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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

McConnell in Trouble…Maybe

Rachel Weiner’s “No, It’s Not a Push Poll” at The Fix has a level-headed take on the new PPP poll showing Senate Minority Mitch McConnell in a dead heat in his race for re-election in KY, when matched against Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Says Weiner: “Two things are true: 1. McConnell is probably not as vulnerable as this poll might suggest. 2. it’s not a push poll, as some Republicans have alleged.”
Weiner goes on to point out correctly that many polls test negative memes, and also quotes American Association for Public Opinion Research President Nancy Mathiowetz: “Message testing, when campaigns test the effectiveness of possible messages about opponents and even themselves, is very different; and it is a legitimate form of surveying.”
A push poll is one that is designed to damage a candidate. PPP has an excellent track record in terms of both integrity and accuracy in predicting election outcomes. In addition, Weiner reports that to compensate for distortion caused by negative questions, PPP “weights its sample to account for that possibility.”
Stu Rothernberg quoted in Weiner’s post, adds: “No sane person would think he could affect a Senate race by calling 500 people — certainly not in a state with over 4 million people.” However, the small sample size also suggests Dems shouldn’t get too giddy about the results of the poll.
As Weiner concludes:

A more salient attack on this poll might be that it’s designed more as a tool to convince her [Grimes] to run than anything else. While non-partisan polls also suggest McConnell’s numbers are weak, Democrats are struggling to field a candidate in the increasingly conservative state and the senator is well-prepared for a challenge.

Another prudent conclusion might be that, when the GOP’s most powerful senator can only manage a tie against a Democratic Secretary of State who hasn’t yet announced her candidacy, she likely has a shot — particularly in a wave election. But Dems should probably save the happy water cooler chat for the announcement of Michelle Bachman’s retirement.

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