By MIKE REUTHER
A Lycoming College poll showing U.S. Rep. Chris Carney, D-Dimock, leading Republican challenger Thomas A. Marino 43 percent to 40 percent may be interpreted as a good sign for the incumbent - or a good sign for the challenger.
It really depends who's doing the talking.
"This is just more good news for the Marino campaign," said Marino spokesman Jason Fitzgerald. "The fact that Chris Carney is well below 50 percent after having spent a half million dollars or more trashing Tom Marino, the fact that he is still behind, is troubling news for Carney."
The poll, conducted in scientific fashion by political science students, showed that Carney received support from 86 percent of Democrats, 42 percent of independents and 13 percent of Republicans. Marino was favored by 69 percent of Republicans, 40 percent of independents and 4 percent of Democrats.
Eleven percent of Democrats, 18 percent of independents and 17 percent of Republicans remain undecided.
The poll surveying 370 voters in the 10th Congressional District showed a margin of error of plus or minus 5.1 percent.
Carney spokesman Josh Drobnyk had a different take on the poll than that of the Marino campaign.
"This poll confirms what we are seeing: Chris Carney is viewed much more favorably by voters throughout the district and does better than Tom Marino across party lines. What the poll doesn't account for is the news over the weekend that Tom Marino was actually under investigation by the Justice Department for serious abuses of his authority at the time of his 2007 resignation as U.S. attorney."
The Carney campaign has made an issue of a reference Marino has admitted giving to Scranton-area businessman and convicted felon Louis DeNaples, who was trying to secure a casino license.
Marino reportedly has gone from saying he had permission from the Justice Department to provide the reference to later saying he provided it on his own.
Fitzgerald said the most recent developments amount to more lies from the Carney campaign, which refer, in some cases, to unnamed sources from the Justice Department cited in newspaper and Associated Press articles.
"We are tired of responding to unnamed sources who could be operating within the Carney administration," he said.
Jonathan Williamson, chairman of the Department of Political Science at Lycoming College, directed the student poll.
He said the election still is a month away, and the fact that so many voters surveyed remain undecided is a telling sign.
He said trends seem to show Carney doing better than earlier in the campaign.
However, the fact that he is the incumbent is not reflected in the numbers.
"Most incumbents have a pretty good chance of getting re-elected. That he is not clearly leading at this point, especially given the fact that Marino doesn't have the money of the Carney campaign, and his (Carney's) ads against Marino, it has to be a cause of concern for Carney."
Williamson said Carney's votes for "portions of the Democratic legislative agenda" appear to have eroded his election victory of two years ago in the mostly Republican district.
Drobnyk, however, referred to a National Journal poll that omits Carney's name from the list of House incumbents who appear in jeopardy of being unseated.
The Lycoming poll also showed that Carney has an advantage over Marino when respondents were asked how they perceive each candidate.
Fifty-two percent were favorable toward Carney, 33 percent unfavorable and 16 percent were without an opinion.
Just 37 percent hold a favorable opinion of Marino, while 28 percent have an unfavorable opinion and 35 percent are without one.
"Even though this is a favorable year for the Republicans, many people in the district still don't know Marino," Williamson said. "When they do, it appears Democrats have had success defining who he is."