New Poll: Peabody Up, Courser Tied For Third in Historic Special Election
You may remember that, a few days ago, I had made reference to the Courser-Gamrat saga – at least from the perspective of Todd A. Courser – playing out very much like a classic six-act Shakespearean-style tragedy, in which the catastrophic resolution for TAC was the modern “ritual suicide” of a Nixonian-style resignation, right as it became obvious that republican leadership in the State House had finally brokered a deal with democrat leadership to tally the votes necessary to expel him from their membership. I also mentioned that, unlike the theatre, real life doesn’t end with the final curtain, as we saw play out a mere week later. To quote Brian Began from an Inside Michigan Politics press release from last Friday:
“Much like the residents of Elm Street and the campers at Crystal Lake, the Lapeer County Courser monster just won’t go away. It’s the sequel nobody wanted, and it’s coming to a ballot box near you this November,” said Brian Began, Elections & Research Director of Grassroots Midwest. “This is not a conventional primary, but a 30-day sprint. Courser has a steep climb, but should he convince enough of his allies to support him in November, Republicans could again be dealing with a nightmare scenario.”
So, instead of Romeus Montague, Began believes that we may rather be dealing with Freddy Krueger . . . yikes. Popcorn, anyone?
Target Insyght, a polling firm routinely used by MIRS, last week conducted a survey in Lapeer County regarding the 82nd House District special election, the republican primary in particular. As of this morning, I’ve seen very little attention given to the survey results by the conventional media, in spite of the aforementioned press release from Inside Michigan Politics. In fact, the only recent news articles of note regarding the special election was Saturday’s Detroit News report on a forum hosted by the Lapeer County Tea Party, focusing on a particular question that was extremely relevant in light of the recent mass murder of Christians at an Oregon community college, and a Detroit News report last night acknowledging the polling data, GLEP’s dirty advertising, and alluding to polling information on the 80th District (which I’ve yet to see). So, rather than engage in lengthy op-ed philosophizing, instead I’ve compiled the information from both the Inside Michigan Politics press release and a subsequent MIRS news story, and rearranged the content a tad so to make it easier to add some relevant commentary:
According to a new poll released Friday by Grassroots Midwest, Inside Michigan Politics, and Target Insyght, Lapeer County Republican Party Chair Jan Peabody has a narrow early lead in the special election in Michigan’s 82nd House District to fill the vacant seat of ex-Rep. Todd Courser (R-Silverwood). Peabody is leading the republican field, holding the support of 20 percent of likely primary voters, nine points ahead of Lapeer County Intermediate School District Board President Gary Howell, who is second with 11 percent.
Courser is tied for third with County Commissioner Ian Kempf, both with 9 percent. Chris Tuski was at 7 percent, Russell Adams at 6 percent, Sharna Carmer Smith at 5 percent, Jake Davison at 3 percent, Allan Landosky and Rick Guerreo at 2 percent each, and James DeWilde at 1 percent. The plurality of voters, 25 percent, were undecided. The automated survey of 300 likely Republican primary voters was taken September 29 – October 1. The margin of error is 5.7 percent.
“The Republican establishment has to be thrilled with these results,” said Susan J. Demas, editor and publisher of Inside Michigan Politics. “Tea Party voters are splitting their support between multiple candidates, leaving Jan Peabody alone in first just 30 days out. She’ll have the resources to increase that lead. Peabody came within 300 votes of Courser in the 2014 primary, and already has the support of the Dick DeVos-backed Great Lakes Education Project. I’d look for more big endorsements soon.”
As a student of the science of statistical analysis, I have a philosophical aversion to any survey where the MoE exceeds five percent, as my training tells me that such a survey is flawed to begin with. That said, as much as I hate to bust Ms. Demas’ bubble, there’s a threefold problem with her conclusion: First, while it is indeed true that Peabody is all alone in first place, yet because Δρ < 2ε, anyone within 2ε = 11.4 points is within reach of flipping the frontrunner, including Courser. Second, because of a little something called the “controversial candidate effect,” we can safely assume that at least ⅖ of that large “undecided” bloc are likely Courser supporters, who aren’t going to admit it to anyone who isn’t actually Courser. Third, to quote Mike Reade’s comment to an Electablog post, “Lost in this is yet another bought-and-paid for DeVos/GLEP for-profit charter shill could win” (because apparently GLEP has its own baggage).
Due to the potential for sampling error, any of six candidates – Peabody, Howell, Kempf, Courser, Tuski, and Adams – actually have a mathematical shot at winning this thing four weeks hence. As regards Courser, that potentially opens another can of worms:
Michigan’s 82nd District encompasses all of Lapeer County, and has a Republican base of 58 percent, according to Target Insyght data. Because of this, conventional wisdom would suggest that the Republican candidate, whomever he or she should be, will safely win the general election. Based on analysis of historical data, Grassroots Midwest believes 13,500 will likely vote in the GOP primary – meaning a candidate could win with as few as 2,000 votes. Between Courser’s loyalists, mischievous Democrats, and the other ten Republican candidates, the risk of Courser sneaking through the November primary seems realistic, if only he could convince more people who like him to actually vote for him.
However, the polling shows Courser in deep trouble. Should he somehow defy the odds and sneak through the 11-way Republican primary, Lapeer County republicans might have second thoughts and take their chance to make history, either by supporting the democrat nominee or staying home next March. Of the 300 likely republican voters polled, 21 percent said they would support the eventual democrat nominee over Courser – another 47 percent said they would support another candidate or simply stay home – should Courser secure the nomination. Only 14 percent said they would vote for Courser if he were the nominee.
Courser’s unfavorable rate was at 77 percent; only 19 percent viewed him favorably; four percent said they’d never heard of him or had no opinion. Ed Sarpolus, Executive Director of Target Insyght, said the crosstabs show that only half of the 19 percent who gave Courser a favorable rating will vote for him. With the Tea Party split three ways in the primary, “The good news for Todd Courser is that everyone’s heard of him – 95 percent name ID for a former state rep. is unheard of; the very bad news is that no one likes him. Courser relentlessly courted media coverage during the scandal, releasing colorful Facebook posts and doing national TV. It’s clear that all the attention has come with a price – Courser now looks unelectable in this field.”
As I’ve already mentioned, from a mathematical standpoint, “unelectable” isn’t an accurate characterization, at least in the context of the primary. However, that 68% of likely republican voters will either vote non-republican or sit out the general if Courser’s the nominee . . . wow, that “get rid of straight-ticket voting” concept is all of a sudden a very popular idea, eh? Perhaps even motivated presidential primary voters won’t be able to save him.
So, Todd, how’s that whole “inoculate the herd” thing working out for you?