Sure, it’s a robo-poll, and within the margin of error, but Constituent Dynamics has just released its first poll of WA-08, and it shows Democratic Challenger Darcy Burner leading Republican Incumbent Rep. Dave Reichert by 49% to 46%.
It’s taken me a while to pull together my analysis of this poll because quite frankly, I’m still rubbing my eyes in disbelief. Don’t get me wrong, I honestly believe Burner has a better than 50-50 chance of winning in November, but intuitively, it just doesn’t seem possible given the circumstances for Burner to be within the margin of error, let alone leading, at this point in the campaign. I would have been thrilled simply to see her within single digits.
So struggling to wrap my mind around these numbers I gave a call to the only pollster I know, Bill Broadhead, who seemed a bit defensive when I started questioning the numbers. It took me a few moments to grok that the polling company in question, Constituent Dynamics (CD), is actually Broadhead’s firm.
Anyway, here’s the inside scoop. Broadhead, of course, vouches for his poll’s methodology, as well as the broader reputation of IVR’s (robo-polls) in general, which he says have proven very accurate in recent years. He emphasized, however, that CD does not rely on the less-expensive (and less-reliable) random-dialing technique, but rather uses the voter rolls in each district to prescreen for frequent voters. They then combine the age and gender data from survey responses with that on the voter rolls to create an automatic match-back between the respondent and a specific household member.
As for the somewhat surprising results that show Burner with an early lead despite having very little paid media and a huge name ID disadvantage, Broadhead sees this as part of a larger trend borne out across all 30 House races surveyed: that the 2006 election is in the process of being nationalized like no other race since 1994. The difference, as Broadhead reads the data, is that unlike 1994, when it was largely angry white men who turned against the Democratic-controlled Congress, the anger in 2006 is more broadly distributed across the electorate.
President Bush is proving widely unpopular amongst 8th CD voters, with his job approval/disapproval rating standing at a dismal 38% to 58%. So rather than this being the typical contest between two competing candidates, Broadhead sees this election shaping up as a referendum on President Bush and the Republican controlled Congress.
“What’s going on in the individual elections, while important,” Broadhead told me, “is not quite as important as what we see when there is not this national overlay.”
Um… that’s “the wave” that everybody keeps talking about.
Broadhead cautions that CD’s 30-race survey is not all gloom and doom for the GOP. The data shows no significant Democratic advantage in terms of motivation, and suggests that the national mood is strongly anti-incumbent rather than just strictly anti-Republican. Indeed, unlike most years, Republicans running for open seats are having an easier time of it than incumbent Republicans running for reelection.
Hmm. I suppose I can buy that analysis. Though until I see these results reproduced elsewhere I’ll have to keep the joyful gloating to myself and simply remain cautiously optimistic.
Still, there’s no doubt that the trendlines are very encouraging and that the momentum is now clearly on Darcy Burner’s side… despite the fact that Reichert has near universal name recognition, half a million dollars worth of franking and $300K in advertising (courtesy of the US Chamber of Commerce) on his side.
I bet there are some nervous folks over at Reichert headquarters this afternoon.