Public Policy Polling is a Democratic firm, and they would argue that they have never hidden that. I note that their polls are often mentioned or cited by media publications that don’t mention their partisan affiliation, a phenomenon that is bothersome, but not really PPP’s fault.
It is a free country, and the folks at PPP are free to donate to whoever they like.
It is interesting, however, that PPP’s president, Dean Debnam, donated the legal maximum, $2,400, to North Carolina Democratic Senate candidate Elaine Marshall. He also donated another $2,400, presumably earmarked for campaign debt retirement; both donations are dated October 18.
(For formatting purposes, I’m breaking the line on the FEC sheet into two boxes.)
“The good news for Elaine Marshall is that she’s picking up undecided voters and closing the margin against Burr,” said Dean Debnam, President of Public Policy Polling. “There’s good news for Burr in the poll too though. His support is pretty steady and he’s very close to the 50% mark.”
Of course the release neglects to mention that he is a Marshall donor.
There’s good news for both Elaine Marshall and Richard Burr in PPP’s newest poll of the North Carolina Senate race.The good news for Marshall is that she’s picking up undecided voters and closing the gap against Burr. She now trails by 8 points, 48-40, after facing a 13 point deficit against Burr three weeks ago. She’s starting to shore up her support with the base, getting 73% of Democrats compared to 65% in the previous poll.
Charlie Melancon, Democrat of Louisiana, and Elaine Marshall, Democrat of North Carolina, offer polls indicating they have enjoyed surges in their Senate races against, respectively, Sen. David Vitter and Sen. Richard Burr. Melancon’s internal poll has him within 1; Marshall’s has her ahead by 2.
I myself will be waiting to see what other pollsters find; both Vitter and Burr have led consistently by modest to large margins, often double digits. I’ve said in the past, take as many grains of salt as you feel necessary when reading about a poll conducted for a campaign. Some consultants tell me that they never want their internal polls to presume anything too optimistically; they insist they want to be prepared for the worst-case scenarios.
Still, if a campaign’s poll gets released publicly, it usually is designed to demonstrate the candidate’s strength. (Then again, sometimes you’re Blanche Lincoln and you release internal polls showing yourself down 9 because things are so bad, you think 36 percent is a good number for a three-term incumbent. It’s sad, really.)
When I see a campaign’s internal poll showing them performing a few points better than non-campaign polls, I generally think, “Okay, that could happen, if they’ve got some really good get-out-the-vote programs in the works.” When the gap between the campaign polls and other polls is closer to double digits . . . come on, pal. Give us some results from this plane of existence.
Public Policy Polling offers numbers indicating that in their home state of North Carolina, Republican senator Richard Burr is only up 5 points over Democrat Elaine Marshall. They have Burr at 38 percent, 33 percent for Marshall, and a surprising 10 percent for the Libertarian candidate, Michael Beitler.
In a post–Research 2000 world, I don’t want any quibbling with a pollster to be misconstrued. I think the PPP guys are good guys with generally solid methods. But for not-so-well-publicized reasons, Republicans tend to perform poorly when PPP surveys their own backyard.
Burr’s last total in SurveyUSA: 50 percent. His last total in Rasmussen: 44 percent. His totals in the three preceding polls by Rasmussen: 50, 50, 51. Burr’s total in the four preceding PPP polls: 46, 43, 43, 41.
Is it possible Richard Burr is at 38 percent? I suppose; it is possible that PPP is using some sort of better voter screen than everyone else, and/or it’s possible that Rasmussen’s likely-voter screen is weeding out too many Democrats. But when a pollster has been quoted as saying that he doesn’t want a particular candidate to win, it’s time to exercise some skepticism. This was an issue last year:
The problem, Republicans say, is that PPP is no impartial observer. The firm makes its money by serving as the pollster to an exclusively Democratic roster of clients, ranging from members of Congress to dozens of state legislative and city council candidates. And CEO Dean Debnam has given generously to North Carolina Democratic candidates — including in races where his firm has conducted independent polling. In the heat of last year’s competitive Senate race between former Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) and Democrat Kay Hagan, Debnam donated $5,400 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He also made two $2,300 contributions to Hagan’s campaign.
“We’re absolutely rooting in the race. We don’t want Richard Burr to get reelected. We wanted Obama to win last fall,” said [PPP's Tom] Jensen. “But our reputation is predicated on getting it right, and we’re not going to cook the numbers just to tweak Richard Burr’s nerves. They are what they are.” The firm’s unconventional method of serving partisan interests while conducting independent polls that are widely reported on by the media has raised hackles among Republicans like Burr, who are on the receiving end of bad numbers. At the national level, Republicans gripe that news outlets don’t always report on the firm’s Democratic background.
I like the guys at PPP, but at this point, you just can’t put too much faith in their North Carolina numbers, not until other pollsters start seeing similar numbers.
UPDATE: Also, note how their sample breaks down: 46 percent Democrat, 36 percent Republican, 18 percent independent. That’s a more heavily Democratic electorate than North Carolina had on Election Day 2008, when it split 42 percent Democrat, 31 percent Republican, 27 percent independent.
This may be a pleasantly early night for election-returns watchers.
With 32 percent of precincts reporting in the GOP runoff for governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley leads Gresham Barrett, 62 percent to 38 percent. She’s just been declared the winner.
In the 1st congressional district, with 26 percent of precincts reporting, Tim Scott is way ahead of Paul Thurmond, 72 percent to 28 percent.
In another GOP House primary, Rep. Bob Inglis appears to be going down in flames, trailing Trey Gowdy 72 percent to 28 percent, with 31 percent of precincts reporting.
In North Carolina, Elaine Marshall is beating Cal Cunningham in the Democratic Senate primary, 62 percent to 37 percent, with 27 percent of precincts reporting. The winner takes on incumbent Republican Sen. Richard Burr.
In a hotly contested battle in the North Carolina’s 8th congressional district, former body-armor executive Tim D’Annunzio trails retired Charlotte television sportscaster Harold Johnson, 66 percent to 33 percent, with only 5 percent of precincts reporting so far.
UPDATE: In my e-mailbox:
Nikki Haley has won the Republican primary runoff in South Carolina and will face Democratic state Senator Vincent Sheheen in November. Republican Governors Association Executive Director Nick Ayers today issued the following statement:
“Nikki Haley’s historic victory in South Carolina is a testament to her hard work, perseverance and determination. Her success ushers in a new era of South Carolina politics, and represents a growing new generation of Republican leaders from across the country. We congratulate her on besting an experienced field of challengers, first capturing the most votes in the primary and then winning the short runoff.
“Now the attention turns to the general election, where Nikki Haley will offer a clear vision of lower taxes, reduced government interference, and greater economic opportunity and job creation. Her Democratic opponent will simply bring the same tired policies: increased reliance on government, higher taxes and meddling in the private sector.
“We look forward to working with Nikki Haley and her campaign to ensure that she earns a tremendous and well-deserved victory in November.”
UPDATE: With more than half the precincts reporting, Tim Scott leads with more than 73 percent. Wonder what it will take to call this one.
In the South Carolina state attorney general’s race, Joe Wilson’s son, Alan Wilson, leads 57–42 over Leighton Lord, with 12 of 46 counties reporting.
ANOTHER UPDATE: 8:45 p.m., the AP calls it for Tim Scott. Meet the man likely to be the first African-American Republican congressman since J. C. Watts:
For all intents and purposes, Utah Republicans pick their state’s next senator today, between Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater; polling indicates a Bridgewater lead. The winner takes on Democrat Sam Granato and his $23,388 cash-on-hand.
Both Elaine Marshall and Cal Cunningham have lost name recognition during their run-off campaign for the Democratic Senate nomination. Compared to a poll taken just one week following the primary election, both Marshall and Cunningham’s popularity and recognition across the state have decreased, especially in the Charlotte area and western North Carolina.
Seventy-four percent of voters in North Carolina are unsure of their opinion of Cunningham and 62 percent of Marshall. This is an increase from 66 and 56 percent respectively in the week following the primary election. Voter turnout is typically lower in run-off elections as voter interest decreases.
The pollster finds incumbent Republican senator Richard Burr has “widened his lead against both Marshall and Cunningham, edging over Marshall 46–39 and Cunningham 46–35.” Topping out at 46 percent is usually mildly ominous for an incumbent, but it looks like either Democrat will need a surge to make this a real race.
A little while back, after I noted that Sen. Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican, had “meh” approval ratings but seemed to lead healthily in any head-to-head matchups with Democrats, a reader in Raleigh wrote in:
Regarding your comment about Richard Burr’s “Meh” approval ratings, may I suggest you dig a bit deeper. I admit I am a big Richard Burr fan. I have met him a few times and family members are in a position to know what many Democrats think of his effectiveness.
The issue with Sen. Burr’s approvals are that many people have no opinion (vs. negatives). The reason is that he focuses on his job and North Carolina. Almost uniformly, Mr. Burr is considered a very hard working senator who has one goal – to help his state and constituents. Just ask Mr. Bowles, who has all but endorsed him.
Sen. Burr’s Rasmussen shares have been above 50% for over three weeks now as he has gone on the air. In my humble opinion there is every reason to expect them to remain there. Richard is no Liddy Dole!
Burr is now in a near tie with Elaine Marshall and barely ahead of Cal Cunningham following the May 4 primary. Marshall now trails Burr only 43-42, versus 43-37 last month. Cunningham lags 44-39 after losing 43-35 in April. Marshall does slightly better with Democrats and independents and about the same with Republicans as Cunningham. North Carolina voters’ opinions of how Burr is handling his job inched upward from a negative 32-41 in early April to 37-40 now.
There are certain states where I’m not surprised that Democratic turnout is lower than Republican turnout; in Indiana, there was a competitive GOP Senate primary and none on the Democratic side. But even with that in mind, the turnout differences in yesterday’s primaries were pretty stark, compared to the 2006 numbers.
Just 663K OH voters cast ballots in the competitive primary between LG Lee Fisher (D) and Sec/State Jennifer Brunner (D). That number is lower than the 872K voters who turned out in ‘06, when neither Gov. Ted Strickland (D) nor Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) faced primary opponents.
Only 425K voters turned out to pick a nominee against Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The 14.4% turnout was smaller than the 444K voters — or 18% of all registered Dem voters — who turned out in ‘04, when Gov. Mike Easley (D) faced only a gadfly candidate in his bid to be renominated for a second term.
And in IN, just 204K Hoosiers voted for Dem House candidates, far fewer than the 357K who turned out in ‘02 and the 304K who turned out in ‘06.
By contrast, GOP turnout was up almost across the board. 373K people voted in Burr’s uncompetitive primary, nearly 9% higher than the 343K who voted in the equally non-competitive primary in ‘04. Turnout in House races in IN rose 14.6% from ‘06, fueled by the competitive Senate primary, which attracted 550K voters. And 728K voters cast ballots for a GOP Sec/State nominee in Ohio, the highest-ranking statewide election with a primary; in ‘06, just 444K voters cast ballots in that race.
One other thing I would note: Jennifer Brunner, Lee Fisher, Cal Cunningham, Elaine Marshall, the Democrats running for House in Indiana . . . These are not exactly whirling dervishes of raw political charisma. Neither the North Carolina nor the Ohio primaries were clashes of the titans on par with, say, Joe Lieberman against Ned Lamont. Yes, some jabs were thrown, but when the candidates are standard-issue and the policy differences are minor, why should these states’ Democrats turn out?
Tomorrow is primary day in North Carolina, and as in Ohio, most of the drama is on the Democratic side. GOP senator Richard Burr represents a weird case of an incumbent with genuinely “meh” approval ratings who looks pretty safe in head-to-head matchups; with Democratic opportunities to knock off Republican senators few and far between, the DSCC is clearly hoping they can jump-start some momentum in this state.
In the Democratic Senate primary, Secretary of State Elaine Marshall leads the polls over former state senator Cal Cunningham and attorney Ken Lewis. But if no candidate win 40 percent of the vote – a serious possibility if the polls are right – there will be a runoff June 22.
There are crowded GOP primaries against Democratic Reps. Larry Kissell and Heath Shuler. With no standout GOP opponents, the reelection prospects of the pair will depend largely on voter mood heading into November.