February 8, 2006

Poll: Chafee's Lead Over Dems Narrows III

Carroll Andrew Morse

I think the clearest interpretation of the February 2006 Brown University/Taubman Center Senate poll results comes not from comparing them to the September 2005 poll, but to the June 2005 poll.

1. When you compare this poll results to the results from June, Matt Brown appears to be the only candidate building support amongst the general population, going from 29% to 36% against Senator Chafee, and 40% to 47% versus Mayor Laffey. Chafee and Laffey each lost 6% versus Brown, while in any matchup involving Sheldon Whitehouse; Whitehouse, Chafee, and Laffey all show losses between 1% and 3%.

2. The number of most concern to the Laffey campaign should not be the gap between himself and his Democratic challengers, but the fact that his support has been flat, or worse, since he announced his candidacy. Again, comparing to June 2005, Laffey has gone from 30% to 24% versus Brown (probably involving a real loss) and from 32% to 29% against Whitehouse (possibly involving a strong degree of statistical fluctuation; Whitehouse doesn’t show a matching gain.)

The counter-argument, which is legitimate, is that Mayor Laffey cannot assume victory in the primary before campaigning for the general election. Still, I think the message here is while Mayor Laffey’s ground campaign may be strong, the air-campaign (broadcast media) so far hasn’t been convincing to independent Rhode Islanders.

3. The Chafee campaign’s problem, on the other hand, is the closing gap between himself and Matt Brown. Chafee only leads Brown by 2%, within the poll’s margin of error. If Chafee falls behind, I don’t see how the he can mount an effective come-from-behind general election candidacy. The "I’ll keep the Senate in Republican hands" message won’t work in the general and the “I’ll bring lots of pork back to Rhode Island” is not going to be popular this election cycle. Once he falls behind one or both of the Democrats, what does Senator Chafee campaign on to regain the lead?

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>Once he falls behind one or both of the Democrats, what does Senator Chafee campaign on to regain the lead?

A horseshoe in every pot!

Posted by: Tom W at February 8, 2006 6:54 PM

Laffey's number are indicative of what I've been saying all along. He can't win a general election in RI. Funny, I expected him to pick up a 5-10 points, but instead he is losing ground.

The only thing he has accomplished is to weaken the Republican general election candidate, Chafee.

Posted by: Anthony at February 8, 2006 8:09 PM

West's polls always lean left, just look at the history people. These polls WAY over sample liberal dems, which is why Chafee is favored.

This is just fact.

PS. Dems came over to vote for Carcieri in 2002 because he cast himself as a reformer, well, Laffey is a reformer, and the Reagan democrats will come.

Posted by: Carl Smith at February 8, 2006 10:56 PM

It couldn't be more telling that this pollster/prof is unwilling to produce numbers on Laffey/Chafee yet produces numbers on the dems' primary and on potential general election match-ups. The inference is that turn-out composition factors in the repub primary are too hard to predict and thus sample for - so why bother?

Well - if West isn't able to muster the intellectual energy to make a reasonable attempt at sampling the GOP primary, then the credibility of the whole polling effort goes right out the window.

And if the GOP primary is that hard to gauge, then it must involve turn-out factors that will impact the general as well. Given Laffey's historical ability to galvanize the party's voters and bring in new voters, my guess is that these underlying factors will prove positive to Laffey and the RI GOP.

Posted by: bountyhunter at February 9, 2006 12:13 AM

The specific methodology (or lack thereof)used for this poll is probably suspect. West says the pool of Republican voters is too small to allow for an accurate reading on the Republican primary, yet he was willing to sample only 160 voters in the Langevin district with a "theoretical" margin of error of seven points.

This guy West is almost certainly biasing the sample towards democrats. Also, any so-called "poll" with 30% undecided tells me nothing. Any "poll" conducted more than two weeks before the election means very little. Any poll that can't effectively capture Republicans and Independents means nothing. This stuff is pure self-aggrandizement for West - and it is working well in that vein.

Posted by: bountyhunter at February 9, 2006 8:52 AM

Chafee is up the creek at 40%. He is an incumbent whose campaign has no rudder and he's lost the paddle as well. Laffey has momentum because of a strong message that resonates with ordinary people. Laffey has no where to go but up. When his campaign gets into full gear, no one will be able to keep pace. Not even me!

Beep Beep

Chafee's going down!

Posted by: roadrunner at February 9, 2006 12:56 PM

Do you know that a major study shows that 80% of undecideds vote against the incumbent, with only a few well-documented exceptions. They are not "undecided" in general - they are undecided with respect to the incumbent, which is not good news if you are the incumbent.

Chafee, as the incumbent, needs at least 60% if undecideds are in the 10-15% range (and counting that highly-misused margin of error factor). Given the whopping level of undecideds in this poll, the favorite needs overwhelming margins for it to mean anything. 40% means a ticket back to Alberta, for Lincoln.

Posted by: bountyhunter at February 9, 2006 4:15 PM

Laffey and The Club for Oafs are
way too far out on the right wing of
the republican party to sit well in
RI. In the general election he'd be
lucky to get 25%.

Posted by: photoguy at February 11, 2006 12:40 AM

The recent Brown University Taubman Center Public Opinion Poll confirms two important things regarding the 2006 Senate Race in Rhode Island. First: Senator Lincoln Chafee continues to lead all challengers and is the only Republican who can win the general election.

Second: Despite significant financial backing from the Club for Growth the t message of Steve Laffey has failed to resonate with most Rhode Islanders.

Journalist and leading political analysts continue to cite the polls findings as evidence that despite a media blitz on his behalf, Steve Laffey has actually lost valuable ground to Democratic challengers. The writing is on the wall, a vote for Laffey in the primary is a vote for the Democrats. Here’s the proof:

1.) Chafee is the Only Republican Who Can Win:

The Providence Business News reported that “Carcieri, Chafee lead opponents in election survey.” (Providence Business News, 2/8/06)

“On the Republican side, West said, the poll demonstrates that Chafee is ‘a much better general election candidate’ than Laffey ‘whose numbers didn't move at all’ despite a burst of recent TV ads and mailings, on his behalf, by the conservative, Washington, D.C.-based Club for Growth. Said [Darrell] West: ‘That's the good news for Chafee.’ (Providence Journal, 2/9/06).

Channel 10 reported that “the poll showed Laffey weak against potential Democratic contenders. He scored only 24 percent against Brown's 47 percent, and 29 percent versus Whitehouse's 44 percent.”

"Laffey has been on the air with TV ads, The Club for Growth has been advertising on his behalf. But he has not gotten any bump out of that, which is a stark contrast with Matt Brown," [Darrell] West said.” (Channel 10, 2/8/06)

In analyzing the Poll, Providence Journal reporter Kathy Gregg wrote, “But his latest poll indicated that either Democrat could easily defeat Laffey: Whitehouse by 44 percent to 29 percent; and Brown, by 47 percent to 24 percent.” (Providence Journal, 2/9/06)

Dan Ronayne, a spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which is supporting Chafee, said Laffey’s poor showing against Brown and Whitehouse “tells us what we’ve known all along: That Laffey’s candidacy is only going to put a Senate seat in play for the Democrats.” Ronayne added that Laffey “has no bigger cheering section than the [Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee].” (Roll Call, VI. Roll Call’s At The Races: University Poll Confirms Brown’s Surge in Race )

Posted by: caswell cooke, Jr at February 16, 2006 9:13 AM