Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Pass the popcorn, please

Attack ads take their toll on Senate candidates

Why do politicians use attack advertising? Because it works.

In the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, challenger Stephen P. Laffey has taken a pounding on TV from incumbent Sen. Lincoln D. Chafee, which has coincided with a sharp increase in the percentage of voters who view the Cranston mayor unfavorably, according to a new poll by the independent national pollster Rasmussen Reports.

Fifty-six percent of likely voters said they had an unfavorable view of Laffey, up 11 points from a poll six weeks ago, before Chafee unleashed a media ad campaign that accuses Laffey of saying one thing while doing another.

Chafee's "unfavorable" numbers are also up in the past six weeks, by 6 points, as Laffey has attacked the senator's record on national security.

The poll of 500 likely Rhode Island voters, conducted on June 5, also showed:


If Chafee wins the primary, he would face a hard race against Democratic candidate Sheldon Whitehouse, the former U.S. Attorney and state attorney general. Chafee leads Whitehouse 44 percent to 42 -- within the margin of error. The April poll had Chafee ahead 44 to 41. Noting that Whitehouse has maintained his position on Chafee's heels, pollster Scott Rasmussen suggested that "the race is a lot more dangerous for Republicans than we thought six months ago."


Rasmussen said in an interview yesterday that it's too early to draw hard conclusions about who will win in November -- most voters have yet to turn their attention to the political races. It's reasonable, though, that the attack advertising in the increasingly rancorous GOP Senate primary is moving public opinion, he said.

In the past six weeks, Chafee's favorability among all voters has declined from 64 percent to 59, while his unfavorable number has increased from 29 to 35.

Looking deeper into the numbers, a good portion of the decline in the senator's popularity seems to have come from people who consider themselves liberal. In the April poll, 77 percent of liberals viewed Chafee favorably; 20 percent unfavorably. In the new poll, his favorability among conservatives and moderates held steady within the margin of error, but now just 66 percent of liberals view him favorably; 31 percent unfavorably. For comparison, 23 percent of liberals hold a favorable opinion of Laffey.

Chafee-Whitehouse is certainly closer than I thought it would be at this point. Laffey's negative ads may be taking a toll, although RI's essential blueness may just be reasserting itself. In related news, Republican Gov. Don Carcieri, who is something of a putz but is typically an inoffensive, no-high-profile-need-to-throw-the-bum-out kind of putz, is neck and neck with Charles Fogarty, the Democratic challenger. It's good that liberal voters are finally waking up to Chafee's act, but Whitehouse will have to bust ass to get enough moderates going his way.

No word as to whether Chuck Schumer will back Chafee if he bolts the party and goes indie.


Blogger bluememe said...

Supporting Lamont in CT, though clearly the right thing to do, does have some downside. Supporting Laffey in RI, OTOH, looks like a guilt-free pleasure to me.

12:52 PM  

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