Texas senator misses on polls on Nevada race
U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett of Utah, the Republican who lost his bid for re-election in May when he finished third at his party’s nominating convention, warned last week that tea party “mischief” could cost Republicans in hotly contested Senate races this November.
Namely, Bennett said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., doesn’t have to worry about Republican Sharron Angle, who was nominated to challenge Reid with the blessing of tea partyers. “My sources in Nevada say with Sharron Angle there’s no way Harry Reid loses in Nevada,” he said.
Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas fired back, suggesting Bennett’s suffering from sour grapes. “I realize we’re hot and heavy leading up to the election, but voters are going to make the right decision,” Cornyn was quoted saying in an article posted July 13 by Talking Points Memo, an online political news organization. “There have been 30 published polls in this election cycle, and Harry Reid’s been trailing in every single one.”
Is Reid really down and out all over?
Brian Walsh, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which Cornyn leads, said there have been “at least” 30 polls taken in the “last 18 months of this election cycle,” or since January 2009.
Walsh didn’t share the senator’s breakdown of polls, so we went surfing. We turned up several online compendiums of poll results: Rasmussen Reports, Real Clear Politics and Talking Points Memo, all looking at whom voters would pick in a matchup between Reid and Angle and between Reid and Sue Lowden, who was a promising GOP primary candidate. The three websites yielded summaries of 27 polls, and we scrounged up three more polls from the Talking Points Memo’s PollTracker.
For each poll, we checked to make sure that Reid was tested for re-election and that there was a clear-cut indication of who was ahead — Reid or an opponent.
All told, we found, there have been polls testing Reid’s chances against various possible challengers since at least August 2009. That’s when the Mason-Dixon poll showed Lowden leading Reid by 5 percentage points, though the margin of error was also 5 points.
Of the 30 polls we reviewed — including five Democratic polls and one Republican poll — a Republican led Reid in 28 of them; Reid led in two polls, both Democratic.
In May, Fairbank, Maslin, Maullin, Metz & Associates reported that Reid had a 7point lead on Lowden, an independent and a tea party supporter. Angle wasn’t included in the poll. Jonathan Brown, a senior researcher for the pollster, told us the result was unique because of the timing: Lowden had just made some “extremely ill-advised comments” about her idea to have Americans barter with their doctor for health care. Then in June, Research 2000, working with the liberal-leaning Daily Kos, reported Reid had a 6-point lead on Angle and a 4point lead on Lowden. (To note: That month, Daily Kos severed ties with Research 2000, and has since sued the pollster for faulty polling.)
Among the 30 polls, we came across five showing a Republican candidate ahead, but not by enough to exceed the poll’s margin of error, meaning their race would have been too close to call at that time. We found a sixth poll where Reid led when voters were asked to choose between Reid and Lowden, but when asked to choose between Angle and Reid, Angle led. A seventh poll showed Reid leading against Angle, but behind Lowden. Both polls also fell within the margin of error.
As we were wrapping up this item, Talking Points Memo posted a July 1 poll by the Democratic Patriot Majority PAC that showed Reid with a 4-point lead over Angle, without revealing the poll’s margin of error, and a July 14 MasonDixon poll that showed Reid with a 7-point lead on Angle. We didn’t include these polls in our count because they weren’t available when Cornyn made his claim.
Though the latest polling hints that Reid’s numbers may be picking up, he clearly trailed Republican opponents in two-thirds of the 30 polls we reviewed; in those seven polls showing a closer race, Reid was behind in five.
Had Cornyn said that Reid was behind in nearly every poll, we wouldn’t quibble. But in two polls, Reid clearly was the leader — and that means he didn’t trail “in every single one.”
We rate Cornyn’s statement as False.