Tom DeLay in Serious Re-Election Trouble

The Houston Chronicle reports that ousted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is in serious trouble for re-election in Texas’ 22nd District.

A criminal indictment and continuing investigations have severely eroded support for U.S. Rep Tom DeLay in his district, most notably among Republicans who have voted for him before, according to a Houston Chronicle poll. Only half of those who cast ballots for DeLay in 2004 said they will do so again. And while a fourth of the 2004 DeLay voters still aren’t sure whom they will vote for this year, almost 20 percent have defected to other candidates.

Responding to the poll Saturday, DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty said the result is “contrary to the strong support we’re seeing for Congressman DeLay throughout the district.”

The telephone poll of 560 registered voters in the 22nd Congressional District was conducted Tuesday through Thursday amid perhaps the roughest period of DeLay’s political career. On Jan. 7, he abandoned his bid to reclaim the House majority leader post that he had to relinquish last year when he was indicted in Travis County on charges related to campaign fundraising for 2002 legislative races. An unrelated federal investigation has touched DeLay and others in Congress. It centers on lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who has a long history of ties to DeLay and other Republicans.

Even if heavy coverage of DeLay’s problems last week caused some of the drop in support, DeLay has reason for concern when only half the people who voted for him in 2004 say they will again. “Those are the kinds of signs that no candidate wants to have, especially one who still has legal battles coming up,” said Bob Stein of Rice University, who conducted the poll with Richard Murray of the University of Houston.

DeLay may be able to win back the undecided voters, but he starts with the disadvantage of a 60 percent unfavorable rating in the district he has represented for 20 years. Only 28 percent view him favorably, according to the poll.

An AP report on the same poll adds:

In polling conducted Tuesday through Thursday, 22 percent of respondents said they would vote for DeLay, 30 percent chose Lampson and 11 percent favored Republican-turned-independent former congressman Steve Stockman. Lampson’s campaign manager, Mike Malaise, said the poll suggests that “people in the district want a congressman who will make headlines for the right reasons.”

Part of DeLay’s problem is that, as part of the controversial mid-cycle redistricting plan he engineered, he is now in a much less “safe” district and is running against a candidate with substantial name recognition. He considered that a worthwhile gamble to take since, after all, he was the sitting Majority Leader and therefore bullet proof. It would be ironic indeed if he and Tom Daschle were defeated for re-election in successive cycles.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. McGehee says:

    Somebody needs to dissect the internals. It doesn’t smell right to me.