Saturday, March 28, 2009
Murphy Will Win
---- With four days to go in the battle to decide who shall succeed Kirsten Gillibrand as U.S. Representative for Greene and other up-State counties, it now looks as if Scott Murphy will win. That prospect is indicated by the latest sample survey data and by other calculations. -----The latest Siena Research Institute survey, based on telephone conversations last Wednesday and Thursday (3/25-26) with 917 likely voters, gives Murphy, the Democratic candidate, a lead over James Tedisco, the Republican, of 4 percentage points. Ten per cent of respondents--enough to swing the election either way--were undecided. ----Murphy's 47-43 plurality reverses what the Siena pollsters found two weeks earlier. Tedisco led then by 4 points, with 13% of respondents not supporting either man. The latest score marks the culmination of a big one-directional trend. An early January poll sponsored by the Republican National Committee gave Tedisco an apparent lead over Murphy of 50% to 29%. A late-February Siena poll put the score at 46% for Tedisco, 34% for Murphy. Another sampling, taiken for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee at about the same time, reduced Tedisco's estimated edge to 44-37 (and prompted Democratic strategists to make a big investment in the race). -----In response to the final Siena poll, the Tedisco camp has cited other ostensible survey data. According to a statement issued by a Tedisco spokesman, Republican-sponsored confidential polling "shows us continuing in the lead," and so does Democratic polling. -----The Siena interviewers also found that while a plurality of respondents favored Murphy, a plurality (of 45%) also guessed that Murphy would lose. Their guess probably is wrong. Murphy stands a good chance of out-performing the Siena estimate, thanks to these factors. >>The Under-Estimate Factor. Opinion surveys that rely on land-line telephone calls do not reach voters who only own cellular phones. Those voters, a growing population, are younger and, currently, are more pro-Democratic (or pro-Obama) than other voters. >>The Defection Factor. When elections are closely contested, the outcome depends crucially on different rates of turnout. Those rates in turn depend on the intensity of voters' feelings about candidates and issues, and on organizers' efforts at mobilization. Those forces carry extra the weight in the context of a special election, where voter participation normally is lower than in regular elections. In this special election, Murphy's and Teidsco's active supporters may be about equal in numbers and energy, but Tedisco's organizers are handicapped by softness in their political base. As indicated in the last Siena poll, the proportion of Republicans who plan to vote for Murphy (27%) is greater than the proportion of Democrats who plan to vote for Tedisco (11%). That makes it harder to Tedisco organizers to find their voters. >>The Independence Factor. When voters go to the polls on Tuesday, they will see James Tedisco's name on two party lines: Republican and Conservative. They will see Murphy's name on three party lines: Democratic, Working Families, and Independence. The latter designation will gain Murphy a few votes that otherwise would go to Tedisco. Murphy's endorsement by the Independence Party's executive committee, as pointed out by reporter Elizabeth Benjamin (New York Daily News, 3/1) came after "furious lobbying by other side" and qualifies as a minor political coup. In all his races for State Assembly, Tedisco stood as the Independence as well as the Republican party candidate (as had Republicans John Sweeney and Sandy Treadwell in their campaigns for Congress from the 20th District). >>The Sundwall Factor. One setback experienced by Murphy this week was rejection by the State Election Board of Eric Sundwall's application to appear on the ballot as the Libertarian Party candidate. The rejection was based on subtle flaws in the petitions Sundwall submitted. The Elections Commissioners were responding to complaints made by Tedisco supporters who anticipated, correctly, that Sundwall's candidacy would draw more votes away from the Republican candidate than from his Democratic rival. The prospective pay-off was reduced, however, when Sundwall came out with a strongly worded endorsement of Murphy. (See www.sundwallo4congress.org ) >>The Obama Factor. Although Murphy has campaigned as a keen supporter of President Obama's economic stimulus package, he was not in a position to trumpet an explicit presidential endorsement. That situation changed on Thursday. The President (whose local favorability rating is 65%) joined Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Chuck Schumer, and Vice-President Joe Biden in broadcasting a message of support for Scott Murphy. News of that boost came out after the last Siena survey was taken. -----On this showing, it seems probable that Murphy will win by at least 4 points. -----How Murphy came from so far behind, and whether that is a curse or a blessing, are topics for other treatments.