Robynn Tysver (the most senior of the Omaha World-Herald political reporters) and I are professional acquaintances. She has quoted me in various stories. In case you’re wondering, I don’t go “off the record.” I figure that if someone wants to give me grief over something I’ve said that I should get the grief and not her.
But in our professional acquaintance, she said something that has stuck with me. She said that polls aren’t worth much until about 30 days before the election. She’s right.
The context in which she said it to me was the GOP primary for the Senate in 2014. If you rolled back the polls to about 60 days before the primary, Shane Osborn (whom I supported in the primary) looked like a certain winner. But 30 days out, Ben Sasse (for whom I worked hard in the general) clearly had caught an updraft and Sid Dinsdale had gotten some traction.
As it turned out, Sasse won the primary with 49% (carrying 92 of 93 counties) and Dinsdale and Osborn were in the low 20’s.
So far, it’s hard to argue with the voters. Sasse, with his formidable intellect and charisma, is likely to be a force in the Senate for years unless he gets dragged into a national election (in which case he might be something bigger).
So what’s the point? Locally, incumbent Congressman Brad Ashford is likely to poll ahead of any likely GOP opponent in the NE-2 election. Two years ago, the Nebraska Democratic Party was doing handsprings over the fact that polling showed that Lee Terry had only a small lead over Pete Festersen. Oh wait. You mean that Festersen didn’t run? But Terry still lost? Unimaginable.
I’m sure that any poll would show Ashford with a big lead over any of the likely GOP nominees to oppose him. But it doesn’t matter. At this point, polls are little more than a name identification test. Ashford, who has been around the political block a time (or two, or three, or four), has a huge name identification advantage over any likely opponent.
The same is true at the presidential level. Mrs. Clinton has a double-digit advantage over any of the likely GOP nominees for President. It. Doesn’t. Matter.
The presidential election will be won or lost on whether the GOP nominee can put forward a comprehensible plan that’s better than the slow-motion “recovery” that President Obama is touting as economic “success” and whether the GOP nominee can put forward a plan that offers a foreign policy that is something other than a Neville Chamberlain-esque attempted appeasement of our enemies.
So work hard for your preferred candidate. Rally around the nominee of your party even if he or she isn’t your dream date.
Not much is at stake. Just the future of our nation and the world. No pressure.