On April 22nd, voters in North Mississippi will go to the poll for the fourth time in five months – this time for a special election for the US House Seat vacated when Governor Haley Barbour appointed Roger Wicker as Senator. There is a plausible scenario that there will be a runoff to this election making five elections in five months.
Though there are six candidates on the ballot, this race will come down to the November contenders – Greg Davis for the Republicans and Travis Childers for the Democrats in what will be a closely watched preview to the elections almost seven months from now. There is an indescribable amount of voter, donor and even media fatigue with elections right now, and this race has not gotten much play in the press as of yet. However, it is starting to show some signs of life.
This week, the Travis Childers campaign was pushing a poll commissioned from Anzalone Liszt Research, a Democratic polling firm. The poll attempted to show that in a head to head matchup, this race between Davis (R) and Childers (D) was a statistical dead heat.
Unfortunately, Anzalone’s polling in Mississippi has been questionable to say the least. In late July 2007, Jamie Franks hired Anzalone for a similarly prospective poll laden with unrealistic turnout assumptions. The poll with their turnout assumptions was 43% Phil Bryant (R) to 40% for Jamie Franks (D) with 17% undecided. The bet clearly was that the media would pick up on it and that the illusion they portrayed might magically become reality. That strategy worked out pretty miserably as 100% of the undecideds broke Bryant’s way and Bryant went on to spank Franks 59/41 in the general.
Polling for a special election by a paid pollster is almost worthless. First, the pollsters have an agenda. Second, there are no accurate turnout models for special elections or runoffs of special elections, which I think we might very well see.
This race will heat up shortly as both Davis and Childers are refunding their warchests. The winner will have a solid leg up in November in a district that voted 62% for George Bush in 2004.
Though I am certainly under no obligation to do so, I did want to disclose that I have personally made a reportable contribution to Greg Davis in this contest.