Does Dan the Man still have a shot at the title? A new poll suggests that he might.
"Keep hope alive," Jesse Jackson used to exclaim to Dems back in the day. Well, Dan Saban's camp is doing just that by releasing an internal poll that targets the nearly half million new voters added to county rolls in the last four years. (You can read the Saban press release for yourself, here.) According to the Saban campaign, the poll of 454 active, registered voters was conducted between October 24 and October 30, and it showed that these newbies preferred Saban over Arpaio for Sheriff, 54 to 31.7 percent.
That's a sharp contrast to a recent Cronkite-Eight poll, which shows Arpaio with a 21 point lead among a more general sample of registered voters. The Saban camp's poll focused only on those who've registered since the November 2004 election. This pool of voters makes up "28% of Maricopa County's active voting population," or a total number of 487,108, claims the statement from the Saban camp.
(Note: I'll confirm these registration figures Monday when the county elections office is open, but this seems to jibe with reports I've seen previously.)
"The importance of this poll is that these new voters haven't been around to be swayed by Joe Arpaio's antics," said Saban's campaign manager Bill Perry. "They see the importance of true law enforcement."
The Saban camp's numbers on new voters didn't surprise ASU's Bruce Merrill, the guy behind the Cronkite-Eight poll which has Saban trailing Arpaio 35 to 56 percent. Without knowing the details of the poll's methodology, Merrill conceded that the data from this voter pool would probably have the results that were quoted to him.
"These nontraditional voters tend to be more Democratic," explained Merrill. "So that sounds about right to me, but here's the problem: You still don't know if those people are actually going to the polls."
Merrill stated that his polling sample was of registered voters, rather than those voters more likely to vote (a sample generated by looking at voting history), in an attempt at factoring in new voters into his equation. But he stressed that turnout would be key, and that a rising tide of Obama voters could lift most all boats.
"If the Obama people are able to get that vote out," posits Merrill, "then this won't be a close election. Obama will get 55, 56 percent of the vote. And the most significant thing is that if that high of a vote comes out, it's going to help. You might see Lord upset Shadegg. You might see the Democrats take control of the [state] House. Because if they come out to vote for Obama, then while they're in there, they're probably going to vote in most of the other races."
Merrill was skeptical, however, that a strong showing for Obama would help Saban overtake a 21-point deficit. He also quibbled with the Saban camp's assertion that 20 to 30 percent of telephone users rely on a cell phone as their primary phone, but he conceded that the absence of some cell phone users in polling data could be a problem in this election, as the phone numbers pollsters work with are often land lines.
"I'm not sure where they got that number," said Merill. "There are all kinds of numbers out there, I've been using the numbers 12 to 15 percent. The American Association for Public Opinion Research had their convention here about three years ago, and they came to the conclusion after studying it that, at this point, there really wasn't much evidence that cell phone users made a big difference in the polls.
"Now that was a couple of years ago. And this year they've registered a lot more young people. And it may very well be it would have a very slight impact [on the polling data]. If it did, it would impact Obama's support a little bit because so many of them are younger people, and younger people tend to be more favorable to Obama."
Whatever the effect of cell phone usage on polls might be, it's difficult for me to imagine the average Obama supporter marking his or her ballot for Arpaio, my bizarre conversation the other day with ex-Senator Dennis DeConcini aside. And I especially can't see one of these new voters coming out for Obama, then checking off the name of our corrupt top constable.
Also, some voters will be showing up just to vote against Arpaio, and some of them, this time, are Republicans, as we have seen in a recent Dennis Gilman video for instance. There's also the 44 percent who voted for Saban over Arpaio in the 2004 Republican primary, which demonstrates that Saban has had considerable support among Republicans in the past. (Back then a poll by Rocky Mountain/BRC had Saban at a mere 25 percent support less than a month before the vote, showing that polling is often an inexact science.) Moreover, Arpaio's garnered himself a deluge of negative press in the last month, which has alienated many, including Republicans.
So here's a prediction for you: If Obama beats McCain in McCain's home state, Arpaio'll soon be sunning himself on a beach in Honduras, and asking a half-naked David Hendershott to pass the Coppertone. In other words, Saban still has a shot, even if the odds are against him. That is, as long as people get out there and vote.