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#SC01: Push-Polling?




We’ve written previously on efforts to get freshman South Carolina state representative Katie Arrington to jump into the race for the Palmetto State’s first congressional district.

Well, those efforts may soon have some numerical dimension to them …

According to The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, a “push-poll” was recently conducted in the district aimed at gauging Arrington’s support in a race against the incumbent congressman, Mark Sanford.

Among the questions purportedly asked by this “push-poll?”  Whether voters would be more or less likely to support Sanford if they knew about his “affair with an Argentine mistress.”

Hold up … is there anyone in South Carolina who doesn’t know about Sanford’s affair

Because last we checked he couldn’t stop talking about it …

Anyway, the paper described push-polling as “a time-honored and fundamentally deceptive way of advertising a candidacy through questions that round-aboutly knock the opponent.”

Fundamentally deceptive?  Again, wasn’t Sanford the one who was “fundamentally deceptive” about his Argentine mistress in the first place?  Especially when it came to using tax dollars to further his affair?

Indeed …

That’s a dead horse as far as we’re concerned, though … and voters in the first district (map) clearly overlooked it four years ago when they decided to return Sanford to Washington, D.C.

It’s what Sanford has done since then that concerns us …

Once the genuine article when it came to defending taxpayers, Sanford has become just another status quo “Republican” in recent years (see herehere and here).  He’s also staring down a serious campaign finance scandal as well as an unresolved child abuse investigation stemming from an alleged incident last spring involving his niece.

So he’s plenty vulnerable with or without the affair hanging over his head …

Meanwhile Arrington is being pushed to run by forces here at home and by some at the very highest levels in Washington, D.C. (ahem).

She would be instantly credible, in other words … and there is no shortage of people who want to see her run and have expressed a willingness to support her financially (many because they believe Sanford would be most vulnerable if pitted against a female candidate).

That’s true enough … but we think Arrington would be a tough match-up for Sanford irrespective of gender considerations.

(Click to view)

(Via: Sam Holland for S.C. House of Representatives)


“Arrington is not only a policy and operational wonk, she’s tenacious and well-connected financially – attributes could prove tremendously useful in a campaign against the wonkish, well-funded Sanford,” we noted in our initial assessment of her prospective candidacy.

So did her people commission the poll?  Arrington’s advisor, Michael Mule, refused to answer that question when asked by the Post and Courier.

“I have nothing to report to you today,” Mule told the paper.

Hmmmm …

As for the “push-poll” label, we’ve got some thoughts on that …

First, a pure “push-poll” – as we define it, anyway – is not so much a “poll” but a propaganda instrument intended to convey specific messages and influence public opinion on a broad scale.  Push-polls don’t care about results because they aren’t intended to be scientific surveys – they are intended to spread mass messages under the ruse of public opinion polling.

As such these surveys are indeed “fundamentally deceptive,” although they are often quite effective – which is why most pure push-polls are usually launched during the heat of a closely contested election (often in the final few days of the race).

Message testing polls on the other hand are specifically tailored to provide accurate, actionable data to candidates and their strategists regarding the state of a given race.  Such polls – which are scientific – also seek to determine which offensive and defensive messages might be most effective for a particular campaign to employ moving forward.

Unlike a “push-poll,” a message testing poll is sent to a limited representative sample audience and is intended to inform those asking the questions – not necessarily to persuade those on the receiving end of the call.

We think the poll reported on by the Post and Courier is clearly an example of “message testing,” not “push-polling.”

Either way, though, it’s a sign that those pushing Arrington’s candidacy are serious … which is something Sanford probably needs to take seriously if he wants to hang on to his seat.



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