Friday, March 14, 2008

Bottom Line on the Democratic Senate Race

There's been a little discussion this week about the difference between us and Survey USA in polling the Democratic Senate race. They have Jim Neal winning, we have Kay Hagan winning. Some Neal supporters thought this was cause for declaring us a worthless company, which is kind of amusing. Judging a polling company's accuracy by whether your candidate is winning or not in the last poll shows a pretty infantile understanding of polling and politics. But that's beside the point.

What Survey USA and PPP agree on, which is more relevant than the standing of the candidates at this point, is that more than half of the electorate is still undecided.

That means that by and large the race will be decided in the last few weeks of the campaign when the candidates start really spending their money. The conventional wisdom is that Hagan should start pulling away then because she has the ability to purchase a lot more tv time due to her significant fundraising advantage.

This has been a weird campaign though. Jim Neal is running a 21st century courthouse campaign. He might not be going from county seat to county seat giving a speech the way candidates in the state used to, but his combination of house parties and small gatherings at coffee shops, libraries, and college campuses is certainly the modern equivalent of it. There's no doubt his campaign has generated a lot more buzz than Hagan's.

Can a strong grassroots campaign outweigh a stronger media campaign in a statewide race? The Hagan-Neal primary will provide an interesting glimpse into the answer of that question.

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