Moore Funny Business

Jeff Alworth

Last Thursday, Kari Chisholm posted a piece about some hanky panky by "independent" pollster Bob Moore. The Bend Bulletin used him as a source for polling in the US Senate race between Senator Ron Wyden and law professor Jim Huffman--citing him as an unaffiliated Republican pollster. Kari detailed the evidence that Moore was indeed working for Huffman, but Moore's clumsy subterfuge was worse than Kari suspected.

It turns out that on the same day Kari posted this piece, Moore was sending out emails with results of internal polling he'd just conducted for Huffman. (see also here). And those poll results? They suggested Wyden was in deep trouble.

Sort of.

Even leaving aside the fact that Moore doesn't provide his methodology (and serious people shouldn't leave that fact aside), the numbers were curious. Moore found, like every other pollster in America, that voters were dissatisfied with the country's direction and with their leaders. He found that respondents--whomever they were--were about split on whether Wyden should be re-elected. And he found, in a triumph of weasel-wording "that after mentioning a number of statements about Huffman’s background and views, he led over Wyden with 47 percent to 38 percent." But Huffman's name? Never mentioned. Nor were any findings about who voters would support among the actual candidates.

Jeff Mapes, commenting on the poll, offers a critique as tart as any I could make:

In a sense, the Moore memo talks about a fantasy: a landscape where Huffman gets to make his points to voters without having any response from Wyden. And given the way the money is going in this race, that's not likely to be the case.

Reality check: earlier, public polls put Wyden up by between 10-18%, and an internal Wyden poll put the figure at 30%. Wyden has a massive fundraising lead of $4.2 million to Huffman's $750,000--$450,000 of which came from Huffman's own bank account. By comparison, when Jeff Merkley toppled incumbent Senator Gordon Smith in 2008, he was amassing a respectable war chest. If Huffman's got all this juice, the NRSC doesn't seem to have gotten the memo. So, at the end of the day--and despite Moore's selective claims--Jim Huffman remains a poorly-funded, untested candidate with little name recognition and no electoral experience.

Update. Polling maestro Mark Blumenthal has a post today illustrating how differing methodologies can yield vastly different results in polls querying respondents on similar questions.

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    Big money gets it. Which is why Huffman is self-funding instead of being able to convince others to pitch in.

    I wonder if it's Huffman's strategy to eventually run for another office...

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    Jeff Mape's nails this one pretty well but he could have gone much further.

    Problem 1: "a series of statements about candidate positions and backgrounds" are provided. What are those statements? How can we evaluate them for accuracy, even handedness, etc?

    Problem 2, and Mapes is right, this is a HUGE one. The head to head matchup is asked AFTER the statements, not before. That makes it, to be candid, complete junk. It MAYBE is an evaluation of how a race MIGHT pan out IF the the statements were accepted by the public and IF the Wyden campaign did not counter them. How believable are those series of MAYBE's and IFs?

    Problem 3: Moore compares Huffman's position in 2010 with Merkley's in 2008. Assumption: the GOP tides in a 2010 midterm contest are comparable to the DEM tides in a 2008 presidential contest. I'll leave others to evaluate that claim.

    The other statements made in the internal emails aren't wrong, but are generic. It makes me feel like I should do campaign work, if you make 10's of thousand of dollars for writing this stuff.

    Yes, it is an anti-incumbent year. Yes, it is worrisome that 47% of respondents prefer a generic "new person." And yes, it is a concern that Obama is not that popular and that Oregonians's are pessimistic about the economy.

    I could have told Huffman, or any GOP candidate that, and I would have only charged a few thousand dollars! Or they could just read the newspaper.

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