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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Is Ol’ Jerry Losing It?

George W. Bush is going to name his latest SCOTUS choice at some point today, but in the interim, I wanted to make sure to crow a bit about the increasingly strong possibility that Jerry (No Relation Whatsoever) Kilgore may have blown the 2005 gubernatorial election by going harshly negative against Tim Kaine.The Washington Post released a new poll yesterday that showed Kaine up 47-44 among likely voters, with the internals indicating a strong reaction against the tone of Kilgore’s death penalty ads attacking Kaine, and a strong rejection of Kilgore’s argument that Kaine can’t be trusted to faithfully administer Virginia’s death penalty laws.I’ve blogged over at TPMCafe.com about the Post poll and the Virginia race in general, and won’t repeat my analysis here. But I do find the immediate and semi-hysterical reaction of the Kilgore campaign to the poll quite interesting.As you might expect, ol’ Jerry’s flacks claim the godless liberal WaPo is trying to boost a Democratic candidate with a deliberately slanted poll. Kilgore’s site features a bar graph illustrating WaPo’s underestimation of the GOP vote in Virginia races going back twelve years.There’s only one problem with this claim. Most recently, WaPo’s polling unit has been famous for diverging from other polls in the opposite, and pro-GOP direction, mainly due to an unusually strong screen for likelihood to vote. In fact, the previous Post poll on the Virginia race, back in early September, showed Kilgore up seven points at a time when virtually every other survey showed a dead heat.Jerry’s flacks also argue that unpublished regional breakdowns in the Post poll discredit it, because they show Kilgore struggling in southwest Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley, where everyone concedes he will win. But they don’t tell you the Post’s sample, while big enough to show statewide trends, is too small for full regional breakdowns, which is why the paper didn’t publish them (I’m reasonably sure the one regional result they did publish, for Northern Virginia, was created by an oversample, since it’s in their prime circulation area).But here’s my favorite argument from the Kilgore camp about why we should all discount the WaPo poll:

The poll was conducted on Sunday through Wednesday of this past week. A quick glance back reveals that on early Sunday afternoon when the poll began, the Washington Redskins were playing a home game televised across the entire Commonwealth, the Martinsville NASCAR race was being televised and many families were still in church. The poll concluded its interviews on Wednesday night, another big night for church attendance in rural Virginia.

So, the argument goes, WaPo deliberately undersampled fans of football, NASCAR and Jesus Christ. Now obviously, you can’t do a five-day poll that does not coincide with some sporting or religious event, and the planted axiom that anybody who watches the Skins or Martinsville or goes to church is a sure Jerry voter is insulting to say the least. You might as well argue that liberal secularist Democrats were undersampled because last weekend’s fine weather drew them into the countryside for pagan harvest festivals, or because the poll coincided with a rash of NPR fundraising campaigns.Ol’ Jerry’s campaign cannot credibly deny they’ve lost momentum, thanks to their own hubristic addiction to nastiness. And their nasty reaction to evidence of their folly is a good illustration of the GOP candidate’s perilous state.

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