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If you have perused our awesome new Poll Explorer feature, you already know that the last few days have brought some examples of better-than-average polling news for the Democrats.

For the first time in a very long time, the Democratic nominee has been shown in the lead in polls in gubernatorial races in Arkansas and Michigan. Marquette confirmed their earlier poll showing that the Democrats have a very real shot at knocking off Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin. Republicans also had to be a bit surprised to see that Rasmussen gave Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor the slightest of leads over Tom Cotton in Arkansas, a race that most GOPers have been pretty confident about.

But maybe the banner headline was a double whammy of data that came out of the heartland. In our inaugural Polling Wrap of the cycle on Tuesday, we talked about how the release of internal polls can often drop us hints about the relative strengths of the parties heading into an election. In the case of Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, however, his internal poll dump, coming in the immediate wake of a SUSA poll showing him losing to Democrat Paul Davis by a fair margin, raised more questions than it answered.

Before we look at Brownback's plight, however, let's grab the numbers, in the form of all the general election polls released to the public in the last three days (Aug 26-28):

AR-Sen (Rasmussen): Sen. Mark Pryor (D) 44, Tom Cotton (R) 43

IA-Sen (PPP): Bruce Braley (D) 41, Joni Ernst (R) 40

IA-Sen (Suffolk): Bruce Braley (D) 40, Joni Ernst (R) 40

KS-Sen (SurveyUSA): Sen. Pat Roberts (R) 37, Chad Taylor (D) 32, Greg Orman (I) 20

ME-Sen (PPP for Shenna Bellows): Sen. Susan Collins (R) 57, Shenna Bellows (D) 33

MI-Sen (EPIC-MRA): Gary Peters (D) 45, Terri Land (R) 39

MI-Sen (Mitchell Research): Gary Peters (D) 46, Terri Land (R) 44

AK-Gov (Rasmussen): Gov. Sean Parnell (R) 47, Byron Mallott (D) 36

AZ-Gov (PPP for Progress Now Arizona): Doug Ducey (R) 35, Fred DuVal (D) 35, Barry Hess (Lib) 12

AR-Gov (Rasmussen): Mike Ross (D) 46, Asa Hutchinson (R) 44

IA-Gov (PPP): Gov. Terry Branstad (R) 48, Jack Hatch (D) 35

IA-Gov (Suffolk): Gov. Terry Branstad (R) 47, Jack Hatch (D) 35

KS-Gov (Cole Hargrave Snodgrass for Brownback): Gov. Sam Brownback (R) 43, Paul Davis (D) 42

KS-Gov (SurveyUSA): Paul Davis (D) 48, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) 40, Keen Umbehr (Lib) 5

MA-Gov (Social Sphere): Charlie Baker (R) 38, Martha Coakley (D) 37

MA-Gov (Social Sphere): Charlie Baker (R) 37, Steve Grossman (D) 33

MA-Gov (Social Sphere): Charlie Baker (R) 44, Don Berwick (D) 19

MI-Gov (EPIC-MRA): Mark Schauer (D) 45, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) 43

MI-Gov (Mitchell Research): Gov. Rick Snyder (R) 47, Mark Schauer (D) 46

PA-Gov (Franklin & Marshall): Tom Wolf (D) 49, Gov. Tom Corbett (R) 24

SC-Gov (Rasmussen): Gov. Nikki Haley (R) 51, Vincent Sheheen (D) 36

WI-Gov (Marquette): Mary Burke (D) 49, Gov. Scott Walker (D) 47

No House polling was conducted in the past several days.

A few thoughts, as always, await you just past the jump ...

Releasing internal data in the wake of a bad public poll is pretty old hat in the campaign game. It is an attempt, transparent though it might be, to change the narrative after the public gets wind of a survey that makes your candidate's prospects look bleak. So, the fact that Team Brownback hit the send button on their recent internal poll in the immediate wake of the SUSA poll showing them down eight points to Democrat Paul Davis was not an unprecedented move.

But it also might not have been a great move, either.

For one thing, let's look at the topline: Brownback 43, Davis 42. It is not exactly a supreme sign of confidence to release a poll making the following essential argument:

That poll showing us losing?! Total bullcrap, people. Look at THIS poll. We are ahead! By ... um ... a single point. Victory is around the corner!"
Ultimately, one has to wonder if Brownback was better off sitting on that particular poll. A one-point lead in his own polling did absolutely nothing to quell the notion that he was in deep, deep trouble.

Another reason why this wasn't the swiftest of moves was the polling memo itself, which was wholly unconvincing. Did you know that Davis is little known? And that Obama is unloved in Kansas? Even if both of those things are true (and there is no reason to believe that they are not), an argument can be made that this actually makes Brownback look worse. Another way to frame that:

So, Governor Brownback, you are the Republican governor of a red state where President Obama is pretty much loathed. And your own polling shows you only up by a single point over a guy you are basically calling out as a Some Dude?! How much must you be reviled for that to be the case?!
What's more: this poll had a defining characteristic you don't often see in the game. It was weighted by political party. All polls with weighting are based, at least in small part, on the assumptions of pollsters. For the last two cycles, for example, Gallup messed the bed by assuming in their polls that the electorate was going to be a good deal more white than the actual electorate turned out to be.

But weighting by partisan identification adds an entirely new level of potential mischief, because other factors upon which pollsters typically weight polls (gender, race, age) are not nearly as fluid as political party identification. Republicans learned that the hard way in 2012, when the unskewing phenomenon was based on a nearly uniform belief that pollsters were erring by assuming a greater proportion of Democrats would turn out at the polls than Republicans. As it turned out, the pollsters were right and the "unskewers" were wrong. A lot of Republicans had redefined themselves as Independents, which led to Romney doing better with Independents than McCain, but still losing because only 32 percent of the electorate thought of themselves as Republicans.

What assumptions did Brownback's pollsters make regarding the Kansas electorate? Perhaps they modeled it after 2010, but that's awfully optimistic—it's going to skew things (pardon the use of that particular word) by assuming the electorate will mimic the best Republican electoral cycle in generations.

One thing is for certain: they were highly unlikely to have been bullish on Democratic participation. Which is just one more reason why that poll actually made it easier to assume that Brownback is in genuine peril in ruby-red Kansas, rather than alleviating any Republican fears about his potential ouster.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Elections on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 05:30 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  You think there is no "wave" factor at all (0+ / 0-)

    in this coming election?

    Perhaps they modeled it after 2010, but that's awfully optimistic
    Why?  The level of sentiment seems to me to be pretty much the same.

    Still..  a one point lead using a weighting modeled after 2010 is pretty pathetic.

  •  a little question (0+ / 0-)

    the polling results for statewide elected offices will not be included? it would be very interesting, and it add not too much work

  •  Those Massachusetts numbers (7+ / 0-)

    are a little disconcerting. Why is Republican Charlie Baker leading all Democratic contenders in a state where Democrats outnumber Republicans signficantly?

    If these numbers are to be believed, it seems odd to me that Martha Coakley seems to be...losing the election gets closer. What's up with that?

    •  Tradition. Mass often elects GOP governors... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      jrooth, wdrath, GleninCA

      There were 4 GOP governors prior to Patrick. They strike a very moderate, pro-economy cord with voters.

      •  Very true. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        wdrath, alasmoses

        Voters also know that the Gov(R) can't do anything crazy because the lege is dominated by dems.

        But I do expect the numbers to improve for us once the primary is out of the way. And look how many undecideds there are: between a quarter and a third of the electorate. They are likely to break our way (Blue state). Sure the R can win but there is no need to panic just yet; a competent campaign (Yes, I'm looking at you Coakley) should be able to pull this off.

        I ride the wild horse .

        by BelgianBastard on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 08:25:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  A naive thought but ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    wouldn't partisan ID of the eventual voters pretty much align precisely with the results?

    That is, if you assume 40-20-40 R-I-D distribution, and that independents will break Republican because so many of them are Republicans embarrassed to admit it in public, you're assuming the Republican will win.

    Ergo, to assume any partisan ID ratio in the final turnout is to assume the final result; you are putting in the answer a priori, juggling the numbers a little, and taking that answer back out.

    Purity is for primaries; in the general, our worst are better than their best.

    by blue aardvark on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 06:48:09 AM PDT

  •  IA - Sen (7+ / 0-)

    Lots of Democratic groups have been running ads attacking Phoney Joni Ernst's record on things like the minimum wage and her ties to the Kochs; for some reason no one that I've seen has any ads up about her hostility to birth control manifest in her call for a Personhood Amendment, or her buying into the far-right's Agenda 21 conspiracy ideas, nor has either any ad or the Braley campaign publicly challenged her on whether she stands with Rep. Steve King on all his whacky ideas.  Those ideas play well in the rural population of western Iowa, where King and Ernst are from, but not so well in the growing metro areas elsewhere in the state.

    If the Democrats and Braley want to win this, they need to hit Ernst and hit her hard on her ties to crazy policy ideas and force her to say whether she stands with King or not.  So far, they've allowed her to run endless positive ads about herself, where with a cloying voice and fake-looking smile, she talks about her rural roots, family and religious values, and her National Guard service.  

    I'm beginning to wonder whether Braley's heart is in this.

    •  Same with Doug Ducey-R candidate for AZ (5+ / 0-)

      governor. He was endorsed by Sheriff Joe Arpaio. We should run photos of the two and canvas every Latino neighborhood in the state.

      It is ridiculous to pretend that firing teachers based on student test scores, starting charter schools, giving out vouchers or implementing merit pay will overcome the challenges facing a child living in poverty. -Jersey Jazzman

      by Desert Rose on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 07:17:17 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  IA - Sen (0+ / 0-)

      Campaigns are not "everything at all times."  So, some speculation from someone who used to live in Iowa and close by in South Dakota and who pays attention to campaign strategies.  
      1. Agenda 21 -- anyone who knows about this probably already has a well-defined partisan take on Ms. Ernst's flirtation / affair / marriage to the idea.  Anyone who doesn't isn't going to learn enough in a 30-second ad (even if repeated frequently) to strongly sway their opinion.  
      2.  Personhood Amendment -- this is a bit more likely, as Iowa has had debates over this since at least 2010.  But when should it drop into the campaign?  Early in the summer, now, or close to the election.  I'm betting that groups and the campaign will ramp up this line of attack MUCH closer to the election, when more people are paying attention.
      3. Steve King.  The connection will be made clearly as King comes out to campaign on her behalf.  Why advertise if the link will be plain?

      Someone with more recent ties to Iowa or more extensive experience with campaigns may have different takes. I'd be interested to hear them.

  •  hit her hard on her ties to crazy policy ideas (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Desert Rose, bear83, NWTerriD, poleshifter

    Democrats in general are unable or unwilling to take advantage of the opportunities that GOPers hand them.

    Nope, the normal Democratic instinct is to bring a block of soft tofu to a knife fight.

  •  Whow! I take solace in these results, given ... (0+ / 0-)

    ... the resounding media meme that Republicans will run the election table in 2014 amidst disaffection with Obama, Congress and the cruel world in general.

    I'm a naïf on campaign polling and strategy, but it see a lot of hope in races polling this close at the end of August.

    2014 is HERE. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

    by TRPChicago on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 07:35:00 AM PDT

    •  I never understand (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      why dissatisfaction with R's in Congress, which is far more severe than dissatisfaction with Obama, is given such short shrift by the pundit class.

      Someone, I think it might have been Chuck Todd, had my mouth hanging agape with disbelief for about 20 seconds a few weeks ago, when he said essentially that the negative opinion of Rs in Congress is so strong that it might cause problems for the Rs in an election that should be theirs because of Obama's low approval ratings.

      I was thinking, "What? Why don't you say Obama's low approval ratings might be enough to cause problems for the Dems in an election that should be theirs because of the national contempt toward the Rs in Congress?" Why treat the presidential approval rating as the core point, and feelings about Congress as an optional add-on, rather than the reverse, when it's a Congressional election?

      "These are not candidates. These are the empty stand-ins for lobbyists' policies to be legislated later." - Chimpy, 9/24/10

      by NWTerriD on Fri Aug 29, 2014 at 09:24:50 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  KS-SOS-- Kobach TIED (5+ / 0-)

    Also note- Kris Kobach, the Kansas SOS who is responsible for some of the most vile anti-immigrant legislation nationally, is TIED w/his Democratic (former Republican) opponent, Jean Schodorf:

    She has released her tax return and Kobach REFUSES to release his - as his work for other states has taken him away from KS quite a bit - and that has become an issue in this race.

    She could actually pull this off.

  •  KS-Sen (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Chad Taylor needs to fire all his ammo at Pat Roberts and then at the last minute, drop out and give his support to Orman.  He'd clear 50+ if that were the case.

    Team Blue can't win in KS.  BUT we can deny the GOP a win.  An independent can conceivably hold ground in Kansas; a Democrat just can't.  The best long-term strategy is to give them an independent that will guide them at least a little away from the Republican brand.

    More importantly, if Orman caucuses with the Democrats, it would possibly prevent a shift to the GOP in the Senate.  With judicial confirmations (most importantly a SCOTUS nomination possibly coming around the bend) its all that much more important that we deny the GOP a win in deep-red Kansas.

  •  Michigan Derpocrats (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    It would really be nice if my fellow Democrats on this pleasant peninsula would show up and vote for once this November so we aren't stuck with Terri and Rick. I'm betting that they'll stay home as usual sighing wistfully while making needlepoint portraits of Ralph Nader, but I'd love to be wrong.

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