Update – Here’s the link to the Sentinel story I did on this issue.
Having spent most of the day on the phone with other political reporters, independent experts and various other interested parties, I think it’s safe to say the Moran poll done by Public Opinion Strategies is on the level. A full story will be in the Sentinel tomorrow, but here’s the gist of it.
First, no reputable polling firm in their right mind is going to push a push poll as accurate – not one that wants to stay in business at least. While polling is far from an exact science, there are ways to gauge accuracy. The Moran poll had a more than adequate sample size (500), and the methodology, which averaged out the last three GOP Kansas primaries, was solid.
However, not having seen the poll, I’m taking independent observers like Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report and Mark Blumenthal of Pollster.com at their word. Given neither has any connection with either Public Opinion Strategies or the Moran campaign, I’m inclined to believe them.
Second, the Tiahrt campaign could not give me the nature of the “multiple reports” mentioned in their press release, or even a number to go with those reports. So, we really don’t know anything from that camp other than they believe it happened. Granted, push polling is pretty subjective, and maybe some people did feel the questions were leading. However, the lack of detail paired with the strong accusations leveled in the press release just don’t play out.
What is surprising is the appearance of a response at all. Where I come from, you don’t go out of your way to draw this much attention to your opponent. Draw distinctions? Yes. Contrast platforms? Absolutely. However, with the heat coming from the Tiahrt campaign on this issue (which to put it in perspective is a campaign commissioned poll three months out from the election) the result is obvious. If voters didn’t know Moran was up before, they do now. Plus, they saw an ugly side to the Tiahrt campaign as well.
If the Tiahrt campaign had something solid to back their press release up – like supporters coming forward, or even the number of calls they received – this would be different. When I was talking to Duffy today, she made a good point. Usually when campaigns hear about a poll, and if one of their supporters gets a call, they encourage them to take notes on the kind of questions being asked. That obviously didn’t happen. The Tiahrt release and response was long on strong accusation and short on proof. It makes no sense to bring a big gun to the table and not bother to load it. That’s what happened here.
The worst thing about this whole episode is it demonstrates just how ugly this race is going to get. Voters want to vote for something, not against things. Granted, the winner of this primary can probably run to November on cruise control, but hissy fits like these (let’s call it what it is) leave a bad taste in voters mouths. They don’t move the chains down field. They don’t go into anything that really matters to the electorate. In the end, voters just don’t care who went negative first, or why. They just see two adults behaving like kids fighting over who gets to play in the sandbox.
Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail, even in the upcoming summer heat.