This poll is so obviously off the mark that I feel misgivings about bringing it to your attention. But since the wider media is destined to seize on it as a ray of sunshine in the darkening Democratic picture, let this serve as a fact check: There’s not a single Republican candidate in a competitive state this year who’s going to get landslided by a Democrat to the tune of 10 points. Not even a really bad candidate.
Which Herschel Walker is, for the record.
In fact, if you’re on the ballot in a cycle when a president from the other party is killin’ it with a 38 percent approval rating, you can be downright terrible and still find yourself dumped into a Senate seat. Especially if you have a strong candidate running alongside you to help turn out voters, which Walker does in the person of Brian Kemp.
This new one from Quinnipiac is raising eyebrows this afternoon because of what an obvious outlier it is. It’s to their credit that they went ahead and published it anyway, as Nate Silver has complained for years about pollsters playing games with how they weight different variables to try to bring an outlier-ish result into line with the consensus in the polling field (a.k.a. “herding”). Quinnipiac didn’t do that. They’re showing their cards, for better or worse. Points for integrity!
But they’re the same outfit that had Democrats Andrew Gillum and Bill Nelson trouncing Ron DeSantis and Rick Scott, respectively, by seven points in their final poll of the 2018 Florida gubernatorial and Senate races. There are misses, there are bad misses, and there are “never let you live it down” misses. That one fell into the third category.
So, with a grain of salt, their new numbers on the gubernatorial race…
…and the Senate race:
My first thought on seeing that polling was, “Shift each race five points towards the GOP and you’re in the ballpark of the truth.” Kemp by five and a Warnock/Walker toss-up feels about right in this environment. And not just to me, apparently:
(Even Democrats don’t think these results accurately reflect what’s happening on the ground here, where Republicans are in better shape. One D strategist said the poll is at least 5 points off)
— Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) June 29, 2022
— Matt Holt (@mattholt33) June 29, 2022
It’s the rare outlier that’s so implausible that the party benefiting from it rushes to reporters to say, “Uh, no.”
It turns out that the last poll of the state conducted a few weeks ago had — ta da — Kemp up five and Walker and Warnock tied. That makes sense intuitively since Kemp is an incumbent who’s fresh off a landslide over Trump’s candidate in the primary, placing him at the height of his political powers in Georgia. Walker, on the other hand, is a political newbie who’s facing an incumbent in Warnock and is closely tied to Trump in a state where Trump keeps losing.
He hasn’t been a dynamite campaigner either. And the headlines about him having previously undisclosed children are doing him no favors, especially with Dems flagging his history of criticizing absentee fathers.
But even so, he’s one of the state’s greatest sports heroes, has universal name recognition, is running in a Republican mega-wave year, and will have Kemp’s voters out en masse to help drag him over the finish line. Republicans *really* want to beat Abrams again; even righties who aren’t excited to show up to vote for Walker will show up to vote for Kemp and vote Walker anyway. Unless and until Biden gains at least five points in his job approval, Walker will remain a narrow favorite in this race. (A generic Republican would be a solid favorite.) He’s certainly not 10 points down.
There is one thing that gives me pause, though: The Roe factor. The last poll of the state was taken before the Dobbs ruling was issued. Is it possible there’s been a five-point swing to the left due to anger that abortion is no longer a constitutional right?
Probably not, I’m thinking, or else we would have seen more evidence of it in last night’s primaries. (We might have seen a little in Nebraska’s special election.) We’d see stronger evidence in the generic ballot polling average too, where there’s been a small bounce for Democrats but nothing earth-shaking. On the other hand, it’s reasonable to think that the post-Roe backlash might be bigger in Georgia than in most states. That’s because, despite its 50/50 electorate, the state government is dominated by the GOP. Dems there have real reason to fear that strict measures will be imposed to limit abortions, starting with a “heartbeat law” banning abortion after six weeks that might soon take effect.
If you live in a solid blue state or a solid red state, there’s not much your vote will do in November to affect the sort of abortion regime your state has next year. You don’t need to care about the issue that much. But in Georgia? Hiiiiiigh stakes. So maybe Quinnipiac really is picking up an ominous trend there post-Dobbs.
Or maybe Quinnipiac is a garbage pollster. David Byler remembered today how their final five polls of the Biden/Trump race in 2020 looked:
They’re not sending their best.
Exit question: Is it really likely that Stacey Abrams would be even with Kemp while Warnock would be leading Herschel Walker by 10 if Joe Biden were carrying a … 33/60 approval rating? Read that again: 33/60. Closer to the 20s in approval than the 40s. That’s what Quinnipiac is seeing for him in Georgia. The Roe backlash would need to be thermonuclear to save Democrats from a political burden that heavy.