Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Jill Long(shot?) Thompson Does Some Poll Dancing

Jill Long Thompson penned a letter that hit the mailboxes of D's today to let them know she's been endorsed by 22 mayors (from impressive cities like Angola, no less!) along with an alphabet soup of labor unions (the USW, CWA, AFGE, UTU, SEIU, and AEIOU and Sometimes Y).

But what she really wants you to know is that she has a 26% lead over Jim Schellinger (44 to 18% w/ 38% undecided), and she claims that "the momentum is clearly with us." (Momentum is apparently not cheap, as we are next asked to send $50, $100, or $250 to her campaign).

The specifics of the poll are set forth in a separate "memo" from Pete Brodnitz, the American Association of Political Consultants' pollster of the year. These findings are certainly consistent with Brian Howey's polling data prior to March 11, 2008, showing that Schelllinger did not have name ID outside of Indianapolis in excess of 20%.

While showing that you are likely to win is one way to sway the "smart money," bragging at this juncture by Ms. Thompson is like crowing about being voted the best chili at the cookoff when people have only tasted your recipe. Schellinger, having never run for public office, has not yet "presented himself" (polling done February 28-March 3, before Schellinger unveiled his ad).

BUT nothing will change even when he does "present himself," Thompson implies, anticipating your argument! When voters are asked who they favored AFTER being read "one short positive paragraph," Thompson goes up 55 - 27 with 18% undecided!

Unlike some push polling models that interject negatives into the questioning, the paragraph about Jim Schellinger is facially decent. It says:

"Jim Schellinger can bring positive change to Indiana because he is not a professional politician and will bring a fresh approach to leading the state. Schellinger grew up in a working class South Bend neighborhood and went on to attend Notre Dame and work his way up to President of an Indianapolis architecture firm that grew to employ 100 people in Indiana and was given one of the Indianapolis Star's top 5 companies to work for. His background as a successful businessman gives him the right experience to create jobs in Indiana. Schellinger believes Indiana needs real change and Hoosiers need a leader who will listen. He will bring people together in the fight to improve our schools, stop the privatization of state assets like toll roads, expand health care coverage, and create good jobs."

Even if you discount the 2% of those polled who moved into Thompson's column because they detest run-on sentences or statements that end with prepositions, there is still an eleven point pick-up. That's impressive, isn't it? Oh, wait. What did Thompson's statement say?

"Jill Long Thompson is a proven leader who can bring change to Indiana. A former head of Rural Development for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, she brings the economic credentials needed to change course and create jobs in Indiana. As a former Member of Congress, she helped pass tough ethics reform in Congress and will do the same in Indiana. As Governor, Jill Long Thompson will stop the privatization of state assets like toll roads, oppose tax increases that hurt Hoosier working families and work to bring change to Indiana's education and healthcare systems. Her Reinvest in Indiana plan will move us in a new direction and away from the harmful politices of Mitch Daniel's Administration."

Far be it from me to question the "pollster of the year," but couldn't a layman quickly sniff out the two statements that swing things toward Thompson in this model?

Howey had the Governor's overall approval rating at 41% before the property tax deal was cut. I haven't seen the cross-tabs, but with a straight D sample, Daniel's approval might be in the low teens, and part of this low standing was because of the "property tax crisis" (that he ignored for three and a half years). Had the poll results been the same even with Schellinger's "short statement" using the phrase "...away from the harmful policies of Mitch Daniel's Administration," instead of Thompson's, and had both used the statement about opposing tax increases, I'd be saying, "Sorry folks, it's all over."

But I can't shake the belief that my cat would have moved at least three points with benefit of "one short positive statement" that read:

"Slick the Cat supports ending privatization of state assets like toll roads, an increase in the number of days Hoosiers can spending sleeping in the sun next to their bay windows, and an end to the policies of Mitch Daniels, who he thinks is, literally, a rat."

I'm open minded, but until I see polling data AFTER Schellinger's been on the air, I wouldn't bet the farm on good old Pete repeating as pollster of the year.

As an aside, I was amused Ms. Thompson's letter refers to Mr. Schellinger as "architect Jim Schellinger." Apparently, Mr. Brodnitz must have some polling data showing that the only architect Hoosiers know is Mike Brady, and if he can't even manage sibling rivalry between Marcia and Jan, how in the world can he work with divided chambers at the Indiana General Assembly?



Jason said...

I guess my response is "so what?" Is it her fault that with only 49 days to the primary, architect Jim has yet to introduce himself to the public? Is she suppose to do that for him in her mailings? Hell, he still doesn't have his stance on issues on his website!!! Unlike Jill! So why exactly shouldn't she take advantage of the fact that he is behind on all fronts?

Chris Worden said...

Jason, thanks for posting! Certainly it's not Jill's fault, and Schellinger's critics were right to ask, "If not now, when?" (Apologies to every Democratic campaign since 1992 that has used this phrase, which I believe was first employed by Joe Hogsett).

Look, I know it's a tactic every campaign that's "up" uses, including at the presidential level. Obama: "I've won ten in a row! Join the cool people!" Clinton: "I win the BIG states. People really like me! WHEEE!"

But I've never been overly impressed when a primary candidate says I should support them because others do. It's different with Senator Bayh's support of Clinton because if we scratch for Hillary, we know there's something in it for him (VP), and we all want to see that happen.

But otherwise, it's too much of a bandwagon mentality, and I'm just too independent for that. So my point is...use whatever you want in your campaign. But if Schellinger that 26% lead goes up in smoke now that Schellinger has hit the air, it wasn't that impressive of a comment at the outset, wouldn't you agree?

But if the lead for Jill holds, then all I'll be able to say is, "VOTE PETE BRODNITZ... REPEAT POLLSTER OF THE YEAR!"

Jason said...

I understand what you are saying. From a voter point of view, JLT's statements are a big so what for you. But I think it is an appropriate time to send such a statement out because Jim is now hitting the airwaves and will be making some noise.

I think the JLT vs. Jim primary is a somewhat parallel to the national with JLT and Clinton as the longer established status-quo-esque candidates and Obama and Jim as the new, upcoming, exciting but as experienced types.

I should say that right now I'm voting for JLT, not because of experience, but because of her stance on the issues. I'm still waiting on Jim to post anything about what he stands for other than the-opposite-of-what-Mitch-stands-for. Yeah, that's great that you are "one of us". But what do you stand for Jim? WHAT?!?

Jason said...

BTW, the post title is brilliant!