Dueling Internal Polls In CD8

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Kathleen Matthews and David Trone have both released top line internal poll results in CD8, but without sufficient cross tab data to allow for the kind of analysis that I’ve done as recently as five hours ago with Senate polling. So unless and until either the candidates give me access to the guts of their polling data (almost assuredly not going to happen) or a media organization commissions its own poll, this is strictly a story of competing narratives and expectations.

Campaigns in general disclose internal polling only when they believe it shows good news for their candidates. This weekend, two contenders for the Democratic nomination in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District did just that, publicly sharing two distinctly different sets of numbers.

According to the summary of a poll released late Saturday by the campaign of former news anchor Kathleen Matthews, she is running a close second to state Sen. Jamie B. Raskin, with wine retailer David Trone a distant third.

The Trone campaign released its own, more favorable summary on Sunday. It shows that since entering the race in late January, the previously unknown Potomac businessman, who has saturated local TV and radio with ads that have cost an estimated $3.5 million of his own money, is within striking distance of Raskin, with Matthews in third.

Neither campaign was willing to provide any underlying details about the surveys, such as support for particular candidates broken down by gender, race or other voter subgroups.

Their decisions to disclose any data at all shows that with six weeks until the April 26 primary, the campaigns are feeling pressure to show that momentum is theirs.

Matthews’ poll showed her closing the gap with Raskin:

The survey of 402 likely Democratic primary voters conducted March 7 to 9 by Matthews’s polling firm, Garin-Hart-Yang Research Group, shows Raskin leading Matthews 31 percent to 28 percent. Trone stands at 13 percent, according to the poll.

Matthews released the data to bolster her claim that she has gained significant ground since November, when the Raskin campaign released its own survey, which showed the lawmaker with a 30-21 lead over Matthews.

“With six weeks remaining until April 26th, our survey shows that voters are responding to Kathleen’s message of being a strong and effective progressive voice for 8th CD women and families,” campaign manager Ethan Susseles said in an email.

There is still potential for significant shifts in the race. Much of the support for the top three remains tentative. The Matthews poll notes that more than half of likely primary voters remain “persuadable.”

Trone is having none of it. His poll shows HIM in second place behind Raskin.

Trone adviser Andrew Friedson scoffed at the Matthews survey. He said a survey of 401 likely primary voters, conducted between Feb. 29 and March 2 by pollster Harrison Hickman, shows Raskin at 30 percent, Trone at 25 and Matthews at 21.

“We’re confident that the more voters get to know about David, the better he will do, and that he will take the lead,” Friedson said.

No other candidate has more than 4% in either Matthews’ or Trone’s surveys.

The Raskin campaign had no new polling to share, but was thrilled to have its two principal opponents brag on being second behind him.

Raskin campaign manager Marshall Cohen declined to share additional polling. He said in an email statement that the despite the heavy spending by Trone, as well as television and radio advertising by Matthews, Raskin is still in the lead.

“Jamie’s campaign is still in first place in our opponents’ polls when we haven’t spent a penny on TV or radio yet,” the statement said. “This is what a grass-roots campaign looks like. It may seem old-fashioned, but Jamie and hundreds of volunteers are still engaging many thousands of people in face-to face conversation about his record of effective progressive leadership on everything from the assault weapons ban to climate change.”

In a blast email after the Post article emerged, Cohen was still effusive:

With 43 days to go until the Democratic Primary election on Tuesday, April 26, new polls released by both the Kathleen Matthews and David Trone campaigns, and reported on in the Washington Post today, show that our massive grassroots campaign is still ahead despite the millions being spent daily on TV and radio by Jamie’s two big-money opponents.

Both polls show Jamie winning despite having $4.5 million spent against him on the air by opponents trying to knock each other out to face the progressive candidate of choice and the “campaign of substance.”

Jamie’s campaign has not spent a penny on TV or radio yet because we are still in the grassroots organizing and educational phase of the campaign. Jamie just spoke at his 111th event in someone’s living room or backyard yesterday—it was in Somerset and a huge crowd talked for two hours about how to build progressive hope and change at the national level. Meantime, the campaign has received contributions from more than 8,500 people—more than any other Congressional campaign of a non-incumbent in the United States.

Matthews’ blast was more pragmatic:

The latest polls have our race in a dead heat.

With just 6 weeks until the Maryland elections, Kathleen is within just 3 points of the early front runner.
But another self-funded opponent has spent over $4 million on ads to tip the scales in his favor.
So this is a make-or-break moment. We need your help right away to make sure we have the resources to get our message out to voters and win this thing.
We know that Kathleen is the best person to represent Maryland’s women and families. She’ll always stand up for the right to choose, find solutions to climate change, and protect access to affordable health care.
And in a race as close as ours, it’s up to us to make sure that message gets out to as many voters as possible.

While as I noted above it’s impossible to assess the polling without the cross tab data, it’s interesting to note that three polls over more than three months have now put Jamie Raskin right at 30%. We have to assume that Raskin doesn’t disagree very much with the consensus view, because if he did he’d release some new data. While two other candidates have moved up, he hasn’t moved at all, up or down. Can he maintain or (even better) grow that position in the face of the twin onslaughts of the Trone and Matthews barrages? No way to know from the internal poll data, but in six weeks we’ll find out.

Taking the results of the two polls at face value, Trone and Matthews are squabbling over who’s moved up more since November, when Raskin led Matthews 30-21. Given the nature of internal polls, the most likely answer is that both of them have improved their position considerably. The big variance between them is over Trone being at either 13 or 25%. Given his recent entry into the race and the enormous magnitude of his spending on pretty much everything, it’s likely that a given poll for him is simply a snapshot in time, and that by the time we read about the poll, as in now, he’s probably doing better than that result. Matthews is somewhere between 21-28%, a much narrower band that is within the margin of error.

What’s Trone’s ceiling? Will there be a backlash that sends his numbers back down? No idea. But like Trump, Trone has thus far flummoxed even the knowledgeable observers in this race who saw him as a vanity candidate (“1% for every $1 million he spends” was a common refrain) and has made an enormous impact on this race. I believed he’d do better than that, that he’d stir the pot tremendously, but I didn’t see any strong likelihood of his winning.

That’s an assessment that needs changing. This is a three horse race, and any one of them can win.

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