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Just months ago, Georgia’s Rep. Jim Marshall faced only faint headwinds as he sailed toward the midterm elections.
But in a reflection of his party’s fortunes nationwide, Mr. Marshall’s prospects have dimmed of late. The three-term congressman now faces an energized foe and the focus of the national Republican Party in a race that polls indicate is increasingly tight.
His change in fortunes is part of a larger trend in which eroding support for Democrats is roiling dozens of House races and boosting Republican confidence that the GOP will retake the House in November.
In Georgia, Mr. Marshall’s recent travails are emblematic of the struggles many Democrats now face. The former Army Ranger has made no particular gaffes or stumbles. His record—stiff opposition to the Democrats’ health-care overhaul, a ‘No’ vote on climate-change legislation—fits well with his majority Republican district.
But a recent Republican poll showed Mr. Marshall leading state Rep. Austin Scott by just five percentage points, within the poll’s 5.7% margin of error. His overall support was just 44%, a bad sign for an incumbent.
“Marshall is suffering from a lot of forces that are outside his control,” said Charles Bullock, a professor of politics at the University of Georgia who watches local races closely. “If there is a Republican tide this year, it will sweep Marshall out.”The incumbent is scrambling to keep ahead of his party’s unpopularity. He vows to help Republicans repeal the health-care law. He tells constituents that he sides with Republicans on at least half of all contested votes. When President Obama flew to Atlanta in early August for a party fund-raiser, Mr. Marshall told reporters he was busy helping his daughter move and couldn’t attend.
In Mr. Scott, Mr. Marshall faces an opponent with a knack for fund raising and door-to-door campaigning. Mr. Scott spent last summer walking 1,000 miles around the state as part of a gubernatorial campaign he abandoned in April.
By June, switching over to the House race, Mr. Scott had pulled in $251,000 in contributions, including $56,000 he lent to his own campaign—compared to $165,000 Mr. Marshall raised in the same quarter.