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Bad numbers

We’ll start by suggesting not only the “appropriate grain of salt,” but also a real-world reality filter: We’re talking here about a partisan poll measuring something that seems unlikely to ever happen.

Okay? It still may be worth some consideration, at least to chew over, as what we think is the first head to head (sort of) for the next Senate race in Oregon.

This concerns a poll conducted last month by Rove Insight for the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee, aimed at Oregon Republican Senator Gordon Smith. (Information about it has begun popping around the web; the most detailed posting we’ve seen on it was the post at Daily Kos.) The question asked was, “If the November 4th, 2008 general election for U.S. Senate were held today and the candidates were: Peter DeFazio, Democrat or Gordon Smith, Republican, for whom would you vote or are you undecided?”

The results: Smith 38%, DeFazio 42%.

It also did a right track-wrong track measure, with wrong track prevailing 61%-27%.

Polls paid for by parties or candidates, this one included, should always be treated carefully. Several of the non-race numbers, like right/wrong track, do match fairly closely with our sense of where Oregon now is. And if they’re reasonable, then the matchup numbers could be in the ballpark too.

There’s another immediate objection: DeFazio, the Democratic representative from district 4, has said he’s not interested in running for the Senate next year. (Was the poll done partly to try to persuade him to enter?) And while you never say absolutely never, that seems definitive for now at least.

Even so, the low Smith number in this hypothetical looks dangerously low. DeFazio s plenty strong in his own district, but he’s only moderately well known elsewhere around the state. (His district is 100 miles or so from the Portland metro area.) If the Smith-DeFazio numbers are solid, we’d take it a step further and say that they would reasonably reflect as well a matchup between Smith and any reasonably strong, well-positioned, Democrat.

Whose move is next?

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  1. torridjoe torridjoe March 26, 2007

    The hot rumor was that DSCC was trying to pull DeFazio in with 5mil. My guess is that either DeFazio asked for (or more likely DSCC just went ahead and did) numbers, not money.

    In other words, I think this was a love letter to DeFazio. I don’t necessarily discount the head to head result in terms of sentiment, but the most interesting number to me is the 56% approval rating Smith gets. That’s not the number of a candidate in trouble, typically.

  2. Randy Stapilus Randy Stapilus Post author | March 27, 2007

    On further reflection, I’m inclined to agree, and I certainly don’t think that Smith is toast. What I’d be inclined to say is that the seat could be competitive, maybe hotly competitive, depending on how Smith continues to handle things (and I’m not sure the last four months have done him much good), on the ongoing national/state mood and partly on who his opposition turns out to be.

    I’ve started becoming more skeptical about using job ratings as electoral predictors; for one, the low ratings Kulongoski had for much of last year didn’t closely match his eventual winning numbers. That said, I think there’s quite a bit of residual good will around the state for Smith (which also was one of Kulongoski’s assets), and he won’t anyone’s pushover.

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