By now, pretty much anyone who cares about such things has heard about the Talk Business poll showing Timmy! Griffin leading Joyce Elliot by a whopping seventeen points.
In a survey conducted on Tuesday night, August 17, 2010, Griffin leads Elliott 52-35% among likely voters. Independent candidate Lance Levi polled at 3%, while Green Party nominee Lewis Kennedy received 1% of support from those surveyed. Undecided voters accounted for 9%.
The horserace numbers (52-35% Griffin with 1-3-9% for Kennedy, Levi, and Undecided respectively) indicate, first, the national winds blowing against the Democrats that have intensified this summer. They also show a shift against Democrats in Arkansas that has been underway since 2008.
“The numbers in this poll are not that different from 54-44% McCain-Obama margin in 2008 in the Second District,” said Barth.
While this result is certainly disheartening, only someone who hadn’t been paying attention would say they were shocked.1
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Elliott’s campaign has had success in spite of their efforts, not because of them. It has not been a well-run campaign by any stretch, which is doubly painful because Timmy! is a very beatable candidate. This is why, for example, I thought her first ad was a dismal failure; she didn’t strike any of the chords that would actually resonate with voters and, instead, chose a path that opened her to ridicule and charges of being a hypocrite and/or a flip-flopper. (Seriously…you don’t campaign on “no pay raises” and “limiting special interests” when your record is voting for pay raises for yourself and your campaign donations are full of special interest money.)
I know the old saw about people not wanting to vote for female candidates who go negative in a campaign (though Blanche Lincoln irritatingly bucked that trend), but let’s be honest with ourselves here: the one chance that Elliott has to make inroads into Griffin’s lead is to loudly and publicly discuss Griffin’s role in suppressing minority votes in 2004. Other angles exist, but this is the straight-line path between the two points; paint Griffin as Karl Rove Lite and make him out to be generally horrible and you might (a) turn some people off of him (though the certainty scores that polled voters gave suggest it will be very hard to change their minds) and (b) motivate the minority vote and rile up otherwise lethargic Dems.
The “just win Pulaski” strategy might have worked against Robbie Wills, but Griffin is well-organized and is holding his own among Pulaski voters according to the poll. There’s even a strong argument to be made that Robbie hurt himself enough in Pulaski with his ridiculous attack ads that Elliott’s strategy “worked” in the end; Griffin has no need to go negative against Elliott — third-party groups will certainly take care of that for him to the extent it needs to be done — or to even mention her name right now, so banking on Griffin helping Elliott in Pulaski like Wills did is a losing plan. Elliott is not likely to win the seven non-Pulaski counties, but she has got to cut into Griffin’s margins where possible.
The only way she will cut into those margins is to show voters her record of success in the legislature and shining a light on Griffin’s past misdeeds. (In this way, she also limits the “going negative” part to the extent it is necessary to draw distinctions between herself and Griffin rather than just being negative for the sake of being negative.) Whoever is telling her to do otherwise and suggesting that she should run against Washington, especially given her “any pinhead can do that” comment, is deluding Griffin and killing her chances.
Now, I will grant you that all of this is merely my opinion. I could be wrong. If I am wrong, and if, for example, Elliott’s commercial was not as poorly received as I felt it would be, then we should see a big rally for Elliott the next time that race is polled. (I absolutely hope this is the case, as this is one race where I would LOVE to be wrong.) If I am right, however, I fear that by the time the next poll arrives, it will be far too late for Elliott to change her strategy.
1 Slightly surprising, perhaps — I was guessing more like 12-14 points — but not shocking.