Mark Blumenthal | October 28, 2006
Topics: 2006 , The 2006 Race
Alert reader GS and AAPOR colleague CP alerted me to an intriguing (and somewhat contentious) NPR interview of chief Republican strategist Karl Rove conducted last Tuesday by correspondent Robert Siegel. Whatever one might think about Rove's spin, his comments remind us that for all the data we have gathered here on Pollster.com, the party strategists have their own flow of data that remains hidden from public view.
According to the transcript, the interview kicks off with Rove, "responding to a question about public polls and analysis predicting a Republican loss in November:"
KARL ROVE: I see several things; first, unlike the general public, I'm allowed to see the polls on the individual races and after all this does come down to individual contests between individual candidates. Second of all, I see the individual spending reports and contribution reports. For example at the end of August in 30 of the most competitive races in the country, the house races, the Republicans had 33 million cash on hand and Democrats had just over 14 million.
Siegel asked next about television advertising and their content. Then he came back to the topic of polls.
SIEGEL: We are in the home stretch though and many would consider you on the optimistic end of realism about...
ROVE: Not that you would be exhibiting a bias or anything like that, you're just making a comment, right?
SIEGEL: I'm looking at all the same polls that you are looking at.
ROVE: No, you are not, no you're not, no you're not, you're not. I'm looking at 68 polls a week [for candidates for the US House and US Senate, and Governor.]** You may be looking at 4 or 5 public polls a week that talk about attitudes nationally but that do not impact the outcome of individual races.
SIEGEL: If you could name races between, certainly Senate races, all...
ROVE: Like the poll today that showing Corker's ahead in Tennessee or the poll showing Allen is pulling away in the Virginia Senate race.
SIEGEL: Leading Webb, in Virginia, yea...
ROVE: Yeah, exactly.
SIEGEL: ...you've seen the DeWine race and the Santorum race and, I don't want to...you call [the] races.
ROVE: I'm looking at all of these Robert and adding them up. I add up to a Republican Senate and Republican House. You may end up with a different math but you are entitled to your math and I'm entitled to THE math.
SIEGEL: I don't know if we're entitled to a different math but your...
ROVE: I said THE math.
Now whatever one thinks of Rove's spin -- and I'm certainly dubious, at least with respect to the House -- he is probably not exaggerating the number of polls he sees a week in statewide and congressional races. The Republican campaign committees are likely conducting weekly tracking polls in at least a dozen competitive Senate races and 30 or more House contests. They have also probably fielded survey less frequently over the last month in another 40 to 50 less competitive House races to check their status. On top of that, many individual campaigns are sharing their own internal tracking polls privately with Rove and their national party.
The Democratic campaigns and the Democratic campaign committees have a similar research programs underway (and interests disclosed: my partners at Bennett, Petts & Blumenthal conduct some of the internal tracking polls for the DCCC and DSCC).
If you wanted to build the a true "dream" polling scorecard for the House, you would combine Rove's spreadsheet with the counterpart maintained by Rahm Emmanuel at the DCCC. The numbers in that combined scorecard spreadsheet would represent the collective efforts of the most pollsters with by far the most experience measuring preferences at the Congressional District level.
We cannot see that data, unfortunately, but we might be able to judge Rove's spin by the number of partisan polls that have been publicly released by the campaigns and party committees. Of the polls in our House database, 43 of the partisan polls released since Labor Day came from Democrats, only 11 from Republicans.
I am not giving away any trade secrets in pointing out that campaigns and party committees release internal polls only when they show good news for their candidates. Bad news rarely sees the light of day. If Rove's internal polls really add up to a "Republican House," it is hard to imagine we would not see more Republican polls showing it.
**I revised the "rush transcript" posted on NPR.org (also characterized as "transcribed excerpts") to include the discussion between Siegel and Rove on the races in Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio and Pennsylvania. The transcript omits that exchange and instead substitutes the phrase in brackets.
Correction: The original version of this post incorrectly reported the number of partisan polls released since Labor Day in our database as 47 from Democrats and 12 from Republicans. Apologies for the error.