Monday, June 4, 2018

WBA is wrong two ways - 1. Trying to narrow Dem guv field 2. Making MU Law Poll the one to trust

Not that straw polls of hundreds of party members are the best way to measure if a candidate is leading or losing in the real world (hi there, 2012 Iowa GOP straw poll winner Michele Bachman!), but they do serve as at least a minor indication of who that crazy subsection of the party likes.

Which makes it noteworthy that Kelda Roys was able to consolidate enough support to get the most votes out of any candidate in the straw poll held at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s convention in Oshkosh over the weekend

But Roys' total was less than ¼ of the total votes cast, and also notice that 7 of the 10 candidates that are on the ballot for the Dem primary received at least 10 percent of the votes cast. That means things are still very much up in the air, and that few candidates seem to be at the “no chance” level with 10 weeks left to go before the August 14 primary.

Enter the Wisconsin Broadcasters’ Association - who thinks it’s found the way to narrow that crowded field in time for the debate it is sponsoring next month.
Up to the top four (4) candidates in the Democratic gubernatorial race and Republican U.S. Senate race in the Marquette University Law School Poll (the Poll) released closest to the date of the debate will be considered as significant candidates if the other criteria set forth below are met.

O In the event that there is a tie in the Poll for the final positions in the debate, the selection among those candidates tied in the polling will be made based on which of these candidates have raised the most campaign funds according to the state and federal campaign finance reports released closest to the date of the debate.

·All candidates must be qualified for the office that they seek under federal and state law and shall either have (1) qualified for a place on the ballot or (2) demonstrated that they are bone fide write-in candidates through criteria including making appearances at rallies and campaign events statewide, having taken established positions, and provided campaign literature on a wide array of public issues, and having a substantial campaign organization including offices statewide.

·Candidates who have not raised at least $250,000 campaign funds according to state and federal campaign finance reports released closest to the date of the debate will not be considered significant candidates.
In addition to the eye-rolling decision to make money a major part of the “viability” equation (who cares about quality of the wishes of the voters?), that’s quite a shrinking of the field. And Dems did not appreciate the WBA jumping in and making this decision.
The Wisconsin Democratic Party called on the Wisconsin Broadcasters Association to reconsider.

"This is not a fair and democratic way to go," party spokeswoman Melanie Conklin said. "With these criteria it is actually quite possible than an eventual nominee is excluded from their debates."…

A spokesman for the association said the group was preparing a response to the criticism and calls for candidates to skip the event. No other broadcast debates have been announced in advance of the primary.

Ross, the liberal group [One Wisconsin Now’s] leader, said it was unfair to rely on a single poll as the primary criteria for debate inclusion. He's long questioned the merits of the Marquette poll and Charles Franklin, the pollster who leads it.

"It's not up to the broadcasters to determine who the viable candidates are and it's certainly not up to Charles Franklin," Ross said.
And Scot Ross is absolutely right. What gives the Marquette Law School poll precedence over ever other survey? If we don’t know when that poll will be taken or who is paying for it, why should it get “voice of authority” status?

Even Charles Franklin himself said that the WBA’s plan to use the MU Law poll as a velvet rope for admission to its Dem governor’s debate was a bad idea.

But there’s another reason we should be suspicious of using MU Law School Polls to guide our decision-making in elections and coverage. Go back to the start of the 2010s, and go 90 miles from MU’s west, when the Bradley Foundation front group WPRI (a group which has nauseatingly rebranded itself as the Badger Institute) tried to use the good name of UW-Madison to shade the findings of UW PoliSci professor Ken Goldstein. Bruce Murphy recounted this sketchiness in Urban Milwaukee before the 2012 elections.
But liberals were suspicious of the university lending its name — and star scholar — to a conservative think tank. Scot Ross, who then ran the liberal advocacy group One Wisconsin Now, requested Goldstein’s emails with [then-WPRI leader Gordon] Lightbourn, and found a couple eyebrow raisers, as the Associated Press reported.

Goldstein’s poll showed a majority of state residents opposed school choice, but Lightbourn demanded that Goldstein run a headline touting the finding that Milwaukee residents favored school choice. The state results were included, if you looked hard enough, but were buried in the report.

Goldstein was also asked to poll people as to whether they would support Tommy [Thompson] if he chose to run against then incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Russ Feingold [in 2010]. The results showed Thompson was favored by a small margin, and Lightbourn issued a press release claiming the poll showed Thompson would beat Feingold. The emails showed that Goldstein scolded Lightbourn for simplifying the report’s analysis this way.

In reaction, UW officials asked the WPRI to stop using the university’s logo and stopped providing graduate students to work on these polls. Within a year, Goldstein stopped doing polls for WPRI and soon took a job as president of Kantar Media CMAG, a Washington, DC-based political consulting firm. He also teaches at George Washington University.
And so who stepped up in place of Goldstein to do polls in Wisconsin?
Not long after this the Marquette Law School cut a deal with Goldstein’s longtime colleague at UW-Madison’s Political Science Department, Charles Franklin, to do polls for MU. Franklin, who co-founded, is also highly regarded nationally, and has a deal to do polls through the entire 2012 year.
And that drives the concerns of Ross and One Wisconsin Now

And unlike UW-Madison, Marquette doesn’t have to release emails which may show similar “behind-the-scenes” discussions on how to report the findings of Charles Franklin's polls (or if they would even be reported at all).

I sure would have liked to see if there was something going on in 2014, when Franklin’s last MU Law poll showed a “surge” for Scott Walker, saying that Scotty had opened up a 7-point lead on Mary Burke among likely voters after polling in the race had shown a toss-up for several months. Even sketchier was that among registered voters, the margin was only 1 point.

I hypothesized at the time that this gave Franklin cover in case Burke won, since that would be within the registered voter poll’s margin of error. In the end, Walker won by a little over 5 points, and I have a hard time not thinking that some people were influenced by the poll’s meme that “Walker’s going to win” and voted for Scotty so they could be on the winning side (or they didn’t vote at all).

Then look at 2016, and the MU Law Poll had Hillary Clinton leading in all 7 polls done in the final 5 months of the campaign, with the final poll 1 week before the election giving a 6-point Clinton lead. Likewise, the MU Law Poll had Russ Feingold leading Ron Johnson in every poll it made of the Senate race, albeit with the last poll having the two candidates within 1 point.

The fact that MU missed in 2016 isn’t a crime, and in fact, the figures showed that there were enough undecideds at the time of the final poll to plausibly allow the GOP candidates (with a nice boost from Russian targeting on social media) to turn the tide and win those elections. But it should mean that Charles Franklin’s polls aren’t be the only item to rely on when it comes to figuring out which Dem candidates for Governor are viable.

On a related note, many news media reports have reported Walker as “having a 47-47 approval rate” based on one Marquette Law Poll that ignored its own finding of a pro-Dem enthusiasm gap and counted on a 2014-type electorate. Maybe media should note that several other polls that have been released this year has Walker between 5 and 10 points underwater. You can bet the analysis of Walker’s frequent tweets would be quite different if media members thought he was losing and desperate (HINT- he probably is).

In addition to the WBA’s flawed criteria on choosing the candidates to interview for governor, we also have a real problem in that there is a vacuum of polling and information on where Wisconsinites stand on the issues and the November elections, at least when it comes to mainstream organizations releasing information.

In that vacuum, one big voice like the MU Law Poll takes up a disproportionate amount of attention from state media, because media can’t help but report poll numbers and similar horse-race stuff (hey, it beats going into issues!). This vacuum is especially apparent in this election cycle, as Charles Franklin and company have become noticeably quiet for 2018.

Because there is so little information out there, if some savvy Dem campaigns had information which showed them ahead of Scott Walker and/or outperforming expectations in the Democratic primary, they would be wise to release it in the near future. Especially now that the WBA is trying to narrow the field with their very narrow, poll-and-money based criteria.

See, what Republicans (and their Bradley Foundation allies) understand is that polls can be used as weapons to drive media coverage of issues and elections. It infuriates me that Dems and Dem-leaning groups don’t do the same (Tony Evers is a notable exception - he touted his internal poll showing him leading Walker 49-45 during his speech at the Dem convention). A favorable poll for Dems would be easy “earned media”, and slant coverage toward a trend of “Walker in trouble/losing.”

This is especially true since a lot of Dem primary voters are waiting to see who is ahead and who is flailing in order to strategize their voting and donations. And if the Dems don’t produce these numbers, Bradley and Koch stink tanks and corporate media will give the “information” for them. And you can bet those right-wing groups will use their influence to put out results that try to discourage Dem voters from getting out and change things in 2018.

So maybe the WBA should get out of the way, let all Dems who want to be in their debate show up and speak, and let the voters decide who is a worthy candidate. Or they could use their money to put on their own legitimate polls instead of waiting for the not-quite gold standard numbers from a Marquette Law School, and make some decisions from there. Either option would be better than the idiotic idea that the WBA floated today to shrink the Dems’ race for govrnor to 4 candidates.


  1. The DPW could show some solidarity by having none of the candidates participate unless all participate but that is prolly too much to ask.

    1. Given the comments of the DPW abd Rep. Mark Pocan today, that may be the direction they are leaning if the WBA doesnt expand who is on the debate stage.

  2. The Wisconsin Broadcasters Association holds superficial, fallacious parodies of debates. Its anti-democratic move should be rejected by all candidates. Consider as well, pre-primary polls are unreliable and more so with this number of candidates.

    1. Very true. And the "one-time poll and fundraising as kingmaker" mentality is both unscientific and arrogant.

      Given the fraction of a fraction that vote in primaries, it doesn't take that much to jump ahead or fall behind, so isnt it worth it to give many voices a chance if they're not a joke?