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Coakley's Leaked Poll Numbers

Topics: Martha Coakley , Massachusetts , Scott Brown

One of the odd aspects of last week of the Massachusetts Senate campaign is the way Coakley "internal" polling numbers have leaked on a near daily basis, through blogger Steve Kornacki and others. Wednesday night, according to Kornacki, the Coakley campaign's own polling showed her "barely ahead, 46 to 44 percent." Thursday night's results showed her trailing, 47 to 44 percent, and conservative columnist Byron York added a quote from an unnamed but "well-connected Democratic strategist" who "heard" that "in the last two days the bottom has fallen out of her poll numbers." Then on Friday night, again according to Kornacki, Brown was ahead by just two points on Coakley's poll (47% to 45%), and a three-day average of the results from Wednesday through Friday night gave Brown the same two-point lead (47% to 45%).

These leaks produced some snickering: Via Twitter, PPP's Tom Jensen pronounced the leaks the "sign of a highly undisciplined campaign." Jay Cost asked "how lame is the Coakley campaign" to leak their internal tracking polls "EVERY DAY?" And a very smart reader emailed this morning with the observation that leaks mark Coakley's campaign "more undisciplined than a 4 year old at K-mart on a sugar high."

Let me be clear: The conclusion that Coakley's campaign -- her staff or the consultants she retains -- is responsible for these leaks is probably unfair and a bit naive. They were likely not the source.

Now, alas, I do not have any inside information and have not been the recipient of any such leaks (really, old consultant comrades, where is the love?). But I can say from my own experience as a Democratic campaign pollster that it's fairly standard practice for a Senate campaign like Coakley's to share their daily tracking results with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), the White House political office and EMILY's List. It's really unimaginable that Coakely, or any other "disciplined" campaign in their position, would not. Also, either directly or through these organizations, the same are almost certainly going to the labor groups and other interests conducting their own campaigns on Coakley's behalf. Each of those organizations has its own pollsters, media and direct mail consultants. So the leaks could have come from damn near any "well connected strategist" in Washington.

The incentive to leak would be especially high for those who have parachuted in to help in the final week, those with great incentive lay the groundwork to take credit should Coakley "come from behind" to win. Consider that these incentives are even greater for the White House. Obama really had no choice but to come to Massachusetts to Coakley's aid (as he is doing today). A Coakley loss will be catastrophic for Obama's legislative agenda, and the White House will take some of the blame either way. So a mid-week decision to come to her assistance creates huge incentive to leak these numbers. Again, if she loses, well, the bottom had already "fallen out." If she wins, they claim credit for turning things around.

Now all of this probably speaks to a breakdown in team play or the sort of ugly finger pointing that always seems to accompany defeat. For those surprised by the wide dissemination of "internal" Coakley polling data, consider that in the fall of 2008, the Obama campaign shared polling numbers and a whole lot more on a daily consultant conference calls whose participants (I'm told) close to a hundred. Nothing of significance leaked from those calls before Election Day. One way or another, Martha Coakely and her campaign are worthy of much criticism, but piling on over these leaks is unfair.

By the way, it's more than a little crazy to be paying much attention to the random zigs and zags apparent in the relatively small one-night samples used in internal campaign polling. I certainly hope that the pollsters of record are not making decisions or recommendations on the basis of anything but the three-night rolling averages.

 

Comments
Farleftandproud:

Coakley took the race for granted and if she loses will go down as the most pathetic loss in our history as a party.

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Another view of this. The leaking could definitely be strategic. Virtually everyone who knows Mass. believes that the route to a Coakley victory is to get under-enthusiastic Dem voters out to the polls. The way to do that is to scare them that Brown has a lead in the polls, and while many lazy Dem voters may simply not believe public polls, they certainly would believe Coakley's internal polls.

It may have been purposeful to gin up the lazy Dems and get them to the polls on Tuesday.

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Vicente Duque:


Thanks for Informations Mr Blumenthal - Extremely Interesting

Obama to stump for Coakley

This may be an Excellent Political Strategy for Obama, even if Coakley loses the election. Why ???

Because Obama needs to project and Image of Decisiveness, of Political Courage and Political Audacity. He needs to project and image of Political Hardness, Toughness, Work and Youth, not of a lukewarm or political lazy president.

I am an ignorant in the politics of the State of Massachusetts, however I guess Martha Coakley MAY BE a wonderful and stupendous senator, but she may have failed a little as campaigner, or have some little gaffes, she is somewhat rookie in a game of tough and harsh people.

These are my guesses, right or wrong and I want to hear more about this subject.

Youth, Minorities, Politics :

Milenials.com

Vicente Duque

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poughies:

Comment to the below... Then why the heck are they leaking it to Steve Kornacki, who in all fairness to him, is no Adam Nagourney or Chuck todd? And why leak it to a New York reporter, who doesn't even write for the paper everyday? If the idea was to be strategic, you leak it to a Boston reporter (preferably Globe). I'm afraid you greatly overestimate the strategic abilities of the Coakley campaign.

"Another view of this. The leaking could definitely be strategic. Virtually everyone who knows Mass. believes that the route to a Coakley victory is to get under-enthusiastic Dem voters out to the polls. The way to do that is to scare them that Brown has a lead in the polls, and while many lazy Dem voters may simply not believe public polls, they certainly would believe Coakley's internal polls.

It may have been purposeful to gin up the lazy Dems and get them to the polls on Tuesday."

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Vicente Duque:

Obama was effective stumping for Martha Coakley in Boston, on Sunday.
I watched the speech on Fox News.
It was the right decision of Mr Obama, to work for Coakley, He needs to project Strength, Decision, Leadership, and that is exactly what he did this afternoon.

Even if Coakley loses, Obama wins in public Image. A president doesn't need to win in all districts or elections. But nobody is going to say that Obama is Lazy, Indifferent, egoist, careless, not hard working and not caring for Projects, Bills and Ideas ( Health Care, etc... )

Obama used one of his best strengths : Oratory ( which is part of Poetry, Literature and ART )and I am very sure that Coakley is going to improve in polls.

People may dislike Obama's Policies but nobody should be so mean as to deny the intelligence and stamina of the President.

Raciality.com

Vicente Duque

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jim:

Mr. Duque:

I also watched the President and thought he was in his best form, which is very good.

People LIKE him, and that is so easy to understand.

If Coakley wins people will credit it to Obama.
If she loses, most people, in MA at least, will blame it on her.

The latest polls seem to show that nationwide more people disapprove than approve of his handling of each and every domestic issue, especially health care. Only with respect to fighting terrorism and his Afghanistan policy does approval outweigh disapproval.

There is no small irony in this, in that these were always the last reservoirs of approval for the hapless George W. Bush.

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demophoenix:

nelcon1551:

Yes, of course, the leaking could be strategic. It is also common, as Mark points out, and smart in this case, whether the source is the campaign or some related operative. Turnout is key in all special elections, and if you can't motivate turnout through positive appeals, then you do it by scaring voters. Nothing new or wrong about it.

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@nelcon1551 this is unrealistic; the number of voters in MA or anywhere with the sophistication to understand the distinction between internal and published polls, or to distinguish between their reliability, is not enough to move the needle.

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