Also Main head-lined at Op-Ed News
Taking its cue from a press release that accompanied the latest Quinnipiac poll, the mainstream media is predicting a close Connecticut primary contest that could go either way. Ned Lamont holds a narrow 4-point edge over Joe Lieberman, but that falls well within the polls +/- 3.8 percentage point margin of error. Is it really that close? Careful analysis of the data suggests otherwise. In fact, Lamont may be heading for a landslide victory on August 8th.
The Quinnipiac Press Release:
July 20, 2006 – Lamont Inches Ahead Of Lieberman In Dem Primary, Quinnipiac University Connecticut Poll Finds; Incumbent Still Leads In 3-Way November Match up
Anti-war Connecticut U.S. Senate candidate Ned Lamont has surged to a razor-thin 51 – 47 percent lead over incumbent Sen. Joseph Lieberman among likely Democratic primary voters, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today…”
“Lamont has turned what looked like a blowout into a very close Democratic primary race,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, Ph.D.
“Lamont is up, while Lieberman’s Democratic support is dropping. More Democrats have a favorable opinion of Lamont, who was largely unknown last month, and see him as an acceptable alternative to Lieberman. But Lieberman’s strength among Republicans and independents gives him the lead in a three-way match up in November.”…
Just how does a narrow 4-point lead translate into an August blow-out? Read on.
LIEBERMAN IS IN A FREE-FALL THAT HAS YET TO BOTTOM OUT:
Lieberman’s job approval rating in the latest Quinnipiac poll conducted July 13-18, 2006 stands at 55%, down from 73% in January 2005 (-25%); down from 62% in January 2006 (-11%); and down 31% from his 80% approval rating in September 2000 when he last ran for the Senate. Ironically, it is only among Republicans that he has not suffered severe job approval erosion. He has a 70% job approval rating among registered Republicans versus 73% in January 2005 (-4%). Among Democrats he has slipped from a 72% Job Approval rating to 47% (-35%). Among Independents he has dropped from 72% to 52% (-28%).
Perhaps even more dramatic are his disapproval ratings. From January 2005 to July 2006 Lieberman’s disapproval ratings have increased by 133% among all registered voters (from 15% to 35%); by 193% among Democrats (from 15% to 44%); and by 157% among independents (from 14% to 36%). Among Republicans he is disapproved of by only 22% versus 18% in January 2005.
A declining percentage of voters also have a favorable opinion of Lieberman personally. In the latest Quinnipiac poll he was viewed favorably by only 40% of Democrats (down from 50% in January 2006) and by 42% of Independents (down from 52% in January 2006).
Keep in mind that the numbers cited above are trends. The latest Quinnipiac poll was completed nearly two months before the August 8th Connecticut Primary, and if these trends continue unabated, Lieberman’s job approval and favorable ratings could be much lower by Primary Day. The fact that Joe Lieberman decided to collect signatures for a possible independent run for the Senate at a time when he maintained a still strong 15-point lead against Lamont in the polls suggests that private polling told him he was not looking good in the August primary. There is no reason to believe that Lieberman has bottomed out as of yet. Indeed his downward spiral could well accelerate as growing national media attention causes Connecticut voters to focus more closely on the fast-approaching August primary.
NED LAMONT’S SURGE:
A 51 to 47 Lamont edge over Lieberman in the latest Quinnipiac poll may not sound like much — until you put it in context. That number represents a very significant 19-point swing since the previous Quinnipiac poll was completed only six weeks earlier. Indeed the Lamont surge is nothing short of spectacular since he formally declared his candidacy barely four months before, on March 13, 2006:
- The February 2006 Quinnipiac poll (February 10-16), conducted before Lamont formally entered the race, gave Lieberman a seemingly insurmountable 55-point edge (68% to 13% with 17% undecided).
- The April 2006 Quinnipiac poll (April 25-30) showed a slight improvement for Lamont, but Lieberman still held a commanding 46-point point lead (65% to 19% with 14% undecided) with only three and-a-half-months remaining until the primary.
- The June 2006 Quinnipiac poll (May 31-June 6), still seemed, at first glance, like good news for Lieberman. It showed him with 25-point lead over Lamont (57% to 32% with 11% undecided). Those numbers represented healthy gains for Lamont, but they still seemed to leave him too far behind to catch up. This time, however, Quinnipiac also included “likely Democratic Primary voters,” and among that group Lieberman’s lead dropped to a much slimmer 15-point lead (55% to 40%). For the first time Lamont seemed within striking distance of catching Lieberman, though it still seemed a daunting task.
- As noted earlier, the July 2006 Quinnipiac poll revealed a paper-thin 4-point lead for Lamont over Lieberman (51% to 47% with 2% undecided). Were it not for the trend-line the Lamont lead would be statistically insignificant, but the trend-line is there and it is impossible to ignore. In barely four months since declaring his candidacy, Lamont has gone from a 46-point deficit to a 4-point advantage against Lieberman — an incredible 50-point vote shift. If that trend were mathematically projected forward Lamont would enjoy a 24-point edge over Lieberman by the August 8th Primary Day.
QUINNIPIAC DATA SUGGESTS LAMONT MAY BE PULLING AWAY:
- According to the July 2006 Quinnipiac poll 24% of respondents who had intended to vote for Lieberman, informed of his strong support for the Iraq war, indicated that they disagreed with his position on the war. Of those who disagreed, another 24% indicated that they would change their vote based on that issue alone. Those respondents would have swung Lamont’s 4-point edge to a 9-point edge.
- WHO IS NED LAMONT? That may seem like a strange question to ask about someone who is beating a three-term, 18-year incumbent Senator and former Vice-Presidential and Presidential candidate in the polls, but the majority of Connecticut voters surveyed in the latest Quinnipiac poll, indicate that they do not know enough about Ned Lamont to have an opinion about him. In February, when Lamont trailed Lieberman by 55-points, 93% of those polled by Quinnipiac said they did not know enough about Ned Lamont to form an opinion about him. In July, When Lamont had surged to a 4-point lead, 51% still maintained that they did not know enough about Ned Lamont to form an opinion about him. The trend-line demonstrates unmistakably that Lamont’s support among voters grows as they learn more about him. The attention this race is generating virtually guarantees that the vast majority of Democratic voters will know plenty about Ned Lamont by Primary Day, and the evidence suggests that his advantage over Joe Lieberman will grow as the voters get to know him better
- The Bush albatross will continue to haunt Joe Lieberman, George Bush’s favorite Democrat. Lamont is already running a commercial showing Joe Lieberman morphing into George W. Bush, and photos of the infamous Bush “kiss” follow Joe wherever he goes. Nationally George Bush’s job approval ratings are languishing in the mid to high 30’s. In Connecticut only 27% approve of Bush, and only 7% of Democrats do.
VOTER TURNOUT FAVORS LAMONT:
The June 2006 Quinnipiac poll suggested that “likely Democratic Primary voters” were more likely to vote for Lamont than for Lieberman (a 25-point Lieberman lead among all Democrats dropped to a 15-point lead among likely Primary voters).
In the July 2006 Quinnipiac poll 68% of respondents who identified themselves as Democrats were determined to be “likely Primary voters.” That percentage far exceeds the actual likely turnout. Of 22 U.S. primaries held as of July 16th, the average turnout was only 20%. The average Connecticut turnout in that state’s last four competitive primaries was 23%. It is a pretty safe bet that only about one in three respondents determined by Quinnipiac to be “likely voters” will actually turn out to vote in the August 8th primary. The evidence suggests that those who do will be more favorably disposed toward Lamont than Lieberman. If so, the July Quinnipiac poll probably understates Lamont’s Primary Day advantage over Lieberman.
The conventional wisdom is that the Connecticut Primary will be a squeaker. I think not. I believe that analysis of the most recent poll along with the 5-poll trends suggests an August landslide for Ned Lamont.
What of November? The Quinnipiac poll suggests that Lieberman, running as an independent, wins a 3-way election in November by a healthy 23-point margin over Ned Lamont (Rasmussen, on the other hand calls it a 40/40 dead-heat). Again, I think not. Those polls mean little given the likely growth of Lamont’s name-recognition between now and November, and a decisive primary victory by Lamont and the accompanying publicity such a victory would bring would also likely have a major impact on the subsequent polls and on the fall election. One need only look at the last several Connecticut Quinnipiac polls to see how dramatically the landscape can change in a relatively short period of time. Will Lieberman even run as an independent if he suffers a humiliating defeat in the primary? Only 22% of Connecticut voters are registered Republicans, hardly a base that can sweep Lieberman to a November victory, even if they vote overwhelmingly for him.
My prediction: Lamont wins BIG in August and goes on to win in November!