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Wednesday, November 09, 2005 

Sanders: How About The Polls?

When you have good news, jump on it. Just before Monday's noon hour, in an e-mail to supporters, Mike Beebe's gubernatorial campaign was busy highlighting the results from the Arkansas Poll, which showed the Democrat leading Republican Asa Hutchinson 47 percent to 40 percent. Even though the results were within the poll's margin of error, plus or minus 4.1 percentage points, this was the first public poll to show Beebe in the lead. By the afternoon, Bill Halter's exploratory campaign committee was quick to jump on the results from a new Wall Street Journal/Zogby International poll on the Arkansas governor's race. Monday's release marked the first time the monthly tracking poll tested a potential matchup between Democrat Halter and Republican Asa Hutchinson. The poll conducted during the last week of October showed Hutchinson leading Halter 46.7 percent to 38.8 percent with a margin for error plus or minus 4.9 percentage points - a lead within that margin. Why all the excitement over a 7.9 percent Hutchinson lead? Since August, the Zogby poll consistently has shown Hutchinson with a lead over Democrat Mike Beebe. However, Hutchinson held with a slightly larger lead over the presumed Democratic front-runner Beebe at 48.6 percent to 39.9 percent - a difference of 8.7 percent, also within the margin of error.In August, the same poll showed Hutchinson leading Beebe 48.7 percent to 39.9 percent, with a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points. In September, Hutchinson led Beebe 46.2 percent to 41.2 percent with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points. Not to be outdone, the Hutchinson campaign sent out a "breaking news" e-mail of its own pointing to its candidate's strong showing in the latest Zogby poll. The Hutchinson campaign said it understands that the race is close. Halter has the most to gain from Monday's poll. Bud Jackson, a Democratic consultant who now serves as Halter's spokesman, released a statement taking Beebe to task, citing his weakness and Halter's strength, despite being an unannounced candidate: "Democrat Bill Halter has yet to begin his gubernatorial campaign and he already performs better than Mike Beebe against Asa Hutchinson. When Arkansans learn more about Bill Halter and his vision to bring positive change to Arkansas, Democrats should expect Halter to pull ahead of Asa Hutchinson. "The poll also confirms the concerns of many Democrats that an incumbent statewide officeholder is unable to perform better against a well-known appointee from the Bush administration." Jackson Monday afternoon called the poll "positive and encouraging" news that provides a "big boost" to Halter, but he will be "level-headed" about the results. So do these results put Halter closer to a decision about launching a full-blown campaign? Perhaps. Without a timetable or deadline in place, Halter's decision-making process isn't much different from the traditional methods most candidates use when determining what it would take to mount a successful campaign. His campaign said Halter is weighing both family and financial considerations. Raising over $500,000 in the first 10 days of announcing his exploratory committee, Halter is said to be heartened by "proving a lot of people wrong" about what support exists for his candidacy. Just before quitting time on Monday evening, Beebe's campaign began attacking the Zogby poll's methodology, contending that it's online method is "at odds with polls that use professionally accepted and proven methodologies, like The Arkansas Poll that was released last week." Beebe might want to check with those at the University of Arkansas who conduct the Arkansas Poll - like I did last week - before he starts touting its proven methodologies. There was one glaring problem: The poll's respondents were not equal in number across the state's congressional districts.The 1st District contained 27.3 percent of respondents; the 2nd District, 21.9 percent; the 3rd District, 23.2 percent and the 4th District, 24.7 percent. The two heaviest sampled districts were the 1st and 4th districts, both of which are the state's most Democratic areas. So what's one to make of these polls? Read them with a careful eye, check all the underlying numbers and then read them again.

Wednesday, Nov 9, 2005 By David Sanders

Hey, R. Stewart Jones, I had so idea that you were a regular reader of David Sanders!

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