Once upon a time—13 months ago, to be specific—a Harper poll found that Republican Mike Rounds would win the Senate race 52% to 38% over Democrat Rick Weiland. Mike Rounds had all the advantages: big money, name recognition, and that fat, juicy R in front of his name in red red South Dakota.
Mike Rounds took those advantages for granted and lost 15 of those percentage points. The latest Harper poll finds Rounds at 37%, Weiland 33%. Harper called 630 likely South Dakota voters from October 9 through October 11, riding the wave of national press that broke in Weiland's favor and Rounds's dis- last week.
Compare the Harper numbers to the Survey USA numbers that fueled the furor last week. Survey USA polled 616 likely South Dakota voters from October 1 through October 5 and found Rounds at 35%, Independent Larry Pressler at a surprising 32%, and Weiland at 28%. Assume no flukiness (and David Montgomery doesn't), note margin of error (about 4% each way), and we see Rounds hanging around his well-attested rock-bottom, Weiland climbing, and Pressler diving.
I don't think anyone hit Pressler that hard in the few days between Survey USA and Harris. It seems just as likely that we saw the first surge of the trend Public Policy Polling and others have seen coming: get closer to election, and folks toying with a Pressler vote will retreat from third-party novelty for their trusted brands. With Rounds stinking up his brand while Weiland does his proud, Weiland gets a bump that only gets bigger as the horserace narrative supplants the foregone conclusion that Republicans thought excused them from running a competent campaign.
Stuart Rothenberg moved South Dakota from "Republican Favored" to "Lean Republican" today, citing Rounds's "poor campaign and weak fundraising, as well as the candidate’s underwhelming performance on the stump." Larry Sabato made a similar move Friday, based on Rounds's "weakness."
Look at the poll numbers 13 months ago. Look at the poll numbers today.
Tell me, Republicans, how's that buyer's remorse working out for you?
p.s.: Down at the bottom, Gordon Howie scores 5% in Harper. In the cross-tabs, Howie gets 5% of the conservative vote and 5% of the liberal vote. In other words, Howie doesn't mobilize his Tea Party base any better than the margin of error he gets from liberals who should all know better.27 comments