A poll commissioned by the campaign of 3rd Congressional District candidate John Salazar shows the state representative from Manassa cruising toward an Election Day victory.
But the campaign of Greg Walcher, Salazar's Republican opponent, is interpreting the poll results in a different light.
The survey, conducted by Anzalone-Liszt Research and paid for by the Salazar campaign, interviewed 500 likely 3rd Congressional District voters between Aug. 22 and Aug. 25. The margin of error is 4.4 percent.
According to the results, 49 percent of voters would punch their November ballot for Salazar and 32 percent for Walcher.
The 17-point advantage for Salazar is partly a reflection of the bitter primary battle between Walcher and GOP runner-up Matt Smith, who consistently attacked Walcher for his support of Referendum A, a failed water initiative viewed by many Western Slope voters as a Front Range water grab, according to Salazar's campaign.
The poll also shows Salazar with a 24-point advantage in name recognition and a sizable lead in the percentage of voters who view his name favorably.
"John Salazar continues to leverage his strong personal popularity into a substantial lead over Greg Walcher," pollster John Anzalone said. "With Walcher just resolving a contentious primary, his unfavorable rating has doubled. With no primary opposition, Salazar has been able to work unimpeded to solidify his support."
Walcher campaign spokesman John Marshall said the poll reveals a significant gain for Walcher in terms of name recognition and just a small gain for Salazar's name identification rating.
"The real story is that the last time they publicized one of their polls, Salazar had a name identification of 53 percent and Walcher had a name identification of 18 percent," Marshall said. The most recent poll, for which results were released by the Salazar campaign Monday, shows Walcher with a name identification rating of 42 percent. Salazar's name identification rating is 66 percent.
"They don't mention the fact that gap has shrunk considerably," Marshall said. "I'm not sure I'd be feeling too good if I was John Salazar at this point."
Marshall also rejected the idea that the primary fight endured by Walcher had a negative effect on his campaign.
"We were out there having spirited debates on the issues and shaking hands with voters," Marshall said. "That's helped Greg."
Marshall also downplayed the significance of any poll results.
"The only poll that matters is in November," Marshall said.
Salazar campaign director Jim Merlino said the poll results won't change how Salazar campaigns.
"John Salazar hasn't taken anything for granted, and he's not going to start now," Merlino said.
The two candidates face off in their first debate Sept. 11 in Grand Junction.
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