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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Karl Rove's Secret Polling

Raw Story's reporting that Karl Rove blew some smoke about polling with a National Public Radio host at the big White House "Radio Day" propaganda-fest tuesday. Rove was pushing the idea that secret polling shows the GOP keeping control.

"I see several things," Rove told NPR host Robert Seigel. "First of all, unlike the general public, I'm allowed to the see the polls on the individual races. And after all, this does come down to individual contests between individual candidates."

The problem with that statement is that its not so much inaccurate as it is a complete load. Rove does see internal polling that isn't shared with the public -- it's basically the electoral equivalent of market research. Trend polling, focus groups on campaign ads and speeches, etc. There's nothing different about this polling that would make them more accurate.

But when Rove says, "unlike the general public, I'm allowed to the see the polls on the individual races," he's out and out lying. There are individual polls available for every race. Siegel tried to bring up this fact, but Rove basically stepped on him to shut him up.

MR. SIEGEL: I'm looking at all the same polls that you're looking at every day.

MR. ROVE: No you're not. No you're not!

MR. SIEGEL: No, I'm not --

MR. ROVE: I'm looking at 68 polls a week. You may be looking at four or five public polls a week that talk about attitudes nationally, but that do not impact the outcome --

MR. SIEGEL: -- name races between -- certainly Senate race

MR. ROVE: Well, like the polls today showing that Corker's ahead in Tennessee; or the race -- polls showing that Allen is pulling away in the Virginia Senate race.

See what I mean? Siegel tries to bring up named polling, which tracks exactly what Rove claims only he's allowed to see, and Boy Genius cuts him off.

To look at data pulled from named races -- polls that ask people who they specifically plan to vote for -- we can go to Slate Magazine. According to those numbers -- which aren't based on national opinion, but race by race numbers -- polls show the Senate going to dems if the election were held today. And, contrary to Rove's claims, Allen isn't pulling ahead. According to Slate:

In Virginia, a new poll from the Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg is the first random-sample survey to show Democrat Jim Webb leading Republican Sen. George Allen (albeit by a statistically insignificant 47-percent-to-44-percent margin). The new poll indicates new momentum for Webb, but, more importantly, narrows Allen's lead on our last-five-poll margin to less than four points (47.4 percent to 44.0 percent), just enough to move Virginia to the "tossup" column.

So polling shows Webb closing on Allen, not Allen pulling away. I've pointed out before that Karl Rove's infamous tactic is to attack opponents' strength. But, in this cycle, Democrats' biggest strength is that they're not Republicans. Good luck making something out of that. Without the big gun in his arsenal, Rove has to rely on turnout and you can't motivate voters by telling them the cause is lost. So he makes claims about polling. And makes it secret polling, so he doesn't have to support his claims.

When the GOP does share polling data, it's always positive in order to motivate turnout. Republican National Committee chair Ken Mehlman sent an email to supporters 'RE: Republican Motivation'. "The RNC's internal research shows election interest at 7.7 on a 10-point scale among Republicans and 7.6 among Democrats," Mehlman writes, "Unchanged from late September and in line with this year's overall trend."

Yeah, that great. Except that polls show fewer people identifying themselves as Republican for this cycle and independent voters, who Mehlman prefers you forget exist, favor Democrats 2 to 1. And don't bring up the fact that there's a segment of the GOP who agree that Republicans deserve to lose.

With less than two weeks before people hit the polls, I can't see them turning this thing around. Public opinion is a moving thing and at a certain point there's too much momentum to put on the brakes and turn it around. Not that team Bush has been trying too hard. Bush has been going around defending Iraq, which every poll shows is their problem. By hammering away on Iraq, Bush is driving nails into the electoral coffin. In the face of overwhelming public criticism over the war, Bushco came up with a different catch-phrase -- "stay the course" is out, "adapt to win" is in. Yeah, that ought to take care of everything. An actual strategy might be a little more helpful.

If the GOP wanted to turn this around, they should've started weeks ago. But the Foley scandal took up all the headlines and left them with no elbow room in which to run a PR campaign. They've tried to get people freaked out over terrorism, but that's getting harder and harder to do.

It's looking more and more like they've got nuthin'.


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