Race car drivers jockey for pole position. Candidates jockey with poll results seeking political position.
A few weeks ago, the campaign of Allyson Schwartz, D-Montgomery County, aired selected results from an internal poll seeking to demonstrate that their candidate was the early front-runner in the race for the Democratic nomination for governor. Now, the campaign of a rival, Katie McGinty, is passing along excerpts of their own survey, offering a "yes-but'' rebuttal to that depiction of the still emerging contest.
Significantly, but unsurprisingly, neither campaign would release the full contents of their surveys, just memos from their pollsters highlighting the most positive spin on partial findings.
Both of the partisan surveys show Ms. Schwartz as the candidate with the highest name recognition and level of support out of the gate. But a memorandum from Ms. McGinty's pollster argues that a big pool of undecided voters means that the race is very much up for grabs and that the former DEP secretary has the potential to make up ground once the candidates are better known.
And while it wasn't part of either poll, Early Returns wants to note for the record that he would have the potential of dating Kate Upton if he were 25 years younger and still had a full head of hair. But back to the governor's race.
A Quinnipiac University survey in June found a whopping 63 percent undecided in an initial trial heat, with Ms. Schwartz leading at 18 percent, followed by Ms. McGinty at 5 percent, state Treasurer Rob McCord, 4 percent, and former state Revenue Secretary Tom Wolf, 2 percent.
Mr. McCord has yet to enter the race but is expected to do so presently. The big early field vying to challenge Gov. Tom Corbett also includes John Hanger, another former DEP secretary, Max Myers, a minister from Cumberland County and Jo Ellen Litz, a Lebanon County commissioner. Former Auditor General Jack Wagner has also said he is considering the contest.
The Schwartz partial findings released in July showed a surprisingly smaller number of undecided Democrats -- just 30 percent -- with her in first place at 34 percent, followed by Ms. McGinty, 15 percent; Mr. McCord, 10 percent and Mr. Wolf, 11 percent. At first glance, the newer McGinty survey, conducted by the Garin Hart Young Research Group, doesn't offer much solace for the Schwartz rivals. She led with 25 percent, followed by Ms. McGinty, Mr. McCord and Mr. Wolf, tied at just 6 percent. But after the respondents listened to positive descriptions of each of the hopefuls, the firm found an "informed trial heat,'' with Ms Schwartz at 36 percent; Ms. McGinty, 25 percent; Mr. Wolf, 10 percent; and Mr. McCord, 9 percent.
To find still more positive omens, the McGinty pollster got still more meta. They asked the voters to rate the appeal of each candidate's qualities. By that very hypothetical measure, Ms. McGinty earned relatively higher marks. 79 percent said her description had at least a fair amount of appeal. Seventy-three percent said the same of the Schwartz description; 61 percent of Mr. Wolf, and 60 percent of Mr. McCord.
With all such selectively excerpted results, it's good to remember the recent admonition of former Gov. Ed Rendell, the last successful Democratic gubernatorial candidate, who called them meaningless. But while the trial heats may be worth ignoring at this stage, the releases do offer a window into the appeals the candidates are crafting to the only audiences that really matter at this early stage -- the donors and party insiders that the candidates are ardently courting out of public view.
The text of the McGinty memo is after the jump: