Two polls on the California Senate Republican primary caught my attention today. I've been holding off posting on this race with my poll analysis hat on, because I wasn't sure I could trust myself to be even handed enough.
But these two polls, coming as they are 15 days before election day, are interesting enough that I have to try. They could hardly be more different.
The first poll is the latest by SurveyUSA. In a jump reminiscent to me of Nikki Haley's in South Carolina, Carly Fiorina gains 22 points in two weeks to take a huge 46 point total, widely ahead of Tom Campbell at 23 (down 11 from 2 weeks ago) and Chuck DeVore at 14 (down 1). The Margin of Error is 4. This lead is just so huge that it could be an outlier and still have Fiorina comfortably on top.
The numbers seem to mesh, though. In what I think is a key for the race, Fiorina draws 41% of Decline to State (California-ese for independent) voters, and Meg Whitman in her race gets 48%. My suspicion has been that Whitman would have coattails for Fiorina as voters back both women, or both former corporate chiefs from technical companies, whichever you prefer.
Fiorina also has a cash advantage right now. She can stay on the air running television ads all she wants, while Campbell has had to scale back and DeVore is also picking his spots, such as tonight's showing of "24" on Fox statewide. We're the home of Hollywood, us here in California. We watch television, and don't have much in the way of "newspapers" or "local news" to tell us "facts" about our state. Paid ads matter.
Endorsements also matter. While Chuck DeVore has on his side the conservative lion Jim DeMint, Carly Fiorina bagged Sarah Palin, which is why her jump reminds me of Haley's. Both women received the Palin endorsement and both have shown poll advances.
But that's not the only poll that came out today. The DeVore campaign put out an internal poll conducted by National Research with a different twist to it. It's still not good for Campbell, as Fiorina also overtook him, but her lead is much smaller in this poll. She's up 28 Fiorina-26 Campbell-19 DeVore (MoE 5). That 19 for DeVore is the highest showing I've seen for him in any poll since Campbell entered the race.
Three way races are volatile. If the DeVore internal poll is accurate then anyone could win this. However if the SUSA poll is accurate, Fiorina is winning this going away. And I don't know how to evaluate which pollster is doing better this cycle. The only public poll from either source I've seen that relates to any of the major races this year was SurveyUSA's poll 10 days before the Kentucky Senate Primary.
We may not know where we're at for sure until election night. The SurveyUSA poll is matching my gut prediction of this race, but all that means is anything I say risks confirmation bias, so I'll leave it at that.