The margin is an improvement from a 16-point deficit in March, according to a summary of the Anzalone Liszt Grove Research Group polling obtained by HuffPost that was first reported by The Washington Post.
The figures allow Parnell, a 66-year-old former tax attorney, to make the case for assistance from the national Democratic Party, despite the steep odds he faces. Parnell is due to square off against Norman, a conservative former state representative, on June 20, leaving him less than three weeks to pull off an upset.
The special election to fill the seat vacated by White House budget director Mick Mulvaney will occur the same day Democrats hope to take control of Georgia’s 6th Congressional District, where Democrat Jon Ossoff is up against Republican Karen Handel, with polls showing him ahead but in a close contest.
Parnell’s bid has received a fraction of the national attention and resources showered on the Georgia contest, which is on track to be the most expensive House race in history.
The political fundamentals of the South Carolina district make it clear why Democrats are wary of jumping in the race with greater gusto. Although President Donald Trump won by less than 2 percentage points in Georgia’s affluent 6th District, he won by nearly 20 points in South Carolina’s 5th. Mulvaney modestly surpassed that margin with his landslide win in November.
And in Montana, where Trump also won the state by 20 percentage points, Republican Greg Gianforte defeated Democrat Rob Quist by 6 points last Thursday despite being charged with assaulting a reporter the day before.
The Republican hold on South Carolina’s 5th District is relatively recent, however. Mulvaney, who took the seat in the tea party wave of 2010, was the first Republican to represent the district since Reconstruction.
Parnell is hoping that anger at Trump will energize Democrats, particularly the district’s sizable population of black voters, enough to drive up turnout in an off-year election where participation is normally low.
The internal poll shows that 50 percent of the district’s Democrats believe the election is “more important than most elections,” compared with 26 percent of Republican voters.
But Parnell is also betting that the passage of the Affordable Care Act replacement bill in the Republican-controlled House can help him win over some independent or even Republican voters.
Fifty percent of voters in the district oppose the GOP bill to replace Obamacare, compared with 42 percent who support it, according to the campaign’s poll.
Norman, who defeated a more moderate rival in a close primary, is an ardent proponent of Obamacare repeal and has said he would consider joining the ultraconservative House Freedom Caucus if elected. (Mulvaney was a founding member of the group.)
Parnell, by contrast, has campaigned against the Republican health care bill and backs safe importation of prescription drugs as a way to lower drug prices.
The cerebral and soft-spoken Parnell hardly embodies the populist mood currently sweeping the Democratic Party; he most recently held a top post at Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs.
But Parnell claims that his colleagues at the liberal bogeyman called him the “policeman” for his work overseeing financial compliance and that his deep knowledge of the tax code equips him to fight for reforms that would make corporations pay their “fair share.”
In a new video advertisement released Tuesday, Parnell makes light of his wonkish disposition by contrasting himself favorably with Frank Underwood, the debonair, Machiavellian protagonist of the TV series “House of Cards,” whose fictional district resembles Parnell’s.
Parnell mixes goofy, Underwood-style one-liners with actual facts about Trump’s presidency as the theme music of the Netflix show plays in the background.
The ad concludes with text onscreen saying, “Archie Parnell is no Frank Underwood. And Washington shouldn’t be like ‘House of Cards.’”
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