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So Pennsylvania Republican polling firm, Susquehanna, based out of Harrisburg, released it's latest poll which shows Senator Bob Casey Jr. (D) beating Tea Party Tom Smith by only 2 points, 46-44:
Smith needs to solidify his base. Casey, a pro-life, pro-gun Democrat, is pulling 19 percent of self-identified conservatives and is outperforming President Obama by 12 points in the conservative “T” of central Pa.Ironically, Siena College released their poll yesterday that shows Casey leading Smith by 9 points, which is a lot better than the Quinnipac poll that showed Casey beating Smith by 6 released last month:
The poll shows Smith ahead in Allegheny County, near his southwest Pa. geographic base, 54 percent to 44. Meanwhile, Casey leads in northeast Pa. and Philadelphia by wide margins.
SP&R surveyed 725 likely Pa. voters from Oct. 4-6 via live telephone interviews (defined as likely by their having voted in at least one the general election in 2008, 2009, 2010 or 2011 and new voters registered since November 2011). The margin of error is plus or minus 3.7 percent.
This firm’s polls have consistently shown Republicans Smith and Mitt Romney performing above their average in other surveys, something SP&R pollster James Lee attributes to differing sample selection methods.
“Interviews are closely monitored to ensure a representative sample of Pennsylvania’s electorate is achieved based on party, geography, gender, age and other demographics; results are sometimes statistically weighted,” the firm wrote in its description of methodology. - Politics PA, 10/10/12
Casey has 44 percent of the vote to Smith's 35 percent, according to a Siena College Research Institute poll. Sixteen percent of voters remain undecided a month prior to Election Day. - National Journal, 10/9/12David Nir has pointed out that Susquehanna is the only polling firm showing the race to be tighter and closer. The only other poll to come close was Quinnipac's poll from last month showing Casey leading by 6.
Normally, I would brush off Susquehanna's poll because it's a blatant Republican poll who's methodology is based on voter turn in PA resembling more like 2004 than 2008 where John Kerry won Pennsylvania by a 2 point lead than President Obama's in 2008. The other thing to notice too is Susquehanna is oversampling older voters that are in the 60+ age range:
2012: OLDER THAN 2010?Gourevitch also offers this note in response to today's Susquehanna poll:
I included the midterm data in the charts above to give an idea about what might be an extraordinarily high percentage of seniors (or low percentage of 18-29-year-olds) in 2012. It is a fairly safe assumption that the 2012 electorate will be higher turnout and younger than the 2010 midterm electorate. Put another way, there is no historical precedent that 2012 will be older and lower turnout than 2010.
Yet a quick tour through some recent public polls suggests many public pollsters are producing samples that are predicting the virtually impossible -- and in some cases showing turnout estimates that are even older than the 2010 midterms. Some examples are as follows:
The mid-September CBS/NYT/Quinnipiac survey in Colorado put the share of seniors 65+ in their poll at 36 percent -- 15 points above the Census' 2010 estimate and 20 points above their 2008 estimate. On the same day, they released polling in Virginia showing seniors at 23 percent and Wisconsin at 25 percent (still too old for those states but much closer to reality). Their conclusion was Colorado was a tighter race than the other two states. But there is reason to doubt that conclusion given the Colorado poll's age distribution and the fact that the Colorado poll showed Romney leading seniors by 10 points but trailing among those 18-49 by nine points.
A September poll in Pennsylvania by Susquehanna Polling and Research put Obama up by just two points -- a significant outlier compared to other results released at the same time. That poll had 18- to 29-year-olds at 7 percent. But the Census voting study data in Pennsylvania put 18- to 29-year-olds at 19 percent in 2008 and 11 percent in 2010. Estimating 18- to 29-year-olds at 7 percent of the electorate suggests that youth share of turnout in 2012 will be even lower than in 2010. - Nick Gourevitch for Huffington Post, 10/9/12
NOTE: Both Susquehanna and Foster McCollum released data this week showing similar age distributions and similar slim Obama leads. It remains to be seen how both firm's more recent poll stacks up against other public polling in these states, so I have chosen to focus on the September data here where there are many more data points to compare.So there you have it. Republican polling firms are oversampling older voters to make races like the one between Casey and Smith look tighter. Yes, Smith has been outspending Casey in ads because Tea Party Tom Smith is a wealthy coal mine owner who's net worth is $60-$70 million. But the Casey name still holds strong, even in the more conservative central PA areas as the Susquehanna poll even shows.
Gourevitch also offers some insight why these polls are sampling more 60+ age voters:
CONCLUSIONSThe experts agree that Casey is the sure favorite to win this year and the Casey campaign isn't anticipating that he will win by the same large margin that he did in 2006 against Rick Santorum. But the Casey campaign has it's game plan set to help secure his re-election:
There are three possible explanations for why a poll might skew too old:
Cell Phone/Landline Distribution. The decision about the percentage of landlines and cell phones in the sample will have huge implications on the age distribution of a poll. According to an aggregation of nearly 15,000 interviews conducted by Pew over the last year and a half, calling random cell phone numbers would give you a sample that is 26 percent 18- to 29-years-old while calling random landline numbers would get you 7 percent 18- to 29-year-olds. That is an enormous difference and the way a pollster handles this decision has serious implications on age distributions. The problem is that there are no real standards in how to combine cell phone and landline data. On this topic, the editor of this page -- Mark Blumenthal -- said in a recent New York Magazine article said that "no one knows the right way to do this right now." Therefore, many pollsters are making somewhat arbitrary decisions about how to divide their samples that have a huge impact on age distributions.
Screening on enthusiasm. Some pollsters screen for likely voters based on enthusiasm based metrics like how closely voters are paying attention to an election. There is little doubt that younger voters score lower on these questions (although there is some evidence that younger voters are "late engagers" and will get more engaged in the final weeks of the campaign). A pollster that relies too heavily on engagement-based screening questions might screen out too many younger voters and produce an older sample.
Weighting data versus letting it "fall out." Some pollsters adjust for variations in age by weighting their data to known metrics. Other pollsters let the data "fall out" based on who answers their calls and their likely voter screening process. Others do something in between - allowing for some variation but restricting it from going too far. Whatever the decision, it has an impact on the age distribution.
The Pa. Democratic Party is very closely tied to team Casey. They share an office in Philadelphia, where Casey’s campaign is headquartered. Pa. Democratic Party trackers – not Casey campaign staff – film Smith at public events. The party’s Executive Director, Kevin Washo, is a former Casey staffer.
He said the party’s get out the vote effort is synchronised top to bottom, Casey included.
“We’re intimately involved in all facets of GOTV for everybody in all races,” Washo said, state level and federal alike. “We’re all rowing in the same direction.”
A Casey campaign spokesman declined to comment on the subject, saying that they did not want to disclose strategic information to Smith.
President Obama’s campaign does not comment on internal strategy.
Smith ran against the Republican party’s endorsed candidate for the nomination, so by necessity he had an independent grassroots organization. Now, his campaign works in tandem with the Romney team as well as the Pa. Republican Party. They share volunteers, and data, and coordinate on canvassing and phone banking, said Campaign Manager Jim Conroy.
But Smith also maintains a distinct presence on the ground. His campaign has 7 staffers charged with getting out the vote (4 directly, others through coalition activities). Casey has zero, according to several Democratic sources who spoke with PoliticsPA.
Does it matter? Only if Smith makes it very close. Generally, field activities make a difference on the margins, in races that poll within 4 points or fewer.
If the U.S. Senate race does come down to field in the final month of the campaign, it would be both difficult and urgent for Casey to direct last minute party resources to his areas of strength.
Obama’s campaign has about 50 offices spread around the state. However, the centerpiece to the President’s field strategy in Pa. is high turnout in Philadelphia.
That was the strategy behind Ed Rendell’s gubernatorial re-elect in 2006, too. The former Philly Mayor outpaced Casey by about 26,000 votes, around 7 percent of the Senator’s vote total in the City. Turnout in the Governor’s election was 1 percent higher than the U.S. Senate contest despite the race being lower on the ballot.
In other parts of the state, Casey’s piggyback approach has advantages. Rep. Mark Critz and his allies in western Pa. labor unions demonstrated during the primary that they can get blue collar Democrats to the polls, so Casey can count on benefiting from their efforts.
Casey unquestionably is still the favorite in the race, but he has reiterated time and again that he takes the race seriously. Take his half-a-dozen recent fundraising emails.
“My opponent has pledged to spend $20 million of his own fortune to win this fall – and he’s already funded his campaign to the tune of at least $7 million worth of false ads attacking my record,” he wrote.
“With Tom Smith readying his checkbook to fund a barrage of false attacks to distract from his Tea Party record, it’s going to take a massive pouring of support to ensure Bob gets his message out to Pennsylvanian voters,” wrote his Campaign Manager.
Smith is a former coal company owner and is very wealthy. He’s funded the bulk of his campaign thus far, probably in the range of $10 million to date. That will be apparent on the release of his 3rd quarter fundraising report no later than Oct. 15. An additional $10 million more for the final month.
The downside to being a strong favorite, as he has been the entire race, is that national donors and PACs are spending their resources boosting other Democrats in the country.
If the race gets close, down to a few thousand votes, Casey could enter the home stretch without a mechanism in place to control his destiny.
Update: Ana Puig, the Pa. Director of FreedomWorks, noted that her organization has also been actively engaged in the grassroots effort for Smith.
“We have, so far, distributed over 40K yard signs, 100K door hangers, 100k palm cards and bumper stickers. We just put in another huge order and are now also distributing three different kinds of signs and t-shirts,” she wrote to PoliticsPA. ”We have set up over 60 distribution centers all over the state to distribute all of our materials via door knocking, hitting train stations and church parking lots, etc. we also have an online phone banking for this race and two offices.”
FreedomWorks and its Tea Party-affiliated PAC have spent about $200,000 on Smith’s behalf so far. - Politics PA, 10/4/12
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Tea Party Tom Smith has been endorsed by the Tea Party Express and FreedomWorks whereas Senator Casey has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO and League Of Conservation Voters. Here's a friendly remind about who Tom Smith is:
Now here's a nice reminder who Senator Casey is, a fighter for the middle class:
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Again, Pennsylvania already has one tea bagger Senator, Pat Toomey (R), does the Keystone State really need two tea baggers? I didn't think so. A win for Casey is a win for the middle class:
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