NY-23- Union Members Help Beat Back Right-Wing

Dennis Affinati, business manager of Electrical Workers Local 910 in Watertown, N.Y.,--located near the Canadian border--doesn't turn his back on his friends.  

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The Numbers Rasmussen Was Hiding

Last month I called out Rasmussen Reports for skewing questions in its Minnesota polling to make it seem as though the state's Republican Governor -- and seeming Presidential aspirant -- Tim Pawlenty was more popular than he actually was relative to the state's well-known Democratic Senator, Al Franken. After Mark Blumenthal of Pollster.com got on Rasmussen's case, the pollster fessed to have run a bad poll. Now, via pollster SurveyUSA, we have an indication of what Pawlenty's numbers look like relative to those of Franken -- and not too surprisingly, when the same question is asked about both elected officials, they show Pawlenty in a significantly weaker position.

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Tim Pawlenty is doing as Governor?

Approve: 45 percent
Disapprove: 52 percent

Do you approve or disapprove of the job Al Franken is doing as United States Senator?

Approve: 49 percent
Disapprove: 44 percent

Rasmussen claims that it was all a big mistake, that the different questions for the two candidates was unintentional. Fair enough. Let's take them at their word. Nevertheless, what we do know is this: When Rasmussen asked two separate questions gauging approval -- one that tends to show higher approval numbers for Pawlenty, one that tends to show lower approval numbers for Franken -- the numbers came out as expected, with Pawlenty scoring 15 points higher than Franken. When SurveyUSA asked the same question about both Pawlenty and Franken, Franken came out ahead. So much for the notion of Pawlenty being popular in his home state, let alone more popular than other elected officials there.

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Why is Rasmussen Skewing Pawlenty's Numbers?

I was reading through the first two questions of the most recent Rasmussen Reports poll of Minnesota voters, and something stood out to me. Take a look:

* How would you rate the job Tim Pawlenty has been doing as Governor... do you strongly approve, somewhat approve, somewhat disapprove, or strongly disapprove of the job she's been doing?

26% Strongly approve
30% Somewhat approve
13% Somewhat disapprove
30% Strongly disapprove
1% Not sure

2* How would you rate the way that Al Franken is performing his role as Senator....excellent good fair or poor?

19% Excellent
22% Good
23% Fair
31% Poor
6% Not sure

Notice a difference between the two questions? How Rasmussen uses an equally weighted question to gauge the approval rating of Republican Tim Pawlenty but an unevenly weighted question that, as I have written before, lumps the ambivalent response of "fair" into the disapproval column to gauge the approval rating of Democrat Al Franken (as it also does subsequently in the poll for Democrat Amy Klobuchar).

As Pollster.com has detailed in the past, the numbers on this differently weighted question lump in some voters approving of a particular politician into the disapproval camp. As the folks at Pollster.com explain regarding the case of former Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne, "Not only was her approval score higher than excellent-good combined, but some of the 'fair' raters also said 'approve' when asked. Moreover, when asked reasons for rating Byrne the way they did, we got answers like 'doing a pretty fair job' from those rating her both 'fair' and 'approve'."

So why is Rasmussen using two different metrics -- one, which tends to find higher approval ratings, for the Republican; another, which tends to find lower approval ratings, for the Democrat?

Update [2009-9-22 23:59:28 by Jonathan Singer]: Another good point from MyDD reader Palli -- in Rasmussen's eyes Pawlenty is "doing" a job while Franken is "performing" a "role".

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Light at the end of the tunnel for Franken?

Nearly eight months after a plurality of Minnesota voters chose Al Franken, the state may finally be close to getting full representation in the U.S. Senate:

[Minnesota Governor Tim] Pawlenty told CNN that he would abide by whatever ruling the Minnesota Supreme Court makes in the contest, where Democrat Al Franken appears to have an upper hand.

"I'm prepared to sign [the certification] as soon as they give the green light," Pawlenty said. "I'm not going to defy an order of the Minnesota Supreme Court. That would be a dereliction of my duty."

It's not clear when the state Supreme Court will issue a ruling. Rumors on June 18 that a decision was imminent proved false.

Whenever the decision comes down, it is almost certain to be in favor of Al Franken. Expect howling from the same people who agreed with the U.S. Supreme Court on December 12, 2000, that certifying the winner quickly was more important than counting all the votes cast.

Sore loser Norm Coleman may file suit in federal court, but Pawlenty indicated on CNN that he would sign a certificate without waiting for Coleman to exhaust the federal appeals process.

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MN-Sen: I Don't Trust Tim Pawlenty

Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has been making the rounds on cable news today, no doubt working to raise in his profile for 2012 in the wake of his decision not to run for re-election in 2010.  During these interviews, he has suggested that he would not delay the seating of Minnesota's next Senator.  Election law experts appear unanimous that the Minnesota Supreme Court will affirm the victory of Senator-elect Al Franken.  The reason I don't trust Pawlenty is that he is leaving himself too much wiggle room.  Watch the exchange in the video below, from Pawlenty's appearance today on Fox News:

You know, Neil, if the Minnesota Supreme Court says, 'You sign the certificate' -- and there's not an appeal or some other contrary direction from a federal court -- you know, that's my duty.

Now take into account this report from MinnPost.com's Eric Black back in April:

In a series of email exchanges with Pawlenty's spokester, Brian McClung, I sought to clarify what level of discretion the guv was claiming over the issuance of the certificate. At first, McClung pointed out that there is no deadline in the law for the issuance of the certificate after the conclusion of the Contest Court process and state Supreme Court appeal. It sounded as if Pawlenty was claiming the right to indefinitely postpone the certificate.

Superficially, Pawlenty is telling us not to worry, that he's happy to sign on the dotted line.  But he also throws in the caveat "and there's not an appeal or some other contrary direction from a federal court" which makes me wonder.

Having watched the state Supreme Court's proceedings on June 1 when they heard oral arguments from both campaigns, I have a very positive impression of the Court and of the Justices' attention to detail.  Expecting that they affirm Senator-elect Franken's victory, it would be proper of them to include an order for Pawlenty, in his role as Governor, to prepare and sign an election certificate.  But, given that his staff has noted that there's no time requirement attached, Pawlenty could very easily slow walk the certificate while Republican Norm Coleman seeks a stay or an injunction on the certificate from a federal court in advance of a federal appeal.  University of Minnesota's Professor Larry Jacobs explains:

But Jacobs still sees wiggle room here. "Signing it -- and how quickly you sign it -- those are two different things," Jacobs explained. "If Norm indicates that he's going to be filing in federal court, the Governor may just say, 'you know, I am gonna sign it, I'm just waiting to hear from my legal counsel that this is appropriate.'"

Further, if the state Supreme Court affirms Senator-elect Franken's victory but doesn't add in the explicit order to Pawlenty to prepare and sign the election certificate, then who knows!?  At the very least, Pawlenty's reassuring words are not all that reassuring, nor should they be given the wiggle room those words leave for Pawlenty.

Of course, if Pawlenty deliberately obstructs and delays after the state Supreme Court rules in Senator-elect Franken's favor, the U.S. Senate is still empowered to seat Senator-elect Franken (and Pawlenty's delay would likely give Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid the political impetus to move forward with Senator-elect Franken's seating), but that move still faces the threat of filibuster from Republicans.  If that were to happen, Democrats would likely need a couple of Republicans to buck their Party in the name of supporting the democratic process.  Hopefully this issue will be moot, but it's never too early for Democrats to reach out to more responsible Republicans like Olympia Snowe and Dick Lugar about their willingness to support Senator-elect Franken's seating should the eventuality arise.

For daily news and updates on the U.S. Senate races around the country, regularly read Senate Guru.

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