The Campaign Spot

Election-driven news and views . . . by Jim Geraghty.

Somebody Gets Lost While Trying to Pursue Magellan


Over on Twitter, a contributor to Daily Kos, Steve Lebowitz, contends that the sense that Bob Ehrlich may be pulling ahead of incumbent Democrat Martin O’Malley reflects the “Ehrlich theme team ploy.” His argument can be read in depth here. He contends that one of the firms showing a lead for Ehrlich, Magellan Strategies, is “not a pollster at all” and is ”overstating Ehrlich’s numbers to bolster fundraising, scare the opposition, and distract attention from Mr. Ehrlich’s running mate.” He also calls Magellan’s survey a “payola poll.”

For a moment, let’s put aside the cheap jokes — yes, I made some — about a contributor to Daily Kos questioning the reliability of polls (and in Maryland, home state of Research 2000, no less).

Magellan Strategies is a GOP consulting firm that also conducts polls. I would agree that when reporters write about the firm’s poll results, they ought to mention their Republican affiliation in there somewhere. (As luck would have it, I wrote about this topic in my piece on PPP this morning.)

Lebowitz writes, “Even better, the reporter covering the story should find out who might have paid for the poll.  If Magellan won’t say, a curious reporter might ask the Ehrlich campaign, the Maryland Republican party, the Republican Governor’s Association, or Americans for Prosperity if they’ve been paying Magellan for any work lately.” Actually, there’s a phone number on top of the firm’s press release, and it took me about thirty seconds to reach David Flaherty, CEO of Magellan.

“We have no relationship with Robert Ehrlich, the RGA or any entities in Maryland with an interest in that race,” he said. “We release surveys in states where we don’t have clients to get our name out there and gain some business and to inform public of where things stand in some key states. You can check the candidate and committee FEC filings.”

So there you have it. Of course, down in North Carolina, PPP continues to poll on that state’s Senate race without disclosing their work earlier in the cycle for Democratic nominee Elaine Marshall.

As for whether the Magellan Strategies poll is reliable, its results are in the neighborhood of those of the two most recent Rasmussen polls (a tie, Ehrlich by 1) and the numbers among likely voters in an early-May Washington Post poll (a tie). (Among registered voters, O’Malley led by 8.) I suppose I could see the argument that the percentage of the Magellan sample that is African-American is a bit low at 20 percent; this demographic made up 25 percent of the electorate in 2008 and 23 percent in 2006 and 2004, according to exit polls. On the other hand, 2004 was a presidential election, 2006 was a strong year for Democrats, and 2008 obviously featured the first African-American presidential nominee. If Republicans are enthused and Democrats aren’t, it’s not unthinkable that African-Americans will make up less than 23 percent of the electorate.

Okay, the moment has passed. We can now return to cheap jokes about the site that touted Research 2000 for years doubting anybody else’s poll results.

Tags: Martin O'Malley , Robert Ehrlich


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