Bilbray: I'm only 8 points down!

It's not often that candidates release poll results showing them losing by a significant margin. But that's what Democratic congressional candidate Erin Bilbray did today, disseminating a polling memo indicating she is behind by 8 percentage points to GOP Rep. Joe Heck.

She is alive!

Don't bury her yet!

Give her money!

That is the not-so-subtle message of the release of the polling memo (first reported by the RJ's Steve Sebelius) below from the redoubtable Mark Mellman, the Democratic pollster who KNOWS Nevada and correctly foretold Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's victory in 2010 and called the 2012 U.S. Senate race very close, too.

Some comments on the two-week-old survey of 400 voters (MOE=4.9 percent):

►Mellman, in the memo, which is written knowing it will be released to donors and the media, says the race is "wide open." This is what the faithful and would-be donors and Fourth Estate skeptics needed to hear because national pundits have pushed the contest toward Heck because of Bilbray's stuttering start. But 8 points is a lot, especially in a district that is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. This is a Reassurance Poll, though -- as in, reassuring folks Bilbray can win, and it's too early to walk away.

►There are pieces of very good news for Bilbray in the survey. She only has 68 percent of the Democratic vote. If she can't build on that, she's toast. She should be able to do so. Also, 55 percent of independents are undecided and a fifth of the electorate overall are, too. That's a lot of room to grow -- or fall.

►I trust Mellman's numbers (yes, any poll could be wrong), but the argument that Bilbray takes a 42-41 lead after positive descriptions of both candidates strikes me as odd. And unlikely. These kinds of hypotheticals in polls rarely mean much. And  her campaign would not show me the entire instrument.

►This is interesting: "Only 32% of voters give (Heck) a positive job rating, compared to 45% who give him negative ratings. He also earns weak ratings on a number of important descriptive traits – he is seen as helping big business and the wealthy at the expense of the middle class by a 9-point margin, being part of the problem in Washington by a 9-point margin, and opposing President Obama too much by a substantial 15-point margin." Again, these kinds of generalities don't sway me too much. But expect to see these themes from Bilbray.

The real issue, of course, is that many local and national Democrats wonder if Bilbray has the right stuff to make the race competitive. Despite her political pedigree and putative experience, we have yet to see evidence of that. If we do, she can win; if not, 8 points will become 15 pretty fast, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee will find other places to do its thing.