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The Political Roadshow: Day 4

Wednesday, October 18, 2006  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt

After a grand event at Ben Franklin Hall last night with Senator Rick Santorum and Dennis Prager (with blogger Rare Kate was there, and my NYC radio colleague Kevin McCullough as well. Kevin’s shot a lot of video which he is posting throughout the day) it was on to Cleveland.

The audio of my interview with Senator Santorum is here, and if you know a voter in PA, send them the link and ask them to listen to it. The vast gap in ability between Rick Santorum and Bob Casey is most obvious when Santorum is talking about Islamist terror and Casey is fumbling to complete a sentence. A vote for Casey is not only a vote to strip the Keystone State of one of its most influential and effective elected officials in Washington, it is also to assist the Senate in its rapid and continuing disarmament in the smarts department.

On the flight from Philly to Cleveland last night, Dennis, his producer Alan and I discussed the sorry state of the United States Senate these days. At a time of national crisis, the Senate is full of empty suits, and the lightweight caucus is bipartisan (see Lincoln Chaffe, for example).

If I were the ad man for the GOP, I’d show a stream of disembodied coats, pants and dresses moving up the Capitol’s steps, with a narration commenting on the need to stop sending empty suits to D.C. It could play in almost every Senate race that matters this year, as Menedez, Cardin, Stabenow, Cantwell, etc are lightweights, but it would be especially appropriate in PA, where Casey is simply and obviously not qualified to be a United States Senator in a time of war.

To assist Santorum in the GOTV effort, go to

Pollsters are selling the idea that Santorum cannot close the gap they say exists in the Keystone State. It is the same message they are peddling across the country in a variety of races. Last night I interviewed pollster Scott Rasmussen on his “turnout model,” and elicited from him some details on the model he is using in Virginia, where Rasmussen announced yesterday that George Allen’s lead had shrunk to 3%.

HH: I understand the general, but for example, you just put out a new Virginia poll that shows that George Allen’s ahead by 3 points over James Webb.

SR: Right.

HH: In that polling, what percentage were Republicans?

SR: In that polling, the percentage of Republicans and Democrats is just about even. It’s about 39% Republican, 39% Democrat, and the rest unaffiliated.

I cannot find the Virginia 2002 turnout data from Senator Warner’s last race, but I do note that Gallup’s chief pollster noted last week that “the mid-September Gallup results suggest that the historical turnout advantage Republicans have enjoyed in mid-term elections appears to be operative again this year — at least as of this point.” There is also the widening gap between the GOP and Demopcratic GOTV efforts, on display in the three states I have visited thus far –Minnesota, Colorado and Pennsylvania– plus a decided cash advantage that favors the Republicans.

Thus a “turnout model” that shows even turnout between Republicans and Democrats in Virginia when the race is so controversial and so obviously heated and thus likely to bring voters to the polls strikes me as absurd and the result as unpersuasive. Using the RCP “averaging” of all polls helps to minimize the impact of lousy modeling, unless all the polls used to sample contain modeling errors.

A caller yesterday asked “So what? Won’t polls hsowing GOP candidates behind energize Republican voters to turn out?”

Hardly. I asked him whether season ticket holders to the Raiders or Broncos were more likely to be showing up to games in December. That clarified the issue quickly. Voters, like fans, don’t show up in the same numbers for lost causes, which is why lousy models do in fact produce polls that depress turnout.

Now here’s my question: When, in the last two cycles of 2002 and 2004, has any national poll of  standing shown a Republican to be ahead at this point in the race where that Republican in fact lost? (You can’t cite Zogby for this proposition, as the oll must generally be recognized as having at least a shred of credibility.)  While poll after poll over these years have shown Democrats ahead who in fact lost, can you recall a race where polling put a GOP candidate ahead who in fact got smacked badly on election day?

I close with an example from the Minnesota Poll, the disgrace of the disgraceful Minneapolis Star Tribune which cannot really be branded a newspaper in the traditional sense, so deeply diseased has its political coverage become in the service of lefty candidates.

Yesterday the Strib’s “poll” appeared and announced that Democratic candidate Patty Wetterling was eight points ahead of Michele Bachmann. Of course the “model” was totally contrived, sampling far more women than men in a district as Shot in the Dark’s Mitch Berg explained on the program last night, is always evenly divided. The Strib’s “pollster” no doubt has some excuse for such a sample, but it is contrived and radically departs from past data.

Which is one of the reasons why an upbeat Karl Rove predicted victory yesterday.

Santorum is indeed behind, but closing, as two debates have made clear that Bob Casey is quite simply an unqualified legacy candidate.  DeWine can win in Ohio because Sherrod Brown is very, very far to the left of the mainstream of Buckeye State politics.  Talent and Allen are most likeley ahead and gaining.

And the push is on in Montana, where a dynamic is appearing that not even Rasmussen missed.  It involves the fact that in the new media world, Montana voters are very aware of the consequences of a vote for radical Jon Tester, and when lousy polling models increase the appearance of a Democratic threat to the Senate Republican majority, the Burns campaign benefits:

Conrad Burns is in trouble. He has been consistently behind. The Democrats, a year ago, defined him way in advance of the political season, as soon as the Abramoff scandal broke, they spent money on TV, took ten or fifteen points out of his support. I can’t quite write him off, mainly because Montana is a very Republican leaning state. And ironically, the more trouble other Republicans get in, the better off Burns might be, and that’s because if people in Montana go to the polls believing that the election of Jon Tester out there will lead to Democratic control of the Senate, that’s likely to cause them some second thoughts. On the other hand, if it was clear the Republicans were going to retain control, I think people in Montana are ready to dump Conrad Burns. 



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