August, 26th 2010

Herrera ahead in new SurveyUSA poll

– Liz Mair

SurveyUSA polled 562 likely voters in Washington's third district and look what they found: Jaime Herrera leads Denny Heck 54/41 among likely voters, with 5 percent undecided.  Good news for Washington Republicans, all around.

Or is it? 

Among friends who scrutinize polling rigorously, I've heard some questions raised lately about why SurveyUSA's numbers seem more Republican-favorable than those from other polls this cycle. 

Do their determinations as to who qualifies as a "likely voter" in 2010 indicate a better screening process given the overall environment? 

Or are they screening out people who will ultimately vote Democratic, no matter what they're saying now? 

Is their methodology appropriate for Washington, a state that is almost 100 percent vote-by-mail, making voting a relatively painless, low-effort exercise that less fired-up voters may ultimately participate in despite low enthusiasm because, well, the ballot is sitting on the kitchen table, so why not? 

Or does the vote-by-mail situation actually guarantee Republicans an edge: Voters favoring Republicans have an easy route to voting for them, and given general unhappiness with leadership in Washington, DC, they'll go ahead and tick the "R" box, just because it's so easy?

It's hard to say at this point, but one thing I find interesting is that SurveyUSA's results here correspond almost exactly with the vote breakdown in this month's top-two primary.  In that contest, Republicans aggregated about 54 percent of the vote (the same number as pick Herrera here).  Democrats aggregated about 42 percent (so one point more than indicates support for Heck here).  That makes these numbers look credible, though it is worth noting that as it stands today, Herrera is likely at quite a significant financial disadvantage that she will need to correct, and correct soon, to get 54 percent on the day.

According to, as of the end of his last finance report, Denny Heck had about $700,000 cash on hand.  Herrera had just $113,000.  Moreover, Heck had at that point brought in close to $650,000 in donations (and contributed $350,000 to his campaign himself).  Meanwhile, Herrera, who entered the race about a month before Heck, had at that point raised about $410,000.

Momentum is with Republicans right now, and many knowledgeable political observers are predicting a wave.  But in a district like the third, facing an opponent like Heck, TV is going to be pretty determinative of how things ultimately go, and to win, Herrera either needs to be able to match Heck dollar-for-dollar, or do a web ad that is so outside-the-box and attention-grabbing that it can't avoid being covered by TV she would otherwise have to pay for.  This isn't intended to be an advertisement for the services of Fred Davis, but the reality is, this race is winnable and will probably be close-- but for Herrera to beat Heck, especially given how soon ballots will go out (it's just around the corner, really), she's going to need to either haul in and spend a lot of cash starting right now, or do something that genuinely grabs attention.

Demon Sheep, anyone? [intro]


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