Democrat Peter Welch Leads Tea Party Challenger in US House Race | News | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Democrat Peter Welch Leads Tea Party Challenger in US House Race


Two-term U.S. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) is leading his GOP rival by more than 30 points, according to a recent phone survey of likely voters.

The survey, conducted for Rasmussen Reports, gives Welch with an even greater lead over rival Paul Beaudry than a similar survey gave US Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) over his Republican rival Len Britton. In that poll, Leahy led Britton by a 62-32 margin.

The survey of likely voters found Welch earning 64 percent of the vote to Beaudry’s 30 percent.  Two percent prefer some other candidate, while four percent remain undecided.

Beaudry, backed by the Tea Party movement in Vermont, defeated two other Republican candidates in the August 24 primary. One of those rivals, businessman John Mitchell, was the preferred candidate of many establishment Republicans.

This is the first foray into electoral politics by the former radio talk show host. Like Britton, Beaudry has found it hard to raise money to challenge a popular incumbent. He also raised eyebrows by paying himself a biweekly salary. The practice is allowed by federal law.

Of those surveyed, Welch is favored by 98 percent of Democrats and 19 percent of Republicans. Meanwhile, 74 percent of Republicans back Beaudry.

Overall, 65 percent of all voters polled share a favorable opinion of Welch, including 39 percent who have a "very favorable" opinion. Another 28 percent view him unfavorably, with 16 percent who have a "very unfavorable" impression. Only 7 percent have no opinion.

As is the case with most newcomers, Beaudry faces the battle of name recognition. Of those surveyed, 40 percent didn't know him enough to offer any opinion. Of those who did, 29 viewed him favorably while 31 viewed him unfavorably. These figures include 8 percent who hold a "very favorable" opinion and 12 percent who have a "very unfavorable" view.

The poll also found that only 4 percent of Vermont voters rate the U.S. economy as good or excellent, while 55 percent give the country’s economy a poor rating. Another 35 percent say economic conditions in the United States are getting better, while 39 percent say they’re getting worse.

Among voters who feel the economy is getting better, 90 percent support Welch. Voters who feel the economy is getting worse are more narrowly divided.