Charlie Sykes was all aflutter over a new Rasmussen poll purporting to show that Tommy Thompson would beat Russ Feingold 47-43 in a Senate matchup in 2010. Maybe this will persuade Tommy! to take on Feingold, he enthused.
Indeed, given Rasmussen's Republican tilt one has to wonder if the purpose of the poll is to provide a realistic glimpse of Wisconsin's political environment or to prod Tommy! into running and providing a credible challenger to Feingold. As the Journal Sentinel notes, Rasmussen has plenty of critics -- to which he responds he has a reliable track record.
Which is true in some cases but it's demonstrably not true in Wisconsin -- a fact brought out in the Rasmussen press release:
In Wisconsin during the 2008 campaign, Rasmussen Reports polling showed Obama defeating McCain by a 51% to 44% margin. Obama won 56% to 43%. Four years earlier, Rasmussen polling showed Kerry leading Bush in the state by a 48% to 46% margin. Kerry won 50% to 49%.
In 2006 Senator Herb Kohl was ahead of Robert Lorge 64% to 25% in the final Rasmussen poll. Kohl won 67% to 30%. In the Governor’s race that year, Rasmussen polling showed Jim Doyle leading Mark Green 48% to 44%. Doyle won 53% to 45%.
In 2004, the last time Feingold won re-election, Rasmussen polling showed Feingold leading 53% to 43%. Feingold won 55% to 44%.
Rasmussen predicted the winner in each race, to be sure, but it consistently underestimated -- sometimes dramatically -- the level of support for the Democratic candidate. The polls were good fodder for Republican morale -- remember predictions of Green beating Doyle in a squeaker? -- but not so good reflections of the landscape.
The Journal Sentinel quotes Feingold flack Trevor Miller:
""In order for this poll to be real you have to believe in three things that aren't," Miller said in an e-mail. "Tommy Thompson isn't in the Republican Party primary, he hasn't won it, and the election isn't today - it's ten months from now."
Rasmussen's track record in Wisconsin is another reason to believe the poll isn't real.
Remember when Sykes told Tommy! he needed to know when to fold?
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