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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Rand Paul

Paul up by 15 in new poll that Conway campaign disputes

Posted on September 4, 2010 at 10:45 PM
Updated yesterday at 10:48 PM
With just under two months until Kentucky's U.S. Senate election, a new WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll shows Republican Rand Paul nearly doubling his lead in the last month, now up 15 points over Democrat Jack Conway, 55% to 40%. Since last month, Paul is up 4 points; Conway is down 3.
Kentucky U.S. Senate Race
Likely voters
Rand Paul (R) 55%
Jack Conway (D) 40%
Undecided 5%
Margin of error +/- 4.2%
Click here for the poll and check back for a more detailed story both on and on WHAS11 News Sunday night at 6:30pm and 11:00pm.
The poll, conducted by Survey USA, also indicates that Kentucky voters are increasingly identifying themselves as Republican or Independent while identifying less with the Democratic Party.  The disproportionate representation compared to actual voter registration and previous voter turnout prompted the Conway campaign to dispute the poll.
 "The methodology of this poll is sort of out of line and we certainly question some of the ways that the poll was conducted," said Conway Press Secretary Allison Haley.
"I do think the momentum of the state is with us," said Paul, "What the exact number is.... we're happy to be 15 ahead.  That's for sure."
While neither Paul or his campaign staff expressed confidence in the poll's 15 point margin, the candidate welcomed the poll as a sign that his fiscal conservative, Tea Party message is resonating.
 "We're excited about it.  Everywhere I go across Kentucky we think people are concerned about the debt," Paul said, "They want somebody who will go up there and shake things up, somebody who will introduce a balanced budget amendment, somebody who's for term limits, somebody who understands that the system's broken.  We can't just keep on spending and borrowing, spending and borrowing."
Conversely, the Conway campaign says it believes that it's effort to inform voters of Paul's views on U.S. and local drug policy have narrowed the contest, rather than the widening Paul lead indicated in the poll.
"Recently, Rand Paul has made a lot of statements in opposition to combating drugs in our Kentucky communities," Haley said, "and that has not caused him to surge in the polls.  We feel like this is, the poll is just simply inaccurate."
"I think that in general, the media is not necessarily our friends," Paul said when asked about the recent unflattering publicity, "And they've brought up a lot of things to try to skew the race one way or the other."
"What is the most important thing right now? It's jobs and the economy to people," Paul continued, "So that's what's motivating people and how they're going to vote. It doesn't mean that I'm not concerned about a whole host of issues. And I think that was wrongly sort of interpreted and really I think by some who had an agenda."
The WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll interviewed 950 Kentucky adults August 30 through September 1.  Of them, 863 were registered to vote. Of the registered voters, 561 were determined by SurveyUSA to be likely to vote in the November election for US Senate.
The poll reflects a huge gender gap.  Paul leads among men by 34 points.  Conway leads among women by three points.
"I don't really have an explanation," Paul said when apprised of those numbers, "I don't know."
Kentucky U.S. Senate Race
Male voters
Rand Paul (R) 65%
Jack Conway (D) 31%
Undecided 4%
Margin of error +/- 4.2%
Kentucky U.S. Senate Race
Female voters
Rand Paul (R) 45%
Jack Conway (D) 48%
Undecided 7%
Margin of error +/- 4.2%
In an analysis of the poll, SurveyUSA says the gender gap is a national trend:
 Men have turned their backs on the Democrats. The Democrat Conway got 44% of male voters in May, 38% in July, 31% today, in September.... The erosion in male support, observed in California polling and Washington state polling, is occurring regardless of whether there is a Tea Party candidate on the ballot. 
"It doesn't line up with any internal polls or public polls that have come out recently," said Haley, who declined comment on the gender gap in the WHAS11/Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll, "Our internals show us dead even."
Paul disclosed that his campaign is set to begin running "introductory" television commercials this week.  The Conway campaign began airing television ads on Monday (August 30) featuring endorsements from police officers and sheriffs and touting Conway's record as attorney general targeting the illegal prescription drug trade, child pornography via the Internet, and elder abuse.
The ad is being shown in the Louisville; Lexington; Evansville, Ind.; and Paducah markets. 
"Well, certainly in the east I think you know Jack has been out in eastern Kentucky and in Western Kentucky, he's actually been all over the state conducting these round tables, talking with local law enforcement and business leaders as well as families affected by drugs in our communities," Haley said, "And we have found especially in the eastern part of our state but really all across the state, that this has been a big issue and certainly has hurt Rand Paul."
The only indication in the poll that the drug issue has affected the race is in eastern Kentucky where Paul leads by 12, but the region has the largest percentage of undecided voters, at ten percent. 
Kentucky U.S. Senate Race
Eastern Kentucky voters
Rand Paul (R) 51%
Jack Conway (D) 39%
Undecided 10%
Margin of error +/- 4.2%
Survey USA does not suggest "undecided" as a choice in the automated poll, but allows the option if respondents volunteer it.  A SurveyUSA executive said the poll is not a predictor of the November 2 election, but a snapshot in time if voters were standing at the ballot box today.
Kentucky U.S. Senate Race
Western Kentucky voters
Rand Paul (R) 57%
Jack Conway (D) 39%
Undecided 4%
Margin of error +/- 4.2%
Kentucky U.S. Senate Race
Louisville and surrounding counties
Rand Paul (R) 52%
Jack Conway (D) 44%
Undecided 3%
Margin of error +/- 4.2%
 "A lot of people think it will be closer than (15 points)," Paul said.  "We are predicting and working as if we're behind. I mean, because nobody wants to come up short on election day.  We work hard."
"If you look at the polls that have come out recently, as a whole, this is way out of line with those polls," Haley said.
Conway pollster Pete Brodnitz of the Benenson Strategy Group also disputes SurveyUSA's methodology,  saying the poll "overestimates the turnout of voters without a party registration, and underestimates Registered Democratic turnout.  When adjusted to historical norms, their data shows the race is 6 point race."
Advised of the Conway campaign's concerns, SurveyUSA pollster Ken Alper explained in an e-mail to WHAS11 that SurveyUSA is "not asking how voters are REGISTERED to vote; we ask, simply, "If you are a Republican, press 1; a Democrat, 2;" and so on."
Alper says while Survey USA does ask how people are registered to vote in a partisan primary, it does not ask about registration in a general election poll.
"In many cases," Alper continued, "those who don't vote in partisan primaries do not actually know how they're registered, and/or may not realize they've been officially recorded as a party member for the past 20 years because they happened to vote in a single primary as a newly registered voter. Adjusting our party preference numbers to match the historical turnout based on registration data would be an apples and oranges exercise."
Yet, Brodnitz suggests the SurveyUSA numbers do not reflect political reality.
"Registered Democrats have consistently made up at least 20% more of the Kentucky general electorate than Registered Republicans," the Brodnitz memo continued, "In fact, even in two nominally Republican years (1994 and 2002), Registered
Democrats had a more than 25% advantage over Registered Republicans.  Further, voters registered to neither the Republican nor Democratic parties have never been more than 5.2% of the electorate."
"SurveyUSA’s party distribution of 47% Democratic, 42% Republican, 10% Other Parties in this poll flies in the face of 20 years of Kentucky precedent," Brodnitz said, "In fact, when we adjust SurveyUSA’s party registration to the average of the last three statewide elections, the ballot changes significantly."
Under Brodnitz's application of past registration numbers, he concludes that, using SurveyUSA data, Paul actually leads Conway by only six points, thought his 51% to 44% recalculation reflects a seven point margin for Paul. 
Survey USA's Alper, however, explains the discrepancy as a reflection of Republican voters being more motivated. 
"We're seeing the same thing in many different races we're working," Alper explained, "Among those who say they are likely to vote in November elections, the numbers of those who are identifying themselves as Republicans are higher than some would expect to see. Republicans are simply more fired up at the moment.