Push-polling in the 1st District?

Not much time for blogging today, but I thought I’d call attention to the buzz today about a supposed push-poll aimed at smearing Elizabeth Colbert-Busch. Here’s an account from The Atlantic Wire:

ThinkProgress spoke with two women in the state, each of whom said they’d gotten a call from someone claiming to be conducting a poll on next Tuesday’s race. Among the questions that one woman, April Wolford, said she received were the following:

  • What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you she had had an abortion?
  • What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you a judge held her in contempt of court at her divorce proceedings?
  • What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if she had done jail time?

And so on. It’s worth clarifying at this point: There have been no reports that any of these things actually happened to Colbert Busch…

And the HuffPost has pulled together elements from several reports on the subject.

If this is really happening — and one of the nastiest thing about these sleazy devices is that it’s hard to know what’s really happening, and who’s responsible, in time for voters to absorb the truth before the vote — it would be in keeping with a long South Carolina tradition. Just ask John McCain, or Max Heller.

Oh, and in terms of actual polling, there’s this one out there:

A new poll shows the race between Republican Mark Sanford and Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch tightening, with both candidates at 46 percent entering the final days of the 1st Congressional District campaign.

The poll from Red Racing Horses, which bills itself as “a Republican-oriented online community,” also has 7 percent of voters undecided. The margin of error was plus-or-minus 5 percent…

If it’s really neck-and-neck at this point, you’ve got to put your money on Sanford. If you’re putting money on it. Which I wouldn’t recommend. But given the nature of the district, I suspect he has an edge worth several points more than polls measure…

25 thoughts on “Push-polling in the 1st District?

  1. Bryan Caskey

    “What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you a judge held her in contempt of court at her divorce proceedings?”

    I can think of someone else that statement would more appropriately apply to.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Well, they could have worded it, “What would you think of Elizabeth Colbert Busch if I told you something that reminded you of Mark Sanford?”

    But for some reason, they decided against it.

  3. Mark Stewart

    Thinking back to my own young and reckless days, I believe that young people have no place being either decision making campaign staffers or political consultants. It isn’t that they have a lack of conciense, it is more that they have not yet acquired a sense of perspective – and of consequences.

    When you are older, you understand that better. That saying about old age and treachery always seems to actually be reversed in politics. Yeah, the older people may be more effective at strategic attacks, but I picture it as the young (of either political outlook) who scheme up these pointlessly vicious attacks.

  4. die deutsche Flußgabelung

    I can’t believe Sanford is using push polling to imply Colbert-Busch has had an abortion. I guess Sanford must think that well since she is woman she must have had an abortion sometime in her life, because you know women get abortions all the time. He is effing clueless about the real world and should really be tested for some form of psychosis.

  5. Doug Ross

    You know who is running the Sanford campaign, right? One of your favorite Columbia businesses.

    “Sanford tapped former top aide and gubernatorial campaign manager Jason Miller of Jamestown Associates to serve as his general consultant, media and mail guru for his much-hyped comeback bid. Sanford also hired Voter/Consumer Research for polling and Joel Sawyer of Push Digital for new media.”

    But they would NEVER do anything sleazy like that. Never. Because we need more companies like them in Columbia.

  6. Karen McLeod

    But we already knew that Mr. Sanford has the manners and morals of a snapping turtle. Hmm, maybe I should apologize to snapping turtles.

  7. Silence

    When I read the original story about the alleged push-polling, I immediately thought that it was a liberal plant, a wholly fabricated story if you will. A “long time democrat” activist and her friend made the allegations. Do they have any other people who received the calls, maybe someone who’s not associated with local democratic politics?
    I’m not saying that there isn’t push polling going on, but these questions seem a bit far-fetched.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Given the lack of apparent corroboration, that’s a disturbing possibility. With friends like that…

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, the reports would have more impact coming from someone not described as Democratic activists. But here we get into the problem of the way the world works.

      Democratic activists who get calls like this would be the ones most likely to raise a row about it in a timely manner.

      Uncommitted voters who aren’t that into politics (the real target of such an effort, if this is real) would be less likely to run to someone who would in turn bring it to the media in time for it to be reported on before the election. The less committed person is the sort who hears water-cooler talk about the election next Wednesday after it’s over and says, “Elizabeth Colbert Busch? I think that’s the woman I got a phone call about last week…”

      These things tend to come at the last minute in campaigns, so that timeliness factor is key.

      If you’ll recall, all that nasty stuff dumped on McCain in 2000 was so muddled, with a lack of clear reporting on what was happening and who was doing it that it had just enough time to hurt him, but not enough time for a backlash to help him. Afterwards, everyone was so certain what had happened. At the time, not so much.

      McCain didn’t know at the time what had hit him. On the very day that we made our decision on the endorsement (one of the few such arguments I ever lost; we endorsed Bush), McCain came in and met with us. He was shaken. He seemed depressed, talking about the awful things being said about him. He focused on a kid who came up to him and said he had considered him a hero, but now doubted him, and that seemed to throw him off-balance.

      Basically, whether this is an actual Republican dirty trick, or Democrats trying to make it look like a dirty trick, it’s to the perpetrator’s advantage for culpability to remain vague through election day.

  8. bud

    This election comes down to 2 things: (1) Will enough loyal, female Republicans stay home because they are turned off by the luv govs various indiscretions and (2) can the Democrats turn a high enough percentage of their smaller numbers to make a difference. Most everyone is calling for a close election but given the inexplicable lack of public polling this is largely just speculative. I’ve been trying to find something concrete to make an informed prediction but frankly there really isn’t anything so I’ll guess just like everyone else and predict a close Sanford win based on the overwhelming GOP numbers in the first district.

    1. Mark Stewart

      Republicans can vote for a Democrat. And vice versa, too.

      If I were a voter in this district, I would.

    2. Silence

      The lack of polling is not inexplicable, there are polls going on. Polling is expensive, and it’s an out of cycle election, so you can’t lump in a bunch of polls together. If the candidates are doing their own polling, they wouldn’t want to leak the numbers. There have been some polls released, the latest (GOP) one showing a dead heat.
      Last week’s Dem poll showed Ms. C-B with a 9 point lead.

  9. bud

    Yes polling is expensive but that’s what pollsters do. Since there’s nothing much else going on you’d think there would be a flood of polls for this very interesting race.

    Never heard of “Red Racing Horses” so I wouldn’t count them just yet. If their methodology holds up over time then yes they should be taken seriously. But for now they really are an unknown quantity. PPP has had a somewhat Dem bias but they were actually pretty accurate in the 2012 races. But their polls is getting a bit stale. Nothing from Gallup or the other prominent polsters.

    1. Silence

      I think that PMI Florida, the group that actually conducted the poll is more important than Red Racing Horses to the results. I don’t know anything about either, but PMI seems to be a professional polling business.

  10. Juan Caruso

    Speaking of unsavory political tactics, let’s not forget the election under discussion could be a preview of SC’s voter ID law.

  11. bud

    Would there be a runoff if neither major party candidate received a majority? With the Green Party guy polling roughly 3% in the PPP poll that’s not a moot point.

    1. die deutsche Flußgabelung

      No its called first-past-the-post voting. A candidate only needs a plurality to win the seat. I wish we had some form of majority voting like a two-round system (this is used in both major state parties’ primaries) or instant-runoff voting. But sadly we live in America where anything, but first-past-the-post voting in single member districts is viewed suspiciously.

  12. Brad Warthen Post author

    Just saw this fund-raising appeal from the Democrats:

    ROLL CALL: Conservatives Buy Airtime for Mark Sanford

    If you think Elizabeth Colbert Busch has a clear path to victory on Tuesday, think again.

    She’s neck and neck with Mark Sanford — 46-46. And now, right-wing groups are throwing everything they’ve got at keeping this seat in Republican hands.

    Brad — We can’t allow Elizabeth to be pummeled like this if we want to win on Tuesday.

    There are only 4 days left. Will you dig deep for Elizabeth and Democrats in tough districts like hers?…

    … and want to quibble with the wording.

    Yeah, I get why the DCCC would want to say “right-wing.” Because it pushes their peeps’ buttons.

    But Sanford isn’t “right-wing;” nor are those who tend to flock to his banner. He is libertarian, a classical liberal, which is why, even as his party establishment deserts him, he is backed by the likes of Ron and Rand Paul.

    I looked up the group that Roll Call said was backing Sanford. It’s called “Independent Women Voice.” (Note that the Dems did NOT mention the name of the organization, because it might have provoked a positive response in their target audience, which of course is why the group calls itself that.) The organization describes itself this way:

    IWV is dedicated to promoting limited government, free markets, and personal responsibility

    Note that there’s no mention of traditional values, or a strong defense, or any of the other traits associated with conservatism, much less the “right wing” — only the libertarian values are mentioned.

  13. Doug Ross

    “IWV is dedicated to promoting limited government, free markets, and personal responsibility”

    Where was this group 25 years ago when I was looking for a wife?

  14. bud

    So why did Lindsey endorse Sanford? Is that 100% because he’s a Republican? Talk about your partisan endorsement. So much for even the pretense of being an independent thinker. He’s just as partisan as anyone in congress.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Graham has a track record of going with the Republican, no matter what. Which is not surprising, given that he’s, you know, a Republican.

      Here’s the ironic thing about that working to Sanford’s advantage this time…

      Back in 2008, Sanford was gunning for GOP incumbents in the Legislature he wanted to rid himself of, to remake the Legislature more in his image.

      Graham made a point of splitting with him on that, asserting his support for the incumbents.


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