DeLay’s support slides on his home turf

Support for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has slipped in his district, and a majority of voters surveyed disapprove of his decision to lead Congress into the Terri Schiavo case, according to a Houston Chronicle poll.

Forty-five percent of 501 voters questioned last week said they would vote for someone else if a congressional election were at hand, while about 38 percent said they would re-elect DeLay.

The powerful Texas Republican maintained that his constituents backed his decision to take Congress into the dispute over whether to keep the severely brain-damaged woman alive. But nearly 58 percent of those surveyed said they opposed his decision, while about 33 percent expressed support.

“There seems to be no question that there has been an erosion in support for the congressman,” said John Zogby, whose company Zogby International conducted the poll. “These are not good re-election numbers.”

DeLay spokesman Dan Allen defended the congressman’s record.

Voters have been electing DeLay for more than 20 years “because he’s getting things done for the area. He’s also earned their support because they know he’s guided by principles not polls,” Allen said Sunday.

DeLay, who has been admonished three times by the House Ethics Committee, won his 11th term in 2004 with 55 percent of the vote, his lowest share ever. The poll findings come about a year-and-a-half before he faces re-election.

About 40 percent of those polled said their opinion of DeLay has grown less favorable in the last year. Eleven percent said their view of him has improved, and about 47 percent said their opinion has not changed.

Questions have also been raised about financial backing for some of DeLay’s overseas trips, and a county prosecutor is investigating fund-raising tactics of a political action committee DeLay helped establish.

The poll of 501 voters in Texas’ 22nd Congressional District was conducted Wednesday through Friday and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.