Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Take a Number

Right, so that "analysis" I promised? Didn't come through. But let me explain: After I started looking at the Washington poll results, I started looking at other poll results. Before I knew it I was comparing the current result to the past Washington result, and then going back through all the other states and comparing their most recent poll to the one before. I was in danger of REALLY nerding out on this.

Anyway, let me get to at least some semblance of "analysis" here before the 2008 election comes around.

Let me begin with some disclaimers:

1. I am not a poll-obsessed person. I take polls with a LARGE grain of salt. They are fun, like looking over the box score of an all-star game. But they don't necessarily mean anything.

2. I am not a professional political analyst. Of course not, I've got a blog! Seriously, though. I don't do this for a living, so my thoughts and ideas are shaped solely by what I've seen and learned.

That said, let's talk NUMBERS!!!

I looked at the last 7 state polls (WA, NJ, MI, WI, PA, GA, NY) done be Strategic Vision (which I think is a Republican polling outfit), and then compared those results with the 7 previous polls for these states. The more recent set ranged from early December (NY) to mid-February (WA). The older set ranged from late October (NY) to late December (MI & WI). So here are my uninformed observations:

Here in the Evergreen state, Senator Feingold places 4th with 8%. That's a 4% improvement over his performance in the same poll in December 2005. I would have to attribute that increase to the growing attention the Senator has received (and continues to receive) over the Patriot Act (bad news coming) and the NSA wiretap scandal. Interestingly Al Gore saw a 4% boost in his numbers from December to February (14% to 18%). Senator Clinton still dominates the field, but dropped two points from 38% to 36%. Not to be too rose-colored glasses, but I think that Washington and Oregon are fertile ground for Senator Feingold. Obviously it will take work, but I think it will pay off here.

The other big news is that Georgia LOVES the Senator! In early December, Sen. Feingold was not even on the list of candidates. But in late January, the Senator debuts at #7 with 5%! Wow! In GEORGIA!!

What else did I learn? 6 of the comparisons showed the Senator increases his support from the older poll to the newer one. In 5 of those comparisons, his was the greatest (or tied for the greatest) increase. His increase was only outperformed in MI (+1% vs. +4% to Gore) and NY (0% vs. +3% to Clinton).

In an interesting comparison, the folks in Wisconsin are more supportive of the Senator running for president than the folks in Pennsylvania are for their favorite son, Governor Rendell. In Wisconsin, Senator Feingold placed 2nd with 23% (an 8% increase). In Pennsylvania, Gov. Rendell ties for 8th with only 2% (Feingold ties for 4th with John Kerry at 7%). Now, Gov. Rendell has been having a hard time in the Keystone State with his re-election bid, so this probably reflects that dissatisfaction. My impression of 2008 speculation is that Gov. Rendell has been discussed in more credible and serious tones than Sen. Feingold. If further, independent polling bears out these results, I hope that talk will fade.

But that brings us to yet another comparison: Sen. Feingold and Sen. Clinton. There's good and bad news. First the good: In WI, Feingold only trailed Clinton by 5% (28-23). Now that may not seem important, after all WI is Feingold's home state. But taking a look back at PA we can see the favorite son does not always fair so well. Also, ALL the polling shows that Sen. Clinton's campaign will be a juggernaut (she is #1 in all 14 polls, and 10% or more ahead of the #2 in all but 1 poll). Now, I'm not a political analyst, but I would wager that a pre-requisite to any serious campaign would be that the candidate in question would win their home state. Well, this doesn't have Sen. Feingold winning, but it has him within striking distance. And this is in the face of what I'm sure, even in WI, is a name-recognition advantage for Sen. Clinton

Ok, that was the good. Here's the bad: With the exception of the February WI poll, Sen. Clinton wins all the polls by significant margins. NY seems really excited about her running (giving her 43% in Dec, 40% in Oct). In all but 2 polls she gets over 30% (Feb WI & MI give her 28%). Of the 7 comparisons, though, she lost 2% in 4 states and 7% in 1 (MI) (PA & NY give her 2% and 3% increases respectively). So there is not, yet, a groundswell of dissatisfaction with her.

That's ok, this is early. There's still time for Sen. Feingold to make inroads, and the increasing concern over all the issues where he has staked a leading role (Patriot Act opposition, NSA wiretap, withdraw from Iraq) should lead to increased support for him. Couple that with Sen. Clinton's go-along-to-get-along attitude on these issues, and things could get interesting.

However, Sen. Feingold is not alone. Obscured by his remarkable improvement was the improvement of Al Gore. He has sole possession of #2 in all but 2 of these polls (WI Feb [#3] & Dec [tied with Feingold]). More importantly, he improved in all but 1 of the comparisons (NY had him steady at 12%).

So Feingold 2008 has its work cut out for it, but I think this shows the task is doable. After all there are 6 candidates who have already been involved in a presidential campaign (Kerry, Edwards, Clark, Gore, Clinton, Biden) and have maintained pretty high national profiles.


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