Minutes after Public Policy Polling released poll numbers from Kentucky showing Mitch McConnell as the least popular senator in the country, the McConnell campaign’s twitter feed went into spin overdrive:
The spin here is that 1) PPP is not a credible firm because they do automated calls for surveys, and 2) The Courier-Journal’s poll with Survey USA from two months ago is the one that you should pay attention to.
Let’s now deconstruct this logic, beginning with PPP’s immediate response via Twitter:
The link PPP directed to shows Jan van Lohuizen — McConnell’s longtime pollster — trashing the reputation of PPP because their poll laughably put longshot candidate Rand Paul ahead of McConnell’s handpicked Trey Grayson by 19 points in the 2010 GOP Senate primary. Paul went on to win by 23 percent. But that wasn’t the only time during the 2010 race that van Lohuizen’s reputation and credibility took a beating, as shortly before the election he rebutted a poll showing showing Grayson losing by 15 percent with a (highly fake) internal poll showing him in the lead. That outside poll was faulty, you see, because it was an automated robocall survey, which van Lohuizen said isn’t reliable.
That (very correct) automated poll that Lohuizen trashed was done by SurveyUSA. The same polling firm that did the October poll that McConnell’s campaign is now touting as accurate. Which was also… an automated robocall.
Dizzy from McConnell’s spin, yet?
Then there’s the glorius fact McConnell’s campaign didn’t use the phrase “SurveyUSA poll” for their damage control rescue, rather the “Courier-Journal poll,” the outlet who commissioned Survey USA. That would also be the same liberal rag that McConnell has spent the last 20 years telling everyone who will listen cannot be trusted in anything they say. But McConnell’s campaign says The C-J should be trusted, just this once I guess.
And the cherry on top of this damage control disaster? The fact that just over a month ago, PPP had one of the most impressive state-by-state polling performances in recent memory, correctly picking a staggering number of winners all over the country in Senate races and the presidential race. If there’s a polling firm in the country with an election mandate of credibility, it’s PPP.
Yet here’s the bluster from Mitch’s new Tea Party hire, campaign manager Jesse Benton:
“It speaks volumes that even a liberal Democrat pollster with an agenda to make Mitch McConnell look bad still can’t find an opponent who can lead him in Kentucky. This Democrat poll has a long-held reputation for skewed approval numbers and that’s obviously the case here since there is no poll, public or private, that has shown Senator McConnell’s approval ratings anywhere near where PPP suggests.”
Oh yes, he actually used the word “skewed.” Awesome.
This is not successful political spin or damage control. This is the political equivalent of Benton dousing himself in gasoline, lighting a match, and running around the room screaming “Oh my God we’re all gonna die!” Instead of a simple “the senator is too focused on the fiscal cliff to worry about polls for a race two years away, blah blah blah,” Benton gave a clear signal to the media, Democrats, and Republicans in Kentucky and the rest of the country.
Benton did not discredit the poll. He merely succeeded in wafting the smell of fear and panic coming from a campaign that knows its air of invulnerability — which was its most important asset as of last week (See: Woodchipper) — has just vanished.
I’m old enough to remember a time when McConnell surrounded himself with campaign staff who knew how to spin and conduct damage control. Or even Senate staff who warned him that he might look really stupid if he filibustered himself.
It looks like those days are long gone.