Yesterday the Tuke campaign sent out a couple of emails detailing the results of some internal polling in the TN Senate Democratic primary race. The first asserted they were leading Mike Padgett by 30 some points. The second, a correction, they lead their nearest opponent by 24 points.
I’m not a big fan of releasing internal polls. From my perspective it’s like tipping your hand in a poker game. Why let anyone else know you have a hand? But releasing this poll was a really bad idea, particularly since Tuke is losing to undecided by 25 points. Here are the corrected numbers they published:
Undecided – 57%
Tuke – 32%
Padgett – 8%
Others – 4%
That’s hardly a win for the Tuke campaign. More people haven’t made a decision on this race than support Tuke by a nearly 2-1 margin. How is this good news for the campaign?
I’d be more interested in how Tuke, and the rest of the field stacks up against Lamar!. I bet that’s not a rosy picture for any of the Democratic candidates.
If the intent of releasing the poll was to get people to line up behind him as the frontrunner, he might be successful. It could also cause Padgett to nose down and go for broke. There’s plenty of undecideds out there for Padgett to pick off and make this a competitive race.
The harsh reality is what this means for the general election. If 60ish% of Democrats aren’t sure who they support, just imagine where all the independents are falling in the race. The eventual Democratic nominee will have a huge hill to climb starting August 8th. Name recognition, public appearances, you name it, they better be ready to beat the hell out of the bushes and close the gap.
Hill number 2 is campaign cash. As of the April disclosure Lamar! has about $2.8M in the bank. Tuke was at $224k (the next disclosure is on the 20th). If Tuke wins the primary, Democrats will have to come up with about $3M more to be marginally competitive. Further, since no Democrat in the race has previously run or won a statewide election, it raises the bar that much more…add $1.5M. Finally, since the state legislature didn’t put that flanel ban on campaign appearances, add another $500k for good measure (I’m still convinced that people recognize the shirt more than the man).
We have a long way to go before this race becomes competitive, and an even longer one to convince the DSCC and party activists around the country that any Democrat in TN has a chance against Lamar! Showing weakness among Democrats some 30 days out from the Primary election isn’t the way to do it.
Update: An email commenter notes that the release of internal polls can sometimes dissuade people from contributing to their opponent. I agree with this assessment, and think this is particularly effective in primary contests. Still, it’s too bad that the Tuke campaign didn’t either have it, or release it before the 6/30 reporting deadline.
Kleinheider posted an anonymous comment calling the methodology into question. This too is a valid point.
Finally, if this was a poll of Tennessee Democrats one would think there would be enough familiarity with Tuke, a former TNDP chair, to push him over the 50% mark. Maybe people just aren’t paying that much attention to down-ticket races right now, I honestly don’t know. I do know that the national media and bloggers have written this race off. I sure hope Tennesseans haven’t.