Monday, July 14, 2008

Pick a Number and Parse Your Poll

"Our lead may well bring negative attacks"
Plus: Did Missouri's paper of record lead with the wrong poll?
Turning numbers into momentum.
Fresh off a new St. Louis Post-Dispatch/Research 2000 poll, Rep. Jeff Harris is attempting to turn a 10-point lead into more money and momentum.
Harris leads the pack with 33% of likely Democratic primary voters -- 1o points ahead of Senator Chris Koster's 23% and 13-points in front of Representative Margaret Donnelly's 20%. That lead puts Harris ahead outside of the poll's 4.5% margin of error.
"The poll showed that Harris holds solid leads in both St. Louis City and the St. Louis suburbs, and he runs a very close second in Kansas City. Those areas were believed to be strongholds for his opponents," reads a Harris release Monday.
"These results affirm our strong belief that a campaign built on the support of everyday Missourians can compete and defeat the wealthy special interests," said Harris. "From day one, we have fought hard for every vote in every corner of the state. We will continue to fight all the way through August 5th."
In a separate fundraising letter to supporters, Harris offered caution. "This news is exciting, but it will bring its own challenges as well. Our lead may well bring negative attacks from my opponents, and we need to be prepared to answer them. We also have a great deal of important work to do to continue communicating our message over the final three weeks of the campaign," wrote Harris Monday.
The Nixon campaign is feeling good about the lead the Post-Dispatch survey shows (+17 over Hulshof, +19 over Steelman), but fully expects a close-race in the end. "Although we ultimately expect the race to tighten, this poll reflects what we’re hearing from Missourians as we campaign across the state. Missouri families are hungry for change, and they know that Jay Nixon has the experience needed to bring about the kind of change we need," said Nixon spokesperson Oren Shur.
The Hulshof campaign believes the Post-Dispatch numbers "verifies" their own internal numbers. "Ours show Kenny up by 10, they have him up by eight," said Hulshof spokesperson Scott Baker. "That's statistically even."
Baker said that they don't believe Hulshof is losing southwest Missouri by a 2-to-1 margin.
When I asked Baker about the discrepancy between their own southwest Missouri polling and Research 2000's, he points to what the paper's pollster said. "They admit that their sample size was small and the number isn’t real reliable. That's not my spin, that's their explanation….that may explain some of the difference," said Baker. "The only poll that matters is the one taken on August 5th."
The Steelman campaign believes these numbers indicate momentum for Steelman. Hulshof's first internal showed him up by 13. Then it was 10. Now it's 8.
"I think these polls reinforce what we've been saying which is that this race is tight and that there are a lot of folks who haven't made their minds up yet," said spokesperson Spence Jackson. "Sarah can win this primary and she is by far the best candidate to face Jay Nixon in November. It's also very telling for Congressman Hulshof that some people can't even pronounce his last name after he's spent millions of dollars on advertising," added Jackson.

"Congressman Hulshof is anything but inevitable. His campaign is on a Bridge to Nowhere and deep down inside he knows it," Jackson tells the KY3 Political Notebook.
Finally, why did the St. Louis Post Dispatch lead with the general election numbers when even Nixon's camp acknowledges they will change and the race will tighten. Aren't they less relevant without the Republican party behind a nominee. We ask this friendly question, just to provoke thought.
For instance, during the presidential campaign, newscasts and newspapers always lead their coverage with primary polls before discussing potential general election match-ups. With the G.O.P. primary just weeks away, should the lead have been instead focused on the Hulshof-Steelman battle royale. First things first, right? Again, not arguing the general numbers aren't part of the story --- but the lead? Is it news that Jay Nixon holds a double-digit lead, or would it only be news if he didn't?
We've asked our friend Tony Messenger for his thoughts and I'll let you know when we receive them.

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