Poll shows King’s numbers slipping

Recently, the two of us were made privy to polling done by a national D.C. consulting firm called Moore Consulting. This is a firm that polls for many national groups, congressional candidates and governors and has done a lot of polling in Maine, including for U.S. Sen. Susan Collins. They focus primarily on Republican candidates and races.

Because one should always be critical of polling that comes from one party or the other, we insisted on seeing the actual poll to make sure there was no bias in the questions asked or the people who responded. Based on our experience, the demographic breakdowns in terms of gender, income, party affiliation and age were consistent with what we have seen in other polls. Plus the number polled — 500 live calls to registered Maine voters — is a large enough sample to demonstrate confidence within a reasonable margin of error. 

Additionally, we discussed the broad numbers with a couple of pollsters not affiliated with any campaign or party to get their sense of whether these numbers would be generally plausible. Both agreed they were. Finally, because the poll showed very strong numbers for President Barack Obama in Maine (beating Republican contender Mitt Romney, 52-37) and weak numbers for Gov. Paul LePage (51-percent unfavorable), we knew the bias was not tilted to favor any particular side. 

All this is to say that the two of us feel very confident that the numbers are legitimate as a snapshot in time.

The polling shows that independent Angus King’s advantage in the race for U.S. Senate has dropped by ten points since the last public poll was released by the Portland Press Herald in July. That poll had King with a 28-point lead over Republican candidate Charlie Summers. The Moore Consulting poll, from Aug. 5 and 6, shows that lead dropping to 18 points.

                                          PPH Poll                     Moore Poll
King                                  55%                             46%
    Summers                          27%                             28%
    Dill                                      7%                               8%

The numbers for Democrat Cynthia Dill and Summers are right in line with the PPH poll, which makes sense since neither have done much to gain traction this summer. Equally understandable, the King number shows he has dropped nine points, probably due to the ad campaign the U.S. Chamber ran against him during the Olympic Games. This is further verified in another question in the poll in which King’s net favorables (the margin between those who like him and those don’t) dropped by 11 points from a WBUR poll also taken in June. His favorables to unfavorables in that poll were 60 percent to 21 percent. In the current poll he is at 55 percent to 27 percent.

King’s drop in both of these numbers makes sense mostly due to the campaign’s lack of response to the Chamber ad. The ad ran for two weeks with $400,000 behind it to make sure it was seen dozens of times by each target audience. Additionally, the ad was deemed mostly accurate by the media with no serious effort by the King campaign to combat its accusations. This last point, the fact that King did not reply in any meaningful way, was a mistake both of us find puzzling for a seasoned campaigner like King.

That said, King is still the heavy favorite. There is not a candidate in the country who wouldn’t want an 18-point lead going into Labor Day with a two-to-one favorable ratio. However, King’s mistake in not responding to this full-fledged assault has left him open to additional third-party attacks. We both feel that the U.S. Chamber attack was a trial balloon to see if King’s armor could be dented. It appears that was the case.

One interesting side note is that the poll also tested the most important issues to Maine voters. Topping the list, as many would expect, was “jobs and the economy.” It came in at 65 percent. Those who responded that the most important issue was getting the U.S. Senate working again came in at 3 percent. If King wants to hang on to his formidable lead, he had better start talking about something other than Washington gridlock. 

And if Dill or Summers want to start getting some traction, they better focus on the economy (and raise some serious money).