Politics & Policy

Feingold’s Polling Problem

Sen. Russ Feingold’s campaign released an internal poll today that shows him tied with Ron Johnson 48-48 percent. Here’s the actual break down of the results: “Among those who say they are ‘definite’ to vote on November 2nd — which constitutes over ninety percent of our overall sample of 600 likely voters — the race is tied at 48-48.”

That result includes “leaners” as follows: Feingold 43 percent (+5 percent “lean”), Johnson 45 percent (+3 percent “lean”).

It goes without saying that as an internal poll, these results warrant complete skepticism, but The Fix makes an interesting point in reference to last week’s DSCC poll that showed Feingold trailing Johnson by two points — 42 to 44 percent. The number 42 should be a huge red flag for Feingold’s hopes of reelection, The Fix explains:

That [42 percent is] a major problem for a politician who has spent the last 18 years in the Senate and has been in elected office in Wisconsin for the better part of the last three decades.

Why?

Because, traditionally in political campaigns, a lesser-known challenger will win a majority of undecided voters in the final weeks of the campaign since if voters aren’t already on the side of the incumbent already why would they decide to get on board in the final days of a race?

That’s especially true in an election cycle like this one where voters are willing to believe the worst about politicians and ready to make drastic change in the status quo in hopes of bringing some genuine change to the political process.

Case in point: the 2009 New Jersey Governor’s race. Even though that race appeared to narrow toward the end, incumbent Gov. Jon Corzine’s never got close to the 50 percent mark, and he ended up losing to Republican Chris Christie by four points — 45 to 49 percent:

The Corzine example suggests that the more important number to look at in a general election poll between a Democratic incumbent and a Republican challenger is not the spread between the two but rather the percentage of the vote that the incumbent receives.

In all the polls compiled by RealClearPolitics since May 2010 — long before Johnson became the official nominee — Feingold has not received higher than 46 percent. If 43 percent (plus vaguely-described “leaners”) is the best his own campaign can come up with at this point in the election, he’s in deep trouble.

Andrew StilesAndrew Stiles is a political reporter for National Review Online. He previously worked at the Washington Free Beacon, and was an intern at The Hill newspaper. Stiles is a 2009 ...

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