Reality Check, Part V

First and foremost, a poll was released by The Texas Tribune today that appears to place the final nail in the Democrats’ coffin. Now, as I have opined time and time again in the past, I’m not really a fan of the Tribune’s polling, so take this with a grain of salt. But with Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, leading State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, by a whopping 16 points, the margin of error is taken care of more than five times over. I’ve attached the polls for all of the statewide non-judicial contests.

TGov

TLtGov

TSenate

TAG

TCompt

TLandCom

LAgCom

LAgCom

Of note, because of rounding errors, the Land Commissioner poll should not equal 100. Excel insisted upon putting Bush’s total at 51% anyways, but the Tribune poll only put 50%.

These polls put the Democratic deficit anywhere from 15 points (Agriculture Commissioner) to 26 points (US Senate). The poll basically insinuates that there are people who are voting for Wendy Davis, yet are splitting their ballots for Dan Patrick. Or thinking that Jim Hogan is a sensible, qualified and tempered candidate for Agriculture Commissioner (he’s none of those things), and yet Ken Paxton is the superior choice for Attorney General. Do these people truly exist? Are Texans truly that inept? I say no, and think those absurdities prove that the poll is just a bunch of stuff, as the Vice President would put it.

The polls also show third parties getting huge percentages of the vote, sometimes nearly 20%. That’s a little bit silly, considering that they rarely surpass 5%. I tend to think the reason for their gross overperformance is that the poll is largely conducted via eager participants on the internet. You know, the people who have the extra zeal to come up with their own outlying political views.

Let’s get something clear, no statewide Democrat is going to win this year. That much I am certain of. But the Democrats don’t have to literally win in order to win, as counter-intuitive as that might sound. The slate needs to outdo Bill White’s performance in 2010, which was roughly 42%. Ideally, they should do well enough to lift the ticket in Bexar County (San Antonio), Harris County and Nueces County (Corpus Christi) enough to elect some local Democrats. But showing progress from the last election is the most important thing. Battleground Texas will keep registering voters, demographics will keep moving in a good direction and Texas will transition inch-by-inch into a purple state. Vox made a similar point today.

Bud Kennedy at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram noted today, though, that the Texas Democrats have a considerable chance on not outdoing their 2010 performance. If the slate is less than 42%, alarm bells will ring. If it ranges from the high to low 30s, as this poll might suggest, it will be Armageddon for Texas politics. Battleground Texas will likely disband. National Democrats will think of the short-lived project to turn Texas blue and shake their heads. In the bars of Manhattan and Capitol Hill, it will be thought of with the same naivete as the New Coke debacle. I really don’t want that to happen.

Through the first four days of early voting, the numbers are negligibly different from four years ago, with some minor differences I’ll note in tomorrow morning’s issue of The Daily Texan. That will be what determines how well Davis does. So please, please, vote.

How much is Davis losing by?

This appears to be the big question. The Houston Chronicle reports that a few polls have come out in the gubernatorial election, each painting a successively worse picture for State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor. First, an internal poll from the campaign of Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate for Governor, that showed him beating Davis by 18 points. Davis fired back with one showing her deficit to only be eight points. Meanwhile, YouGov –in conjunction with both CBS and The New York Times– released its second poll for this race, confirming Abbott’s lead at 18, actually one point higher than the previous YouGov poll from over the summer.

The first poll, Abbott’s internal memo, was conducted by a firm called Wilson Perkins Allen. The firm typically has a sizable Republican bias, but with a result this overwhelming, there should be little doubt of who is up by double digits. The poll showed Abbott leading with a majority of both women and Hispanics.

Internal Poll

The second poll, Davis’ internal poll, paints a far rosier picture, with the deficit being a comparably mere eight points. Both of these internal polls, as best as I can figure out, exclude both Kathie Glass (the Libertarian) and Brandon Parmer (the Green). This poll, effectively, has the same result that Rasmussen Report offered up last month. Granted, this poll may offer some improvement for Davis, since Rasmussen pegged the race at 48Abbott-40Davis and this poll offers 46Abbott-38Davis, meaning that Abbott is further from the all-important 50-percent mark.

However, there have been some Pro-Davis groups that have latched onto this poll as some type of “momentum” for the Democrats. Obviously, such characterizations are unwise.

Internal Poll2

Finally, we come to the YouGov poll. They have a rather haphazard track record, but the new 18 point deficit that Davis faces has actually grown since July. As I wrote at length about YouGov when their previous poll came out, they should be taken with a grain of salt, but not be so wholeheartedly discounted like a Texas Tribune poll.

YouGov

As I have explained ad naseum in the past, Public Policy Polling (PPP) and Rasmussen Reports are the only two polling houses worth their weight in paper that actually poll Texas.

If I stopped ten people on the street in Houston and jotted down the results on this publication, that might be the worst poll in the history of Texas polling. But, statistically speaking, there would be a noticeable chance that 5 support Abbott, 4 support Davis and 1 currently undecided. That doesn’t mean I have a good poll, it means that –for lack of a non-cliched phrase– my broken clock is right on one of its obligatory two instances throughout the day.

Accordingly, I share the sentiment of many Democrats in discounting the apocalyptic tone that the YouGov poll would seem to prompt from the Davis campaign. If I had to guess, I would think that Davis currently trails at about 8-10 points, with an insignificant portion of the electorate still undecided. All other things being equal, that is where she will probably end up, losing to Abbott around 53-43, with the remainder split amongst the fringe candidates.

The Davis campaign appears complacent with the eight-point deficit to a worrisome extent. I observed much of the same complacent-with-mediocrity attitude a couple weeks back when one national pundit moved the gubernatorial race from “safe Republican” to “leans Republican.” You would have thought a poll had put the Democrat ahead by their gleeful attitudes.

The Chronicle article that I linked at the top of this post makes much the same point. This is not 2012, where both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney were arguing over polls that showed either one clinching victory. The only argument here is how much Davis is losing by, and it is a rather depressing argument over semantics for her to make.

Brains & Eggs and Off the Kuff have more.

Romney 2016?

About two months ago, I wrote a featured five-part series about the 2016 Presidential election, specifically all of the politicians (Democrat and Republican) who have been discussed as prospective presidential candidates. (If you don’t want to navigate through five different articles, I have abridged the entire thing onto one post here). I pointedly only considered candidates who had openly discussed the prospect of running for President, and not those who have unequivocally ruled it out of the picture or remained silent. Among those individuals was Mitt Romney. I wrote, back in July, that “There is still an active draft movement for Mitt Romney, former Governor of Massachusetts and the Republican Presidential nominee in 2012,” but no more. I kept my comments rather concise because, hitherto that article, Romney had been quite adamant with his intention to not run for President again. Romney, of course, was the Governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, and then ran for President twice, in 2008 and 2012.

Last week, POLITICO reported that Romney’s tone had changed, ever so slightly, on his future Presidential prospects. The previous rhetoric regarding the future had changed from “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no” to “circumstances can change.” That’s a big change, and it’s the milquetoast, political way of telling the world you have somewhat changed your mind on the matter.

A few days later, POLITICO also reported on a Gallup poll out of Iowa that shows Romney decisively leading the pack for the 2016 Republican Iowa Caucuses. Romney received 35% of the vote in the survey, whereas the next-highest recipient was Undecided with 10% (number three was Mike Huckabee with 9%). When Romney was omitted from the survey, Undecided hops up to 17%, and Huckabee leads the humans with a pitiful 13%. Needless to say, Romney sure looks a panacea for Republican primary voters.

And, irrespective of one’s political orientation, you would be hard-pressed to not admit some of his comments in the 2012 election were rather prophetic. Specifically on the topic of foreign policy, what was once ridiculed as absurd conjecture on the instability of Iraq and the nefariousness of Russia, Romney has largely been vindicated.

That all being said, I’m not so sure that –even if he were interested– Romney would be an ideal candidate for the Republicans in 2016. While many polls have, indeed, shown that the American people have some buyer’s remorse vis-a-vis Romney and Obama in 2012, the same polls still show that Romney would not outdo Hillary Clinton in a 2016 match-up.

Let me be clear, speaking purely objectively, Romney would be a terrible choice for the Republicans in 2016. He lost last time not because he was outgunned by a superior candidate, but because he was such a lousy one himself. He lost an election against a vulnerable incumbent in a bad economy. The reason why was quite simple: he offended the American people by espousing extreme political positions and repeatedly putting his foot in his mouth. There is no reason to think he will not do the same thing once more.

Wendy runs an ad! (and other updates)

On multiple occasions, I have stuck my neck out to say that State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor, needs to run television ads. Among the reasons I gave was that her name recognition is already high, but it is mostly negative. Accordingly, she needs to run out of the gate and hit back hard at her Republican opponent, Attorney General Greg Abbott. Detractors (also known as those happy campers complacent with mediocrity) retorted that Davis does not need to waste her money before Labor Day, because no one pays attention. My counterargument was that she does not need to buy much air time, but rather run an evocative ad that garnered her a great deal of earned media.

It looks like the Davis campaign took my advice, because that is exactly what happened.

The commercial, a 60 second spot entitled “A Texas Story,” tells the tale of a Texas Supreme Court case in the 1990s in which Abbott wrote the dissent. The case, Read v. Kirby Vacuum, was filed after a door-to-door salesman contracting with Kirby “brutally raped” a woman in her home after being invited inside to demonstrate one of his products. The woman, Dena Read (Editorial note: It is the editorial policy of Texpatriate to not print the names of victims of sexual assault, though Mrs. Read has previously volunteered her name to the press because “she believes she can have a bigger impact that way”), sued the vacuum company after realizing that the salesman, Mickey Carter, was on probation for a sex crime that should have disqualified him from the job, but the company did not “perform a routine background check.”

The case went all the way to the Texas Supreme Court, where six justices (4 Republicans and 2 Democrats) ruled that, despite Carter merely being an independent subcontractor, Kirby was still negligent for not providing a background check because he used the Kirby name to get into Read’s home.  Two dissents were penned (both by Republicans), and one of them was by Greg Abbott, who has an Associate Justice on the Texas Supreme Court at the time. Abbott’s dissent was joined by yet a third Republican Justice.

The Associated Press summed up this case remarkably well back when it occurred in 1998. You can also read the majority opinion (penned by one of the Democratic Justices) here.

The ad is powerful for the obvious reasons, and Abbott’s campaign has already fired back claiming it was either irrelevant or untrue. I suppose the former claim has some weight, but PolitiFact stepped in yesterday and rated the factual claims in the ad as “mostly true.”

The Houston Chronicle provides fodder for some of the more legitimate criticisms of the ad, however. Namely, that the Davis campaign did not notify Read before launching the ad. And while the commercial did not mention Read by name, the specifics of it were unmistakeable. While a spokesman for the Davis campaign did say that Read was warned about this earlier this year, that is not sufficient.

Political scientists contacted by the Chronicle ranged from calling the revelation “political malpractice” to “a risk.” I honestly do not think it will cause too much of a ruckus for the campaign overall, but it is still in horrendously bad taste to exploit the victim of such a tragic purpose without her consent for political purposes.

Other than that, I thought the ad was a very effective political tool. Like I have said before, Davis needs to do two things: 1) get on television; and 2) go negative. This ad accomplishes both. A columnist in The Washington Post recently took Davis to task for the negative tone of the ad, shying away from substantive policy discussion, and I have only one response to the author: go cry me a river far, far away in your Ivory Tower. I would love more than anything to live in a peaches and cream and unicorns world where voters actually cared about substance or issues, but our reality is far different. Even if you have a sterling record to run on, fear is probably always better tactic; Annise Parker proved that last year.

And Davis isn’t Parker. She doesn’t have years of experience leading one of the biggest cities in the country out of the red and into the promised land. She’s a liberal State Senator. Her climb is significantly harder, and it is unclear how much this strategy will pay off. But it is undoubtedly preferable to the safe solution.

Speaking of which, the Houston Chronicle also notes that Rasmussen Reports has polled the Texas gubernatorial election once more. Davis’ deficit has actually decreased. She now trails 40% to Abbott’s 48%. Rasmussen meanwhile, now pegs the race as “Leans GOP” rather than “Safe GOP.”

rasmussen

The poll actually represents the first momentum in any poll that Davis has had since last summer. Back in March, Rasmussen estimated the race as “Abbott 53, Davis 41.” Accordingly, not only did Abbott’s lead shrink by 33% from 12 points to 8 points, but Abbott fell below the invaluable 50-percent mark in polling. Rather than Davis actually “closing the gap,” so to speak, in fact, the change had much more to do with Abbott’s support eroding faster than Davis’. While Davis actually lost 1 point of support, Abbott lost a whopping 5 points.

This poll was taken before the ad in question. I am truly eager to see what the numbers stand at as of next week!

Reality Check, Part IV

The Houston Chronicle reports that YouGov, in conjunction with both CBS and The New York Times, has conducted a nationwide poll of gubernatorial and senatorial elections. Overall, the poll shows that Republicans are doing very well throughout the country, and stand a significant chance (in their minds, 60%) of retaking control of the US Senate. As expected, the results paint a gloomy picture for Democrats right here in Texas.

In the race for Governor, the Republican candidate, Attorney General Greg Abbott, leads the Democratic candidate, State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), 54%-37%. A mere 9% are still apparently undecided. Similarly, in the Senate election, Republican incumbent Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) holds a 55%-38% lead, with an even smaller 7% still split between the two. The margin of error in both polls was small enough, given the huge lead one candidate commands, to be statistically insignificant.

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The methodology in this poll, however, was suspect. The methodology used something called the “online panel,” which is rather new and untested form of polling. By randomly selecting internet users and then correcting for non-response in a way similar to most other telephone-based polling, Davis’ campaign has accused YouGov of being biased against Democrats since it excludes poorer, less educated and more Hispanic populations. Indeed, by YouGov’s own estimation, only 86% of Americans may be reached using the internet, far less than the 98% reached by comprehensive telephone polls. Landline only polls,  however, only reach 63%. YouGov, however, has a decent track record when it comes to accurately predicting Statewide elections.

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The important takeaway point from this poll is that some online sources can produce arguably reputable results. The Texas Tribune, for example, uses glorified opt-in online polling that is only slightly more accurate than drawing names out of a hat. Accordingly, while I will take this poll with a grain of salt, I will not wholly discount it the way I assume many of my Democratic establishment friends might.

All in all, the results are not especially surprising for me. Both Alameel and Davis are down 17. For comparison, Bill White (D) lost to Rick Perry (R) in the 2010 gubernatorial election by 13 points and while there was no Senate elections, Democrats lost the downballot races by, on avergae, about 17 points. According to this poll, Democrats are on track for another shellacking of 2010 downballot proportions.

I don’t really think that the race is quite for desperate for Davis; I tend to agree with PPP that her deficit is closer to 14 or 15 points. It is certainly still possible to catch up from that, but not probable.

As I have said ad nauseum over this summer, Davis (and Alameel too, for what it’s worth) needs to run TV ads. She just does. I recognize that conventional wisdom holds that, in order to conserve a political war chest, you do not go on the air until Labor Day, but conventional wisdom is going to deliver Davis a double-digit loss in November if it keeps calling the shots. The way I see it, she needs to double down and go big right now. A media blitz not only would deliver quite a lot of earned media, but it would present the opportunity for her to be put back into contention.

I am aware of the terrible downsides to this strategy. It could not be effective, and Davis runs out of money in late September or early October. She loses by north of 20 points. But the upside is that she could gain some traction. If Davis does not run ads until Abbott has already resigned himself to blanketing the airwaves, the result will be a wash.

Democrats can continue being smug in their ivory towers about polling methodologies and this, that and the other, but at the end of the day, Wendy Davis and David Alameel are at a tremendous disadvantage statewide going into the last 100 days. We –Democrats– have a choice to make. We can bury our heads in the sand and lament our best efforts when we are beat by 13-18 points in November. Or we can go for the gold and take a chance. I choose the latter. Do you?

 

Terrible, terrible poll

The Texas Tribune has released its newest poll, and the results continue to paint a bleak picture for the campaign of State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Tarrant County), the Democratic candidate for Governor. The poll has her down 12 points to Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate. The poll also examined Statewide races up and down the ticket and found that Democrats were doing miserably bad in all of them. Most all of these polls included Libertarian and Green candidates, for what it is worth. Additionally, undecideds boasted pretty good showings in all of these races, and the number only got bigger the further down the ballot one traveled.

As many will remember, the Tribune commissioned an extensive poll in February that was not worth the non-existent paper that is was not printed upon. Among the many terrible predictions it made was that Kesha Rogers and Debra Medina led the plurality in their respective primaries. Rogers barely squeaked into a runoff and Medina came in a distant last place in a race where one candidate (Hegar) won outright. I went after the Tribune with a wrench in the Daily Texan a couple days after the preliminary primary completely discredited their polling, noting that we should not waste our breath analyzing something so unreliable anymore.  As my friend Charles Kuffner noted yesterday, the Tribune polls should be “in time-out,” meaning that we have to very look at what they have to say quite critically.

Click here to read more!

TTU poll says Wendy is screwed

The more important matter is whether or not this poll, commissioned by Texas Tech University, is worth its weight in paper.  Hardcore Republicans will, no doubt, point to this result as evidence that the gubernatorial election is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a competitive contest. Hardcore Democrats will undoubtedly explain that the poll oversampled GOP participants, while also pointing to the 4.8% margin of error.

The poll, which contacted a few hundred people by telephone, pegged the gubernatorial election as Greg Abbott (R) at 54% and a mere 25% to Wendy Davis (D). A whopping 29-point lead for Abbott is leaps and bounds above any other poll result he has gotten thus far in the campaign. Astute readers of my opinion will be quite familiar with my cynicism, though even I would not say Abbott will get over two-thirds of the vote. PPP, long regarded by myself as the most reliable pollster, has long estimated the race at about a 14/15 point for Abbott. That being said, this poll looks rather legitimate, which should give the Davis campaign pause.

Click here to read more!