U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) speaks to reporters at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 24, 2013. Washington faces two looming deadlines, with the Democrats and Republicans far apart on a solution. The U.S. government runs out o
How high, Mitch? Maybe not quite that high
CNN and ORC International finally released their long-teased poll of Kentucky's Senate race, finding GOP Sen. Mitch McConnell up 50-46 on Democrat Alison Grimes. Rather notably, this is the first and only time McConnell's hit 50 percent in a public poll—ever. There's a good reason, too: CNN didn't bother to include Libertarian David Patterson in their questionnaire.

That's a fairly bizarre choice, given that Libertarians in general have been polling unusually well this cycle, and given that recent SurveyUSA and PPP polls have given Paterson 5 and 7 percent of the vote, respectively. Yes, Republicans are trying to knock Patterson off the ballot, but while Libertarians aren't particularly good at actually winning any elections, they usually are quite adept at securing ballot access for themselves.

And yes, Patterson is likely to wind up with a smaller share of the vote than he's getting now in other polls, but he can certainly have an impact on the race nevertheless, especially since he's liable to scoop up some anti-McConnell protest voters who would never pull the lever for a Democrat.

So CNN's poll simply isn't reflective of the choices Kentucky voters are likely to have before them in November, which means they aren't polling an actual election—just some hypothetical contest that doesn't exist. And in any event, there's no reason not to ask two versions of the horserace, one with Patterson and one without.

Some analysts fetishize independent polls over partisan ones, but what matters is the overall quality of the survey, an assessment that involves many criteria. And sometimes, it's as simple as making sure you ask the right questions. CNN didn't do that here, offering a good example of why it makes no sense to prize non-partisanship above all else.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Thu Sep 04, 2014 at 08:06 AM PDT.

Also republished by My Old Kentucky Kos and Daily Kos.

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