New ratings from the Cook Political Report reflect improved chances for a couple of Jewish challengers in tough congressional races.
The non-partisan group changed the contest between incumbent Republican Rep. Mike Rogers and Democrat Josh Segall in Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District to likely Republican from solid Republican.
Likewise, Florida’s 18th Congressional District seat held by incumbent Republican Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen has been downgraded from solid Republican to likely Republican. One recent poll showed Jewish Latina businesswoman Annette Taddeo trailing by 7 percent.
Neither incumbent Republican Rep. Mark Kirk or Democratic challenger Dan Seals is Jewish, but Illinois’ 10th Congressional District has garnered attention because of its large Jewish population. That race is now rated a toss up.
Congressman Mark Kirk’s pollster is calling a poll commissioned by the liberal Daily Kos blog flawed.
The poll of the district with a large bloc of Jewish voters north of Chicago showed Kirk, A Republican, leading Democrat Dan Seals 44 percent to 38 percent among 400 voters surveyed. The poll had a 5 percent margin of error.
McLaughlin & Associates argues the poll of Illinois’ 10th Congressional District by Research 2000 over-sampled voters age 18-29, Democrats and Independents, while under-sampling Republicans. The poll was also conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 1, which included Rosh Hashanah, when observant Jews would not take part. McLaughlin claims this hurt Kirk, but Kos claims Seals’ support would have been even stronger had those voters been sampled.
Here’s the memo:
Executive Summary: The ultra left-wing Web site Daily Kos commissioned a poll by Research 2000, which was conducted in Illinois’ 10th Congressional District from 9/30-10/1. The survey was flawed on three levels. First, the survey over-sampled voters age 18-29 while under-sampling voters 60+. Second, the survey over-sampled Democrats and Independents while under-sampling Republicans. Third, the survey was intentionally conducted on the Jewish High Holy Day of Rosh HaShanah that would exclude observant Jewish Democratic voters who lean more toward Kirk than average Democrats.
Skewed Age Sample: According to the database of actual registered voters, only 16 percent of voters are aged 18-29, while 30 percent are over age 60. The Research 2000 poll filled sample quotas differently, showing 19 percent of those surveyed between the ages of 18-29 and only 18 percent of voters over age 60. Mark Kirk has always done better among older voters. Skewing the poll by age skews it toward Seals.
Faulty Party Sample: Over more than two years of polling, our surveys found on average that the 10th District breaks down as follows: 34% Republican, 34% Democrat and 32% Independent. The Research 2000 poll filled sample quotas differently, showing 35% Democrats, 36% Independent and only 29% Republicans. Surveying more Democrats and less Republicans will obviously create an artificially closer race. In the 8 years that we have polled for Mark Kirk, we have never had Republicans among likely voters to be less than 33%.
Excluding Kirk-Leaning Jewish Voters: It is no surprise that DailyKos, which has come under attack by Democrats like Harold Ford Jr. and Lanny Davis for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic content, chose to conduct its poll on the Jewish High Holy Day of Rosh HaShanah. The 10th District is almost 20 percent Jewish – one of the larger Jewish districts in the nation. In addition to being disrespectful, the poll excluded observant Jewish voters who tend to vote for Mark Kirk more than average Democrats. In our last survey, Kirk did 25 percent better among Jewish voters than a typical Republican. By having fewer older voters, fewer Republicans and fewer ticket-splitting Jewish voters, DailyKos made sure the Democratic quota broke more for Dan Seals to give him an extra boost. And even with their biases, Mark Kirk still is leading.
Responding to McLaughlin & Associates’ analysis, Daily Kos founder Markos Moulitsas said that assertions that the site was anti-Semitic and the poll results biased .were completely unfounded. “It’s ridiculous that we would time a poll to exclude Jewish voters. If we we’d want to cook this poll we’d over-sample Jews” because they overwhelmingly vote for Democrats, he Moulitsas told the Forward.
“To take that next step and say that we’re anti-Semitic and polling on certain days to hurt Republican is absolutely absurd,” he said.
From the reaction, it’s obvious that Kirk’s campaign is feeling the heat, he added. “Nobody reacts this way to a poll that says they are winning,” Moulitsas said.
While Daily Kos commissioned the poll, Moulitsas maintained the polling firm, which is also used by some independent newspapers for polling, conducted the survey unfettered by the blog. He publishes the results regardless of the outcome. “We’ve run polls that show Democrats getting blown out of the water,” he said. Daily Kos also publishes the complete poll results so readers can review all the underlying data themselves.
Steve Sheffey, a Seals supporter and former president of CityPAC, a pro-Israel political action committee based in Chicago, also took issue with McLaughlin’s interpretation.
He called it unfair to label Daily Kos anti-Semitic because of the posts of a few individuals on the site that’s an open forum, where anybody can post his or her thoughts. Similarly, it would be unfair to label all Republicans or all Democrats as anti-Semitic because of the comments of a few individuals, he said.
Put this story in your “it’s never too early to go for the low blow” file: The blogosphere has been abuzz this week after Andy Lappin, a supporter of Illinois Republican Rep. Mark Kirk, played the anti-Semite card against the two Democratic challengers vying to take the lawmaker on in 2008.
Lappin sent out an email slamming Dan Seals and Jay Footlik – a former Clinton aide who is Jewish, with an Israeli-born wife – for attending this month’s YearlyKos convention: “What’s troubling is that Seals and Footlik speak to our community with one mouth and then run to a convention filled with anti-Semitic bloggers,” Lappin wrote in the email.
The whole episode could be easily dismissed as just a lot of partisan nonsense, if it weren’t for the fact that the Jewish vote could well prove decisive in a Kirk-Footlik match-up. The district is heavily Jewish, and Kirk has in the past enjoyed wide support from the Jewish community.
Last cycle, when Kirk took on Seals, who comes from an partially African-American background, his Republican backers worked the Democrats-bad-for-Israel angle. Then Kirk came under fire, as my colleague Rebecca Spence reported, when one of his supporters allegedly threatened to punish Tel Aviv University because one of its top American donors was backing Seals.
UPDATE: In a chat this afternoon with the Forward, Jay Footlik dismissed Lappin’s charges as “ludicrous,” while pushing hard on the theory that it was motivated by fears over Footlik’s Jew-cred.
“They don’t want to run against me…because they know he’s going to have a tough time holding on to a vital and important constituency,” Footlik told the Forward.
He added that last time “[that strategy was] partially successful and they won. And they’re not going to do it against me.”
Here’s the copy of Lappin’s e-mail: