Democrats in Colorado’s 7th District have good news today. A 9 News/Survey USA poll shows Ed Perlmutter with a 17 point lead over opponent Rick O’Donnell.

The polling company called 482 ‘likely voters’ September 21, September 24 and September 25. Calls were not made on Friday and Saturday due to the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana.

Perlmutter, who is a former State Senator from Jefferson County, received 54 percent of those surveyed. O’Donnell, the former head of the Colorado Commission on Higher Education, received 37 percent.

Last month, the poll had the two tied with each receiving 45% of the tally of survey responders.

So, who’s supporting Perlmutter?

Perlmutter’s advantage comes from a 40-percentage point lead he holds among self-described moderates who make up nearly half of the likely voters polled (65%-25%) and a 25-point edge among independent voters (54%-29%). Perlmutter also leads among women voters by a significant margin (59%-31%).

Interestingly, O’Donnell is not capturing the vote of all the Republicans in the district.

O’Donnell is receiving the support of 76% of Republicans, but 14% of the Republicans surveyed said they would support Perlmutter. That’s in contrast to the four percent of Democrats who favor O’Donnell while Perlmutter keeps 93% of his own party’s support.

I think the results are even more signifcant when you consider that the makeup of those responding to the survey:

The survey’s participants were 38% Republican, 37% Democratic and 24% Independent.

Has O’Donnell been seriously hurt by his prior stance on Social Security? He’s fighting back with a new ad. But 9 News says some of the ad’s statements are false or incomplete. For example, the ad says:

QUOTE: “Ed Perlmutter’s trying to scare you. The truth is he’s actually proposed cutting Social Security benefits and increasing taxes.”

9News says:

The ad though is false when it comes to the claims Perlmutter proposed cutting Social Security benefits and increasing taxes. The claim stems from an answer to an AARP questionnaire that Perlmutter gave. Both candidates were asked “Will you support or oppose a balanced Social Security plan to continue the program’s guaranteed benefits for future generations?” Perlmutter said yes.

The AARP’s position is yes. O’Donnell’s campaign says if you look two paragraphs down in the AARP’s explanation for its answer yes, it reads, “AARP believes that a bipartisan plan that balances additional contributions from higher income workers with modest adjustments in future benefits can maintain guaranteed Social Security benefits for future generations.”

But Perlmutter wasn’t asked if he agreed with the AARP’s definition of a balanced social security plan or how he would achieve it.

Perlmutter did not go further in his response, simply answering yes to the question asked. The O’Donnell campaign asserts that if AARP defines a balanced Social Security plan as reducing benefits and increasing taxes and since Perlmutter agreed to the point he supports a “balanced Social Security plan,” then he too supports reducing benefits and increasing taxes. (O’Donnell Campaign Spokesman Jonathan Tee e-mail to 9NEWS, 9/26/06)

That’s a leap and simply isn’t verifiable. Granted, it’s easy to support a balanced Social Security plan without providing details on how to make that happen, but neither candidate in this race has done that or has been asked how to do that. Perlmutter was never asked how he would balance Social Security only whether he supported it being balanced.