An internal poll [pdf] released by the Sherrod Brown campaign is making waves on the internet. First the numbers:
Ohio Democratic primary matchup
Brown (D) 51
Hackett (D) 22
Brown (D) 47
Hackett (D) 20
Name ID — Favorable/Unfavorable/Recognize but no opinion/Never heard of him
Among voters who are familiar with both candidates
The poll was conducted by Diane Feldman, President of The Feldman Group, a highly regarded national political research firm. (I’ve heard this from more than just Brown’s campaign). It was conducted right after Brown’s widely publicised statewide bus tour, which one would think would give him a certain boost.
The methodology is significant:
Methodological note: This poll of 600 likely Democratic primary voters was conducted December 6th and 7th, 2005, by professional interviewers. Respondents indicated they are likely to participate in the May 2006 Democratic primary election. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.0 percent.
This is a big difference then other polls is that this one only includes likely primary voters, which is all that matters right now.
The background on how this poll is interesting. A diarist over @ DKos wrote up about a private event where Brown was citing the poll. This caused the Brown campaign to provide the poll to bloggers several days later after being asked about it.
Already this has caused a lot of people to react very strongly… many again urging Hackett to run against Jean Schmidt.
Now onto analysis…
The poll shows Sherrod Brown with a significant but not unexpected advantage over Hackett amongst likely primary voters. Brown is a veteran Ohio politician with significant state wide experience. Hackett has only run in approximately 10% of the state. Brown’s fat bankroll, ability to manipulate things as a member of Congress, ties to the Ohio Democratic Machine and expected endorsements all add to his frontrunner status.
But… there are some silver linings to this poll… Only 18% of the people in this poll have an opinion of Hackett what so ever. Brown wins 51% in the poll even though only 38% of the people polled have a favorable opinion of him. There are a lot of undecideds.
This makes the numbers very soft.
Being frontrunner is a vulnerable position. All it would take would be an endorsement from a group in Brown’s labor base to drive a significant wedge into his campaign. I’ve heard that Brown has been working overtime trying to cut off Hackett’s access to cash and prevent him from getting labor endoresments. His calls also supposedly include efforts to try to get Hackett to run again in 2nd. Brown knows how much damage can be done to his campaign if his base is seen as crumbling. Much like the Schmidt campaign Brown is smart enough to fear a prolonged campaign where more and more people start to make side by side comparisons of the two candidates.
The numbers are soft. The poll is a biased, internal poll. Not enough is known about the sample. It does not reflect other independent polls. I can see why Brown is leaking it, but it isn’t the end of the world or this race… otherwise why would Brown be making so many powerplays behind the scenes?
The bottom line is that Hackett has a lot of work ahead of him to catch up to Sherrod Brown. But this isn’t the first time that experts have counted Hackett out early on in a race.
UPDATE: The Fix is also in on the subject, and gets to the heart of things:
As Frisch rightly pointed out, a name identification deficit affords Hackett considerable room to grow if he can raise the millions necessary to run campaign commercials across the state. That remains the major question for Hackett campaign. Undoubtedly, one of the Brown campaign’s goals in releasing this poll was to shut off the cash spigot for Hackett.
Also, Buckeye Senate advises to ignore the poll.