Primary season is winding down, but one heated race continues to beep on our radar: Michigan's 3rd district. There, Rep. Justin Amash, a problem child for the Republican establishment since being elected in 2010, is trying to fend off business-backed challenger Brian Ellis. The election is four weeks from today, but despite swelling media coverage of the bitterly-fought campaign, there's mounting evidence that we shouldn't expect a barn-burner on Aug. 5.
-- A new internal poll conducted for Amash's campaign by Ohio-based Wenzel Strategies, and shared first with National Journal Hotline, finds the incumbent with a comfortable 22-point lead over Ellis. This margin is consistent with the results of a recent EPIC-MRA poll taken for the Detroit Free Press and WXYZ-TV, which found Amash ahead by 20 points.
-- Amash's internal, which surveyed 705 likely GOP voters between June 30 and July 3 using a mix of live-caller and automated methodologies, showed him taking 56 percent to Ellis's 34 percent -- with 10 percent still undecided. Two important statistics there: the incumbent over 50 percent, and only 10 percent uncertain of who they'll vote for. These numbers also mirror the EPIC-MRA poll, which showed Amash leading by a margin of 55 percent to 35 percent.
-- Perhaps most important, the internal poll shows that opinions have hardened and very few voters remain ambivalent in their views of the candidates. Ellis has worked hard "“ and spent big "“ to define Amash as extreme. But that effort may have backfired: Ellis's favorability is underwater in the Wenzel survey, while GOP voters view Amash favorably by a two-to-one margin. Once again, this tracks pretty closely with EPIC-MRA, which last month showed Amash's fav-unfav at 64-32 and Ellis's at 40-32.
Internal polling should always be taken with a grain of salt, and Wenzel has something of a spotty track record. Still, Amash certainly looks strong heading into the home stretch. Much ink has been spilled detailing the influence of Amash's enemies in Washington (House Speaker John Boehner) and in Michigan (the Chamber of Commerce and Right to Life ). But as Eric Cantor's defeat reminded us last month, the only thing that matters in these races is the opinion of voters in the district. And that probably means Amash, the party pariah with plenty of friends back home, isn't going anywhere.
-- Tim Alberta