by Max Brantley
Yes, it's a campaign poll. Yes, it seems hard to believe given all that's gone before and going currently. But ....
The respected Little Rock polling firm, Opinion Research Associates, headed by Ernie and Zoe Oakleaf, has done a poll for Herb Rule's campaign for 2nd District Congress. Rule has told supporters that the numbers came back 45 Rule, 47 Republican Tim Griffin and 8 undecided. I have confirmed that number, but I have no indication of the questions, the poll sample size and makeup (the Oakleafs do telephone interviews, not robopolling) and other important information. However: A poll designed to test messages, and thus push respondents to Rule, wouldn't be of much use this late in the game for a candidate with little money to advertise a message.
Griffin has frequently polled beneath 50 percent. He replaced a popular Congressman Vic Snyder in a district dominated by a county, Pulaski, that votes counter to just about every policy position Griffin has espoused. To gain office, he beat a black liberal Democratic woman, Joyce Elliott, in a year when anti-Obama sentiment ran high. Griffin had schemed against a popular Republican locally, Bud Cummins, to remove him from a US attorney job so Griffin could grab it. He's a Karl Rove tool. He's not a charismatic candidate. He seems to think the campaign is mostly about a pipeline to ship Canadian oil to China, no matter the damage to the U.S. environment. If Rule's quixotic and mostly invisible shoeleather campaign could give Vote Cager Griffin, with all his bags of special interest loot, a run, it would be, well, nice. If unbelievable.
I'm trying to get a little more info on the poll.
At this point, about all you can do is vote.
UPDATE: The campaign cleared Ernie Oakleaf to talk to me about the poll. It was simple horse race poll done Oct. 24-25. It asked a preference between Rule and Griffin from a random sample of 244 Second District voters — likely voters based on their vote frequency on a list of registered voters. The sample is admittedly small and it was admittedly commissioned by the campaign. The margin of error on the poll is 6.4 percent. But Oakleaf notes that the overall sample is bigger than subsamples of larger polls that talk about, for example, splits on male and female voters and black and white voters. You might conclude from these results that voters in the 2nd District, which still is viewed as a Democratic district and which voted uniformly for statewide Democratic candidates in 2010, might be coming home to the Democratic candidate. Self-identified Democrats favored Rule 10-1, Oakleaf said. Black voters favored Rule 30-1. Pulaski voters favored Rule 55-39.
I think it's safe to say the poll came back even better than Rule partisans hoped. With the margin of error, who knows if it turns out that way or worse or, if we can dream, better? Also, the poll didn't ask about the Green and Libertarian candidates, but some of the respondents volunteered them, thus the 8 percent was both undecided and "other," Oakleaf said.
I'll only say this to Republicans who tend to dismiss all polls they don't like as flawed: Ask Gvernor Tommy Robinson or Senator Tim Hutchinson about the Oakleafs' polling work, to name a couple who dismissed results by Opinion Research they didn't like. They haven't stayed in business all these years by making stuff up.
UPDATE: Here's a summary Oakleaf provided to the campaign. With time and money — big ifs — there would certainly be room to improve the findings on a gender gap. Griffin is totally opposed to women's medical autonomy.