SurveyUSA, a national polling firm that has been retained by several major television stations throughout California, released their latest presidential poll last Friday (10/17) showing Barack Obama leading John McCain 59%-35%, with only 3% undecided. Among independent voters, Obama is leading McCain 59%-26%, with 7% undecided.

If accurate, and the election were today, Obama would carry California by a landslide, and the question turns to whether or not such a large Obama win will have coattails, allowing some major upset wins by Democrats currently running in congressional seats that for the past decade have reliably voted Republican.

In a F&H post I wrote last July, I picked four Republican incumbents who were being seriously challenged by a strong Democrat: David Dreier, who is being challenged by Russell Warner, a wealthy magazine distributors whose son served in Iraq (CD26); Mary Bono Mac, who is being challenged by Julie Bornstein, a former member of the state Assembly (CD45); Dana Rohrabacher, who is being challenge by Debbie Cook, the mayor of Huntington Beach (CD46); and Brian Bilbray, who is being challenged by Nick Leibham, a San Diego attorney (CD50).

Since writing that post, Dan Lungren, who is being challenged by Bill Durston, an emergency room physician who ran against him in 2006 (CD3); and Gary Miller, who is being challenged by Ed Chau, an Asian American attorney and school board member (CD42), have been added to that list.
Among the six, there is one that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has picked out for a full court press: Brian Bilbray.

According to the latest campaign finance reports, Bilbray’s opponent, Nick Leibham, has raised just under a $1 million during this calendar year – which includes nearly $300,000 recently raised at a fundraiser attended by former Vice President Al Gore — spent over $650,000 and reported having $334,000 cash on hand as of Sept. 30. Bilbray’s cash on hand as of Sept. 30 is $382,000.

The Leibham campaign just released a poll that they paid for showing Leibham trailing Bilbray by a miniscule 44-42% margin; the Bilbray campaign then released their own survey showing Bilbray with a 48-35% lead.

The DCCC has not as yet targeted the other five GOP incumbents mentioned above, but they are all receiving strong opposition from their Democratic opponents.

When voters enter their polling booth — or fill out their absentee ballot — their very first vote cast is for President of the United States, immediately followed by their vote for Representative in Congress. For whom each voter casts that first vote may be the most important factor in determining for whom they cast that second vote.