percent who say they have a very unfavorable opinion of him and 3.4 percent who say they have a somewhat unfavorable opinion of Trump. Just 5.6 percent say that they do not have enough information to have an opinion of Trump.

While Covert is the only candidate actually seeking the GOP nomination for South Carolina’s first district for a shot at running against Cunningham in 2020 surveyed in McShane’s poll in a head-to-head matchup with Cunningham, several other potential candidates are also surveyed–and also are beating Cunningham.

Sanford, who has instead launched a quixotic, long-shot bid for the GOP nomination for president against Trump in 2020, leads Cunningham according to McShane’s survey. Of those surveyed, 37.2 percent said they would definitely vote for Sanford against Cunningham and another 6.4 percent said they would probably support Sanford–for a total of 43.6 percent for Sanford. On the other hand, only 35.1 percent said they would definitely vote for Cunningham in such a matchup, while 4.3 percent said they probably would back the Democrat–for a total of 39.4 percent for Cunningham in such a battle. In this hypothetical, 17 percent were undecided.

Arrington, who as of this writing is not running again, would have similarly positive prospects against Cunningham as 40.4 percent of those surveyed said they would definitely vote for her while another 5.3 percent said they probably would back her for a total of 45.7 percent. Cunningham, in a such a matchup, gets just 37.2 percent to say they would definitely back him while another 5.3 percent said they probably would for a total of 42.5 percent–with 11.7 percent undecided.

Businesswoman and former gubernatorial candidate Catherine Templeton also leads Cunningham in the survey, with 39.6 percent saying they would definitely back Templeton over the Democrat and another 4.4 percent saying they probably would–for a total of 44 percent. Cunningham, in such a hypothetical matchup, gets 36.3 percent to say they will definitely back him and another 5.5 percent to say they probably would–for a total of 41.8 percent. In this hypothetical, 14.2 percent are undecided.

The poll surveyed 502 likely general election voters, with 76 percent of those polled contacted by live call and 24 percent from text message, and has a 4.5 percent margin of error.

While this survey does not poll them, there are several other candidates running for the GOP nomination in South Carolina’s first district including financial planner and local councilwoman Kathy Landing, businesswoman Nancy Mace, schoolteacher Logan Cunningham, and Bikers for Trump founder Chris Cox.

Sean Moran is a congressional reporter for Breitbart News. Follow him on Twitter @SeanMoran3.

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