A new poll shows entrepreneur Victor Mitchell leading Colorado Treasurer and longtime frontrunner Walker Stapleton in the race for the Colorado Republican gubernatorial nomination during the days before the June 26 primary.
The numbers contradict other polling that shows Stapleton leading Mitchell by a substantial amount, and they've been called into question by Colorado Pols, whose item about this development sports the sardonic headline "So Much Winning for Victor Mitchell" and puts quotes around the word "poll." But Ian Lindemann, Mitchell's campaign manager, notes that the survey's methodology recently proved spot-on in another primary and argues that the Colorado results mirror the rising enthusiasm he's been seeing on the campaign trail in recent days.
"We've done over 600 events around the state," Lindemann says. "We do meet-and-greets every night, and we've been to 63 of 64 counties in the state. And we're seeing [that] the message of an outsider businessman with a track record of solving problems and getting things done is really resonating with voters."
The poll, conducted from June 15 to 18 by The Western Journal, an online political publication, quizzed 677 voters, with 31 percent of respondents supporting Mitchell, 27 percent backing Stapleton, 15 percent favoring former Parker mayor Greg Lopez, 5 percent in businessman Doug Robinson's corner and 22 percent undecided.
These digits differ substantially from a poll from earlier this month by Magellan Strategies, a much better-known agency. That analysis ranked the competitors like so: Stapleton at 36 percent, Mitchell at 23 percent, Lopez at 10 percent, Robinson at 4 percent and 27 percent undecided.
Moreover, the methodology used by the Western Journal leans on Facebook, as described in the following excerpt:
The Western Journal conducted a political survey gathering information on the Colorado 2018 Republican Primary Election. Of the more than 5.68 million people currently living in Colorado, 3.61 million are on Facebook and 1.04 million are Republicans.
The Western Journal’s political survey targeted these 1.04 million Republicans in Colorado.
The poll consisted of three different audiences: people affiliated with the Republican Party, people who identified as conservative, and people who were both affiliated with the Republican Party and also identified themselves as conservative.
The audience demographic consisted of fluent English speakers of all genders who were at least 18 years old.
The information, comments and visits from The Western Journal’s millions of Facebook followers allow The Western Journal to invite likely gubernatorial primary voting Facebook registrants in Oklahoma, and other states nationwide, to participate in the surveys we conduct with a high confidence rate that the voters we asked to respond, will actually vote. More importantly, the makeup of those who respond to The Western Journal’s surveys indicates the population of registered voters that will turn out and vote in the primary.
Each respondent’s entries reported in the article are supported by a name, email address and zip code and can be matched against voter files and other databases available to confirm voter eligibility in the state, districts and precincts targeted in this survey. Responses were statistically balanced using Facebook’s Artificial Intelligence tools and programs available to The Western Journal for this program, some of which are proprietary due to our scale and reputation.
At this writing, Stapleton's campaign hasn't replied to Westword's request for comment about The Western Journal conclusions. But to doubters, Lindemann stresses that a poll looking at South Carolina candidates released a week before the May 12 primary in that state correctly predicted the order of the five hopefuls in that particular contest, and the estimated percentages were within the margin of error.
Still, Lindemann doesn't go so far as to say the figures put forward by more established polling services are wrong. "I'm not saying they were inaccurate," he concedes. "But those were done two weeks ago, and the biggest portion of our media spend came out over the last two weeks."
He adds: "The first poll in the race had Vic at 5 percent, and he's the only candidate to make such a big statistical move, from 5 percent to 23 percent. So I think you'd say this is a trend."
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Mitchell also received a boost from backlash against Stapleton for an ad that falsely claimed he was the only state treasurer to endorse President Donald Trump's tax plan. The spot was called out by Kyle Clark of 9News, and a "Truth Test" by the station testified to the accuracy of a Mitchell commercial saying Stapleton had lied.
To Lindemann, the Mitchell response isn't an example of negative campaigning because "it's pointing out a fact and drawing a contrast between the insider who is raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Bush family network [Stapleton is related to members of the Bush political dynasty], traveling around the country doing fundraisers in D.C. and Dallas, and a candidate who is not taking any special interest money. Voters appreciate that. They appreciate that Vic's ads are through his campaign rather than a PAC, where you can slander and not be accountable for the things you're saying, like the ones [political action committee] Coloradans for Fiscal Responsibility are running for Walker."
Did Stapleton's brusque reaction to Clark's questions about the Trump line in a 9News debate make him seem unlikable to undecided voters? Lindemann won't go there, "but I can say that for people who know both candidates, we're doing very well. Everything's showing that as we're heading down the stretch, this really is a two-person race."
But the campaigns have very different ideas about which one is in the lead.