Internal Polls Show Laffey Over Chafee

Republican Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island is trailing Cranston, R.I., Mayor Stephen Laffey in a bitterly divisive primary contest that offers Democrats their best shot at picking up a seat in one of the nation’s bluest states.
Internal campaign polls show the conservative mayor’s campaign attacks on Mr. Chafee’s liberal voting record — including the incumbent’s opposition to President Bush’s tax cuts and to Supreme Court Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr.’s nomination — have struck a responsive chord among Republican voters.

So sayeth Don Lambro of the Washington Times. The question is, whose poll? And is this just counting Republicans or does it include independents?
(Tip via Dan Yorke, who’ll have Mr. Lambro on later this afternoon.)
UPDATE: Lambro told Yorke he interviewed people on both sides, but he can’t tell you who exactly gave him the info. He said Washington GOP folks tell him it’s “really close”, which means (based on his experience) that Chafee is in trouble. He’s also not sure of the type of sample of the internal polls, apparently meaning that he doesn’t know if they included independents.
Lambro said that when he talke to Ian Lang, Lang didn’t argue with the point that conservatives are definitely leaning against Chafee. He also pointed out that the primary race was “competitive” and then Lang always steers the discussion to Laffey’s purported gap against Whitehouse.
Yorke brought up the the GOP Senatorial bunch have really beaten up Laffey and also that the purported 20-30 point gap between Laffey and Whitehouse isn’t that realistic. Yorke asked what the Washington GOP would do if Laffey won?
Lambro said they’d support him, but the depth of that support will be interesting. Given the controversy over tacit GOP support for Lieberman in CT, he doesn’t think they’d be to keen on NOT supporting Laffey. In short, he thinks the national GOP would support Laffey if he should win the primary.
Yorke also asked what the Beltway take on this race was. Lambro said that the feeling is that the Dems could pick up 4-6 seats, which is why Elizabeth Dole is focusing on RI and her committee is going to help Chafee as much as they can.

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Joe Mahn
Joe Mahn
15 years ago

These polls are all nonsense.
We’ll all know what the people say by the end of the day on September 12th.
Why can’t we focus on the issues. Isn’t that the meaningful aspect of the campaign anyway?
Tell me what you are going to do when you are in power and how you will take care of the country and my hard earned money.
J Mahn

Greg
Greg
15 years ago

I thought focusing on how the sitting senator dealt with the ISSUES he’s already had an opportunity to vote on WAS focusing on the issues.
Chafee is killing Chafee with the Republicans with his voting record. Laffey is just putting it out there for review.

AuH2ORepublican
15 years ago

Liddy Dole is an idiot. If she really thinks that the GOP may lose 4-6 net seats this November, how is the correct response to send your limited resources to try to save Lincoln Chafee’s skinny liberal butt in the primary instead of spending money to expose the liberalism of Democrat Senate candidates such as John Tester, Bob Casey, Jr., Harold Ford, Jr., Bob Menendez, etc. or to support GOP Senate candidates such as Mark Kennedy, Tom Kean, Jr., Michael Steele and Bob Corker (not to mention incumbents Rick Santorum, Jim Talent, etc.)? Even if Dole gets her way and Chafee survives the GOP primary, and even if Chafee manages to defeat Whitehouse in November, Chafee would be useless to the GOP in a 50-50 Senate, since he would almost certainly switch to the Democrats just as he has threatened to do in the past. This is really beyond stupid.

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

Marc, Nice headline but a total mischaracterization of the reality. “Internal” polls show Laffey narrowly leading? But, shhh, we can’t tell anyone who took the poll, how many indpendents vs. Republicans were polled, what the margin of error was, etc. For once, I agree with Joe Mahn. This poll is nonsense. It sounds like someone is trying to grab a quick headline to create the perception of momentum close to the election. The real story about this whole election is how LITTLE the situation has changed given the obscene amounts of money that have been spent by both sides. Consider: 1. Chafee and Laffey are still in a dead heat, with victory dependent upon how many people vote and more important, whose people show up on election day. 2. Chafee and Whitehouse are still locked in a tight, single-digit general election match up. 3. Whitehouse still holds a large 20-30 point lead over Laffey in a Laffey-Whitehouse contest. We’re exactly where we were on January 1st. If a reporter really wanted to write a quality piece on this race, they would explore how nothing in the race has changed despite the spending of millions of dollars. Everything the media has reported in this race has been so predictable. Chafee and Laffey going negative against each other? Big surprise….a hotly contested Senate race goes negative…. Chafee tries to get independents to vote for him and Laffey runs to the right of Chafee? Duh…. There has been no Ned Lamont-like challenger surge by Laffey. There have been no incumbent misteps by Chafee ala Conrad Burns. To me the only unpredictable thing that has happened (or not happened as the case may be) is been the complete lack of movement by either candidate over the past 11 and a half months. Is it… Read more »

Chuck
15 years ago

Watch that 20 – 30 point differential between Laffey and Whitehouse evaporate once Laffey wins the primary.
You know, one reason Chafee will lose to Laffey, and perhaps the polls are giving some indication of this (though I agree with J Mahn) is that he is visiting the voters door to door. That’s hands down a very effective method. Being the old fogey that I am, I recall that is how Claiborne Pell won his first shot to the US Senate.
He made himself omnipresent with the voters. By November, the name Whitehouse will only recall to mind a white building in Washington DC.

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

Chuck,
I do agree with you that going door-to-door is the best way to earn somebody’s vote, but if that 20-30 point lead were to evaporate, you would have already seen some impact as a result of Laffey’s efforts.
Laffey has been going door-to-door for the past 10 months or so, but it hasn’t moved the numbers.
Laffey’s name recognition has improved from when he first announced and the number of undecideds have shrunk to a much smaller number, but they have broken in numbers similar to right after he announced. It’s really weird.
Do you really think another 5-6 weeks of door-to-door will make a difference? I don’t.
All but the most politically ignorant voters are paying attention to this race right now and those that haven’t thought about it probably aren’t going to show up for a non-presidential primary election in September.
In a best case scenario, a RI Republican might be able to bounce back from 10-15 points down if the Democrats are divided, but 20-30 points isn’t mathematically possible with the number of undecideds left. And the Democrats aren’t even divided.

Marc Comtois
15 years ago

Anthony,
RE: the headline–well, that’s what the new, unique thing about this story was. As Yorke was mentioning, it’s the first time that any poll has come out saying Laffey has a lead. What’s a headline supposed to do? Grab attention. That’s what it did. I think the rest of the story stands on its own. As does your commentary.
Thanks,
Marc

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

Marc, Most credible media organizations won’t touch poll results unless the entire poll is provided. Every pollster knows this fact, so when a pollster releases portions of a poll or some questions and not others, it generally means that they’re just trying to get a quick headline through friendly or inexperienced media (even though the headline is inaccurate). For example, Q: If you knew that John Smith was indicted for arson and that Jane Doe was is a medical doctor, who would you vote for, John Smith or Jane Doe? Guess who will come out ahead in this poll? Would you publish the results without getting a copy of the questions if you were in the press? John Kerry’s people mastered this in 2004 and got alot of press suggesting that he was starting to run “ahead” of Bush in late October when most independent, fully disclosed public polls were still showing a dead heat. Some reporters were saying, “Hey, if Kerry is picking up steam as a challenger and Bush is the incumbent, people voting at the last minute usually vote for the challenger, so Kerry should win.” It worked, they got a couple of headlines, albeit inaccurate headlines. I haven’t seen anything indicating that there has been ANY momentum shift since this race began. I find this strange. Usually the numbers go up and down depending on media buys, current affairs , etc. or one candidate begins to break away. That hasn’t happened. I do believe that if either candidate had information showing them to be ahead in a poll, they would be sending it to every fax machine in the state. This race is the equivalent of World War I trench warfare. Everything is static. It could be a super-tight race or it might not even be… Read more »

Rhody
Rhody
15 years ago

On one hand, the effort Laffey has put into door-to-door is commendable and should bear fruit for him – my father and I went door-to-door helping mayoral, city council and school board candidates when I was a kid, and I know how valuable that kind of contact is. But when he’s barging through neighborhoods with the loudspeaker blaring from the RV and a whole 20-or-more entourage behind him, it overpowers people. I wonder if that technique is losing as many, if not more, votes than it gains him.

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

Possibly, Rhody. Or maybe there just aren’t many that many Rhode Islanders who agree with Laffey on the issues. Or maybe they question his leadership style.
Using the RV and loudspeaker is old-time political campaigning. If it works, you have to wonder why more people don’t do it anymore. If it doesn’t work, I guess we’ll know the reason why more people don’t do it anymore……

Will
Will
15 years ago

I like the old-time political campaigning style by Laffey. It shows that he’s willing to work harder, and isn’t taking anything for granted. People like the opportunity to meet and greet politicians in person in a place like Rhode Island. If this works well for Laffey, I’d expect to see some copy-cats next election cycle.
While I’m not going to divulge anything that I shouldn’t, I suppose that one “correction” that I should make is that Laffey’s internal campaign polls aren’t showing a “narrow” lead. The “narrow” part is what was stated by the Washington Times pollster, based on several different sources. Even still, I wouldn’t put a ton of stock in polls, as the major factor about this race is the interest of non-Republicans to vote in this election in record numbers. If it were only Republicans voting, this race would have been called months ago. Personally, I don’t think this is going to come down to a few points.

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

Here are my predictions:
Chafee wins the primary in a close race. (OK, this is really more of a guess than a prediction, because the outcome is so dependent on turnout. But I’m betting that there will be record or near-record turnout which should help Chafee).
If Chafee wins the primary, he comes out of the primary with momentum and wins by about 5 points over Whitehouse.
If Laffey wins the primary, he also picks up some momentum, closes the gap with Whitehouse by about 10 points and loses to Whitehouse by about 15.

Anthony
Anthony
15 years ago

Mike,
I agree and disagree with you.
On Carcieri/Fograrty, I agree.
I disagree on Chafee/Whitehouse. After months of negative ads about Chafee and only positive ads about Whitehouse, their is still only a single-digit difference between the two. This has to concern Whitehouse who has shown a tendency to lose ground in the weeks leading up to an election.
I also disagree on Laffey/Whitehouse. I think Laffey might be able to close the gap with Whitehouse by about 10 points and lose by only 15, not 25 points.
If Laffey were to win, his biggest problem will be money. The NRSC certainly isn’t going to spend money on a certain loser like Laffey and the Club for Growth’s goal was to beat Chafee, not elect Laffey so their role might diminish after the primary.
That would leave Laffey having to self-fund or trying to rely on Chafee supporters for his money–something which just isn’t going to happen.

Radio Left
15 years ago

CT-Sen: Chafee’s primary opponent wrote homophobic columns

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