A Bucket of Goat Entrails Might be More Predictive

Hey folks! A poll! We’ve got a poll! Dispatch the political reporters immediately! Let them gather quotes from people with axes to grind! Surely We Shall Learn More About the Coming Campaign!

Or nah.

The online survey comes to us from the University of New Hampshire, which has a vibrant polling institute built on the spoils of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. It’s a little creakier than most polls, especially when it comes to the August primary (the margin of error for August races is a whopping 5.9%). That’s a big deal since the race of greatest interest is the August primary for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Congress.

I mean, we hardly need a poll to tell us that outgoing U.S. Rep. Peter Welch has a gargantuan lead over likely Republican nominee Christina Nolan. Or that Gov. Phil Scott is already being fitted for his fourth-term tiara.

What does the poll tell us about the race for the Democratic Congressional nomination? Basically, that it’s very close and a lot of people haven’t made up their minds.

Now, that’s excitement.

Not that the paid political operatives weren’t out there spinning like dervishes on Red Bull. Lt. Gov. Molly Gray’s campaign manager Samantha Sheehan takes the prize for highest spin rate. She pointed to slight advantages for her candidate in hypothetical November matchups as evidence that Gray is “best positioned to keep this House seat in the hands of Democrats in November.”

How slight are Gray’s advantages? Couldn’t possibly be slighter.

Gray fared one percentage point better than Senate President Pro Tem Becca Balint, and two points better than state Sen. Kesha Ram Hinsdale, in contests against a Republican candidate. That’s statistically meaningless. But hey, Sheehan has a job to do, and she had to change the subject away from a worrying number: Gray’s relatively high unfavorability.

Twenty-five percent of those surveyed had an unfavorable view of Gray. Balint and Ram Hinsdale’s unfavorables were less than half as high. And as Vermont pollster and Castleton U professor Rich Clark noted, “unfavorables don’t go down.”

But they aren’t anywhere near high enough to sink Gray’s campaign.

Another bit of bad news for Gray: She had a substantial edge in name recognition over her competitors — but she finished behind Balint and essentially tied with Ram Hinsdale in the head-to-head-to-head matchup. Balint earned 28 percent, Gray 21 and Ram Hinsdale 19. Balint’s edge is just a titch outside the margin of error, so grain of salt.

This might be the most telling result of all (which isn’t saying much): Balint’s name recognition is only 45 percent. Which means that almost two-thirds of the people who have heard of her are supporting her. That bodes well for future growth. (Might also explain why Gray spent so much time at the VTDigger debate going after Balint. That would seem to indicate that Gray sees the Pro Tem as the biggest threat.)

But really, it’s anybody’s race to win or lose. A lot of voters aren’t even paying attention yet. One has to assume that respondents’ attachments are subject to change. It’s still anybody’s ballgame, and will likely be until we get into the heart of the summer.

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