Cantor Pollster: I Got it Wrong Because Dems and Independents Voted

Thursday, 19 Jun 2014 06:15 PM

By Lisa Degnen

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Just before Eric Cantor got crushed in his recent primary election, his personal pollster boasted to the Washington Post that he would win in a 34-point victory. Of course he eventually lost to challenger Dave Brat by 10 percentage points.

Now pollster John McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Associates is back peddling from the embarrassing gaff, saying that it took a "post-primary survey" to figure out where things went wrong. And they concluded that the Virginia primary system is largely responsible for their misleading numbers.

"The Virginia Republican primary system was totally open to all voters," a release from the company says. "It is now clear that Eric Cantor's national standing gave the race a lot of local interest among many more voters than just past Republican primary voters, including politically interested Independents and Democrats as well. Without a parallel Democrat primary, this election was very similar to a wide-open jungle-style primary. It created an organic turnout of new voters not included in our previous poll of past primary voters."

The firm has been paid nearly $75,000 by Cantor's campaign since 2013, according to the National Journal.

In that June 11 report, it says McLaughlin has also cited the "Cooter" factor. Former Rep. Ben Jones, who played Cooter in The Dukes of Hazzard, wrote an open letter urging Democrats to get out and vote for Brat.

"Democrats like Ben Jones and liberal media were driving their Democratic voters on the internet into the open primary," McLaughlin wrote according to the National Journal. "Eric got hit from right and left. In our polls two weeks out Eric was stronger with Republicans at 70% of the vote, but running under 50% among non Republicans. Untold story is who were the new primary voters? They were probably not Republicans."

But the Cantor debacle wasn't the first misstep by the firm according to the report. They say David Nir of Daily Kos Elections compiled a list last year of inaccurate McLaughlin surveys. "In October 2012, McLaughlin polls showed Mitt Romney winning in Colorado (by 4 points) and Virginia (by 7 points), even though Romney lost those states by 5 points and 4 points, respectively. In late October 2012, a McLaughlin poll in Rhode Island showed Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse up by only 8 points against his GOP challenger," the report explains.

"Whitehouse won by 30."

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