Friday, September 08, 2006

Independents and the AG Race

Here's what happens when a poll essentially says a race is still up for grabs:

(Click image for larger view. From

The recent WISC-TV poll looks at four match-ups:
  1. Lautenschlager vs. Bucher
  2. Lautenschlager vs. Van Hollen
  3. Falk vs. Bucher
  4. Falk vs. Van Hollen
The Dem is leading in all four match-ups by an average of nearly 11 points, but considering the margin of error (4 points) and the undecideds (16-25 percent, depending on the race), none of the races is a lock.

The drawback of the WISC-TV poll is that it doesn't consider the races that are going to be decided next week in the state primary; instead, it just skips to focusing on the possible races in November. Perhaps there's a reason for this move, but it seems a bit like putting the cart before the horse.

Nevertheless, looking more closely at the numbers from the poll does provide some insight into the inner workings of the various match-ups.

On the GOP side, both candidates have significantly reduced the number of people who don't know them in the state. Bucher reduced the number from 76 in August to 53 this month, while Van Hollen dropped his unknowns from 89 to 55 in the same time span.

Bucher and Van Hollen seem to score about the same with Republican voters in their match-ups with the Dem candidates, but Bucher has notably higher numbers with Independents.

In their contests with Lautenschlager, for instance, 76 percent of Republicans support Bucher and 71 percent of Republicans support Van Hollen. Bucher, however, has 35 percent of the Independent vote locked up, whereas Van Hollen only has 21 percent.

Lautenschlager's numbers with the Indies stays the same in the two match-ups, which suggests many who support Bucher over Lautenschlager are falling into the "undecided" category in the Lautenschlager-Van Hollen contest.

On the Dem side, while Lautenschlager is more well-known than Falk (71 percent to 55 percent), Lautenschlager's favorable rating is only 3 points higher than Falk. Not surprisingly, then, Lautenschlager has an unfavorable rating that's 13 points higher than Falk. This means Falk has more room to grow between now and the two election days than Lautenschlager.

But it's where Lautenschlager lags behind Falk that might be most important at this point: the Independents.

Lautenschlager gets support from 41 percent of Indies in her race against Bucher and 42 percent of them in her race against Van Hollen. Strong numbers, but not as strong as Falk. In her race against Bucher, Falk grabs 48 percent of the Independent vote, and she takes 51 percent against Van Hollen.

Based upon my reading of the WISC-TV poll, I'd say that Bucher is the GOP's best chance to wrestle the AG office from the Dems, and Falk is the Dem's best chance for holding onto the office.

The key to this prediction is the Independent vote. Both Bucher and Falk have a notable lead over their respective primary opponents in the Indie race, which is extremely important in a general election.

The same is not necessarily true, however, in the primaries, which likely feature fewer Independents and more people who associate themselves with one of the two major parties.

Taking the Independents out of the WISC-TV poll shows a virtual dead-heat on both sides, which suggests, ironically, that the person who wins the primary may not be the best equipped to win in the general.

And that's a large part of what makes the race so unpredictable.


Blogger Jay Bullock said...

[I]onically [. . .] the person who wins the primary may not be the best equipped to win in the general.

As is often the case. BUT . . . the sample sizes of independents are so small, it's hard to draw any major conclusions. I see both primaries as near toss-ups, and the general is probably the closest of the state-wide races.

September 08, 2006  
Blogger Ben Masel said...

After the Primary, Van Hollen, should he sttill be in the race, will no longer have to paint himself as 'as nuts as Bucher.' Bucher, on the other hand, will still be as nuts as Bucher.

September 08, 2006  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...


You're probably right about the sample size, it just seems the results of the poll mirror my gut feeling on the issue. While I think most Dems will be able to look past Lautenschlager's drunk driving incident and most Repubs will vote against her either way, the Indies could get swayed by the argument that the state's top cop shouldn't have a record of drunk driving in state vehicles. And it is concerning that Lautenschlager is more well-known than Falk but not more well-liked, and those numbers are based on the entire sample size from the poll.


I think you're right about Van Hollen. I'm not sure, though, if he's going to be able to make it out of the primary in order to prove you right.

September 09, 2006  

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