May 5, 2006

Another Poll, Another Chafee Lead (but smaller)

Marc Comtois

New Hampshire polling outfit American Research Group (via RIFuture) seems to have done a more robust job of polling on the RI GOP Primary race than some recent efforts. The poll methodology was "based on 384 completed telephone interviews among a random sample of likely Republican primary voters in Rhode Island from April 25-May 2, 2006. The theoretical margin of error is plus or minus 5 percentage points, 95% of the time." The poll question was:

If the primary election for US Senate were being held today between Lincoln Chafee and Steve Laffey, for whom would you vote - Chafee or Laffey? (names rotated)
And the results broke down as follows:

Likely primary voters -- 48% Chafee / 39% Laffey / 13% Undecided
Rep. (56% of sample) -- 46% Chafee / 42% Laffey / 12% Undecided
Ind. (44% of sample) -- 51% Chafee / 35% Laffey / 14% Undecided

ARG also has a neat thing called the "Ballot Lead Calculator," which tries to "take into consideration the sampling error for the difference between two estimates that are derived from the same sample." I entered the numbers as instructed, and it revealed that Sen. Chafee has an upper margin of victory of 18.3% and a lower of -0.3%. This means, according to ARG, that "there is no significant difference between the ballot numbers for candidates A [Chafee] and B [Laffey] - they are statistically tied in that poll." This is probably largely because of the significant number of undecideds.

Now, all of you amateur pollsters can play around with what you think the breakdown of Republicans versus Independents will really be in the GOP primary and come up with whatever number satisfies you!

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Polls are just a bunch of numbers up for speculative analysis. Each "side" takes the numbers and twists them and bends them to suit their own purposes.

That being said, as more and more people come to the realization that Steve Laffey has figured out how to get things done for the benefit of the taxpayers these polls will begin to lean more in that direction.

I can tell you this, Laffey will work day and night for the next five months to get his message out to those people, and then he will head out to DC and continue being his relentless self down there. I cant wait.

Chafee isn't up for this kind of race, and neither is Whitehouse. For starters neither one has a plan. And like the poor fools (Fred Sanford will like that line) who fought against Russell Crowe in The Gladiator they have no idea who they are in the arena with.


Posted by: Sol Venturi at May 5, 2006 10:53 PM

Interesting poll result. At least on the surface it appears a little more authentic than some of the more recent attempts at overt propaganda. I'm still not convinced that we are being given the full story. The statistical figure propogated of 44% of "likely" (use of that term is a whole different subject) Republican Primary voters being non-Republicans is absolutely absurd. Not going to happen. Over half of RI voters are unaffiliated, yet the greatest total number of voters in a Republican Primary ever was 45,000 back in 1994. If you extrapolate those poll results based on the historic ratio of Republicans and Independents who actually take the time to vote in Republican Primaries, Laffey's sure looking a lot better.

That being said, I don't think Laffey gives a rat's right rump about any of them. He's trying to win the primary and the general election, not these meaningless polls of the week. If we elected people based on weekly poll data culled from a few hundred folks, we'd have a much different government make-up than we do now.

Posted by: Will at May 6, 2006 12:34 AM

ARG has a bad record on polling in 2004. They are rather left-leaning. For example, they had Kerry winning Florida by 2 when he lost it by 5 in 2004. (go look on realclearpolitics sometime).

The number of independents is very high, and thus the number of Republicans polled is a bit low, so it's accuracy for the Republican figure is quite suspect. Furthermore, consistently I have read in polls whether it's West, RIC, Rasmussen, etc. is that Laffey does better than Chafee among Republicans. This poll shows something different which maybe because we have no idea of the demographic or regional breakdown of these Republican voters.

But, let's assume for a moment this is true. Chafee is below 50% overall, and among independents he is only at 51%. Undecideds breakly heavily for the challenger. Laffey would win it narrowly.

I only believe in professional polls.
Last year, the New Republic had an article stating that "internal polling by both parties show Laffey trouncing Chafee". (see These are professional pollsters.

This is only going to make the Laffey victory in September (assuming Chafee doesn't run as an independent) a bigger news story.

Posted by: Fred Sanford at May 6, 2006 9:02 AM

Given that the undecideds typically vote 80% for the challenger come election time, it looks like an awfully close race right now. The momentum does appear to be all on Laffey's side. Chafee detests going out and meeting voters and does not want to debate. I therefore don't see how the momentum will shift. Judging by the vituperation regarding the "Rhody Reformer" being belched out on the other site, Laffey's RV must already be making a difference. You don't get that mad at something that is not hurting your cause.

Posted by: bountyhunter at May 6, 2006 11:03 AM

In the end, Chafee will triumph over Laffey.

He votes in principal NOT along party lines and that's what will see him through the Primary as well as the General Election.

With all due respect to Scheeler, given the lack of a real Democratic Primary contes, even the dems will cross over to vote for Chafee in the Primary.

Posted by: "Aldo" Palazzo at May 6, 2006 11:52 AM

What should be troubling RI Repubs is the latest Rasmussen polling on the governor.
For Fogarty to be even with the governor in any poll is unforgivable for the Carcieri team.
They have been asleep at the switch.
Am a huge supporter of Don Carcieri, think he's a good man who's done a really good job and is fearless in taking on the corrupt underbelly of the state.
Unfortunately the governor has been slow to aggressively fundraise, slow to pull his re-election team together (should have been in place and working since January) and slow to understand just how tough a campaign this is going to be.
It is May and the governor has not yet formally announced he's running for re-election and kicked off his campaign themes.
It is May in a heavily Democratic state and in a state where the Republican President in Washington DC has disapproval ratings in the 70's and our Republican governor is not energized or focused on his re-election.
BIG BIG BIG mistake!

Posted by: Tim at May 6, 2006 12:22 PM

An honest question for you RI Repub party members who post here. Is the RI Repub party as divided as it seems to an outsider like me? Just how many long time party members are part and parcel of that corrupt underbelly I spoke about? (Beacon Mutual being a prime example) Any thoughts? Is the old guard (Holmes, Jackvony, Centracchio, Almond, et al) actively working to sabotage the governor in their own way? Would love your thoughts on this because to an outsider that's exactly what seems to be going on.

One last thought.
It occurs to me that the governor has been slow to build towards his re-election campaign because he does not have the fire in his belly. Those around him may be he does not.

Posted by: Tim at May 6, 2006 12:42 PM

Aldo, Democrats can't vote in the Republican primary. Since you are a member of the teachers' union, you probably know a few who did change parties to vote for their union hero Chafee. It won't matter...Laffey has got the people, and Chafee has the insiders.

Posted by: Smiling at May 6, 2006 1:30 PM

I've already been contacted by several Dems. Correct me if Im wrong, by it is my understanding that the final date for disaffiliation is 14 June, Flag Day.

With no real Dem primary, it is open to a choice between Linc Chafee and ultimately, Whitehouse. There are many people out there who feel that Chafee has done a good job and Whitehouse is a Dem insider with a very questionable record, something that they are not too keen on.
The unaffiliated voters who will turn out for Chafee will more than make up for the Republicans who will support Laffey.

Posted by: aldo at May 6, 2006 3:09 PM

The corrupt underbelly to this state, Tim, is in the Democrat and Union halls. While you may see "Republican" "spokespeople" such as Mike Levesque and John Holmes on the Lively Experiment, you won't see them at the RIGOP table.

I believe that Republican party, though still inept in many ways, has turned a very important corner. Rather than sharing the same trough of corruption as the Dems, the RIGOP is quickly becoming the party of Reform.

Go down the ticket this year and you'll see: Carcieri, Harsch, Stenhouse, King. Each are reformers, and none have a stake in the corruption that presently exists.

Then go down the Dem. ticket: Fogarty (insider), Lynch (brother of the Dem. chairman and former lobbyist to the same corrupt entities he should be, but hasn't prosecuted), Mollis (I mean...come on), Roberts (labor darling)

Look at the infusion of new groups: The RI Young Republicans, RI Log Cabin Republicans, RI Republican Assembly, and the resurgent College Republicans.

And look at who makes up the state's good government groups from OCG to Voter Initiative, RIPEC, and the Rhode Island Shoreline Coalition.

It is the Democratic establishment that is interested in the status-quo, not the RIGOP. And for that reason, those who represent corruption have largely been marginalized.

Posted by: johnb at May 6, 2006 4:36 PM

Tim, I don't think there are too many Republicans who are part of a "corrupt underbelly" of anything. Holmes stepped down from Beacon voluntarily even though he wasn't there for the many of the bad decisions that were made.

RI Republicans are divided, but not because either side is "corrupt." The Almond/Machtley race caused some division and now the Chafee/Laffey race is doing the same thing.

With the exception of the likes of DiPrete, Traficante and Gelfuso, you find very few Republicans associated with any types of unethical behavior. Probably because it doesn't pay to be a Republican in Rhode Island. If you want to be corrupt, you're better off being a Democrat because they have all the power.

Most of the divisions within the Republican Party you see on this board are over the Chafee/Laffey race. Last cycle it was Carcieri/Bennett. Before that there was Almond/Machtley.

Politics makes strange bedfellows. You'll find many people who four years ago were supporting Bennett (considered moderate) over Carcieri (considered conservative) now supporting Laffey (considered conservative) over Chafee (considered moderate).

This has little to do with ideology and more to do with personal politics. Bennett gave thousands of dollars to Chafee in the hopes that Chafee would support Bennett for governor. When Chafee remained neutral in the Carcieri/Bennett race, Bennett's people got upset and urged Laffey (who grew up next to the Bennetts) to run for Senate.

Then you have the conservative split. Some conservatives have gotten so disgusted with Chafee's voting record that they want anyone but Chafee. Other conservatives are more concerned about keeping the Senate majority than just sending a message and they're voting for Chafee (of all the polls taken thus far--Rasmussen, Brown/Providence Journal, American Research Group, Rhode Island College, etc. none of the show Laffey with any real chance of winning).

So that's the cause for the apparent division. It's politics and by the time you get the teams straight, they will change up for next cycle.

Posted by: Anthony at May 6, 2006 6:17 PM

If Chafee and Laffey split evenly
amongst Republicans, Chafee wins easily
with overwhelming support from the
independents. Laffey supported the
huge mistake of the Bush administration,
The War in Iraq. Chafee was the only
Senate Republican wise enough not to
get suckered into this huge waste of
life and taxpayer money. We should of
kept up the chase of Bin Laden in

Posted by: D.R. Tingman at May 6, 2006 10:42 PM

I wouldn't worry about the Rasmussen poll on Carcieri. The numbers don't match up with other polls; my guess is that they simply oversampled Providence, but without seeing the regional breakdown it's difficult to tell. Regardless, the Governor really needs to start campaigning.

Posted by: Mario at May 7, 2006 2:41 AM

Anthony has actually called it pretty well, regarding the dynamics that are interplaying in the Laffey/Chafee race for the most part. Though, I would politely suggest that it was a little more complicated than the Bennett's suggestion to Laffey to run for Senate. Basically, the internal power struggles within the RIGOP don't have as much to do with pure ideology, as it does with the battle between the political establishment/elitists that have controlled it for nearly four decades, beating it down into near extinction as an actual entity VS. those who truly want reform, and want a party that's built from the grassroots up, and not from the top down.

You're otherwise right regarding the split with the GOP conservatives. Some stick to their principles, and to heck with political considerations, while others ignore their own consciences in what's nothing short of desperation in order to hold on to power at all costs. Basically, they're willing to accept a meesily crumb, when they should be going for the juicy slice of apple pie instead.

As for D.R.: Wonderful analysis (insert sarcasm here). I can't wait to see the Chafee ad touting "I've done my very best to subvert our military, betray the principles of the Republican Party, and my President -- who, by the way, I want to remind you -- I didn't even vote for." Great strategy to win the GOP primary. Back to reality now.

Posted by: Will at May 7, 2006 2:59 AM

I don't think this is as much of an insider/outsider game across the board as much as it is some people who were insiders when Almond was governor trying to get back to being "insiders".

When Caricieri ran, he ran as an outsider. The "insiders"--Almond's people--did everything possible to prevent Carcieri from winning. I say this as someone who supported Lincoln Almond in his re-election bid.

Many "insiders" became "outsiders" overnight. While they may be "outsiders", I don't classify them as "reformers". You can look through the ranks of Laffey supporters and see that most of high-profile Republicans Laffey supporters are former "insiders" that were passed over for jobs and appointments by Carcieri and Chafee.

That's why I challenge those who say Laffey is someone who is going to help build the RI conservative movement. He has his share of people around him ready to reap the rewards if he were to get elected. He has already has tried to distance himself from the Republican Party and he's not even in Congress yet.

As for voting your conscience, I am voting my conscience. I take the macro, not the micro approach. When I ask myself questions like, "How do we help ensure that a conservative gets appointed to the Supreme Court?", my thought is that it is necessary to keep the majority. That's not abandoning my beliefs, it's facing the reality that sometimes the best route from A to B requires going through C first.

I believe the best way to help conservatism grow in RI is to help re-elect Carcieri. As I predicted would be the case a few months ago, recent polls show Carcieri is in a tougher race than most people would have expected. There is a very real chance that Fogarty can pull off a win. He is not Myrth York.

Conservatives would be far better off spending their time to re-elect a real conservative who has tried to build the party than by helping Steve Laffey pursue an ego-driven agenda in a longshot bid to unseat our only Republican member of Congress.

Posted by: Anthony at May 7, 2006 3:48 PM


"That's why I challenge those who say Laffey is someone who is going to help build the RI conservative movement."

I'd challenge it, too, because that's not his intent (at least as I've understood it) -- though of course, I don't plan to hold him back if it is!

His intent (of course, besides getting elected) is to be a catalyst for change in order to build a RI Republican Party around a core of "Republican", i.e. more "conservative" principles and beliefs. You name it: limited government, traditional values, spending money that we actually have, reasonable tax rates that encourage economic growth and job creation, government accountablity and transparency, a culture of life, hope, growth, and opportunity -- in other words, generally accepted "Republican" values.

I would not dispute the assertion that the current junior Senator has core principles; my big problem is that they happen to be those of the Democratic Party.

Posted by: Will at May 8, 2006 4:12 AM

Will, I think his intent has little to do with building a RI Republican Party around core values or around anything else for that matter.

I think (I can't say know, only Laffey himself knows for sure) his intent is to go down to DC so he can be on the big stage...he'll do that if he wins and he'll do that if he loses.

Of course, I'm just speculating, but I think it's a valid supposition. He could have been primed to be the next governor after Carcieri, but RI isn't where he wants to be.

Posted by: Anthony at May 8, 2006 3:31 PM

Thanks for the input guys.
Guess my real concern is if the governor has waited too long to organize and energize his reelection campaign.
Hoping not but I am quite worried about his polling numbers.

PS ..Anthony agree with you. Laffey is all about himself. The only party he's interested in is the Laffey party.

Posted by: Tim at May 9, 2006 5:10 PM

As an observer from another state, I find the blind support of the GOP establishment for the likes of Lincoln Chaffee (who could be the next Jim Jeffords if it is to his advantage) reason enough to send back those begging letters from Liddy Dole et al with nothing inside but a rude comment.

Chafee is a third-rate back-bencher without a scintilla of principle other than a desire to hold his job. He needs to spend a few years away from the public trough.

Arthur Downs
Wild Quail DE

Posted by: Arthur Downs at May 22, 2006 12:54 PM