Coming out less than a few days after the Rocky Mountain News poll
showed a double-digit lead for Democrat Ken Salazar (53-42), the new Rasmussen poll shows a dead heat
with a slight edge to Republican Pete Coors (49-48). Both polls surveyed 500 likely voters and have the same 4.3% margin of error. What gives? Who do we believe? How much faith do we even put in the polls? With disparate results like these, it's hard to give a huge vote of confidence to them. But polls do tell us something, there's no doubt about that.
Unfortunately, the lack of detailed raw data from either survey makes it difficult to draw too many conclusions. (Let's put it this way: I don't make enough to cough up the cash for a premium membership to the Rasmussen site.)
Let's look at the new Rasmussen poll and draw some comparisons. The Rasmussen surveyed voters on Thursday, September 16. Result? Coors 49, Salazar 48. [Incidentally, the Rasmussen results are identical to the week-old projection made by Blogicus M. at Mile High Delphi
.] The last Rasmussen tally on this race, conducted exactly a month ago, showed the Democrat with a 49-45 edge. Both results remain within the margin of error but read together seem to indicate a slight momentum shift into the Coors column. The latest RMN poll has failed Dairy Queen franchise operator Salazar leading by 11, but the last poll the firm conducted was in April, so indications of momentum are much less clear.
The Rasmussen poll also indicates identical favorable ratings for the two candidates. According to the RMN story on its poll, Coors has twice the unfavorables of Salazar. Maybe both facts coincide, and it's just a matter of emphasis. For example, Coors could be 60 favorable, 30 unfavorable, and 10 no opinion & Salazar could be 60 favorable, 15 unfavorable, and 25 no opinion. But I doubt the case. Rasmussen & RMN are getting two different reads.
Without the detailed data at my disposal, what I see are differently emphasized demographics from the two stories. The RMN poll highlights two huge advantages for Salazar: 68-23 among Hispanics and 59-35 among rural voters. The Rasmussen poll gives Coors an edge among military veterans of 55-43. Of course, the most surprising figure of these three is the giant lead for the Democrat among rural Coloradans. Just guessing here, but the gap is probably significantly smaller in the Rasmussen poll.
The RMN poll revealed 4% undecided, while Rasmussen puts the number at a paltry 1%. Perhaps the Rasmussen pollsters push their respondents a little harder, or perhaps it's just the sample. But if the former is true, it might indicate that more people on the fence are leaning in Coors' direction. If so, then the Republican needs to do a little better job selling himself.
So lest I get accused of preaching political agnosticism, what can we learn when we put these two surveys side-by-side? The result is somewhere in between. If you also factor in the internal numbers from Coors (showing +2 for Salazar, with a higher margin of undecideds, perhaps a reason to be suspect of the Rasmussen result) and average the three, you get about a 4-point lead for the Democrat.
Composite: Salazar 49, Coors 45
Overall, I don't think there's enough in all of these polls for Coors to lean on to justify any particular campaign strategy or tactic. What he needs to do still seems clear. All the following points have been made before among our members of the Rocky Mountain Alliance, but it can't hurt to repeat them. The Coors campaign needs to:
1. Connect Salazar with trial lawyers and the need for tort reform, making the case even stronger.
2. Highlight Salazar's varying positions on Iraq, much as Schaffer did back during the primary season. While the Attorney General hasn't been as slippery as the man carrying his party's presidential banner, he has been far from rock-solid on Iraq.
3. Make a stronger case for the difference between the two men and the two parties on values issues. Salazar is trying to parade around as a centrist. Coors needs to make the case that as a member of the Democrat party he'd be beholden to the special interests of the abortion absolutists and the anti-marriage zealots.
Cross posted at Mount Virtus