Republican challenger Joe Coors is leading three-term Democratic incumbent U.S. Rep. Ed Perlmutter by a wide margin, according to a month-old internal poll released by the Coors campaign this week, though Democrats challenged the survey’s methodology and scoffed at the results.
The poll, conducted July 16 and 17 by the Virginia-based firm OnMessage Inc., which also handles advertising for the Coors campaign, showed Coors with a 9-point advantage over Perlmutter, 45-36 percent. Five percent of respondents opted for third-party candidates and 14 percent were undecided. The poll surveyed 400 likely using live callers with a reported margin of error of plus-or-minus 4.9 percent.
“It goes without saying that Joe’s current lead in the poll is encouraging and confirms that the voters of Colorado’s Seventh District are not sold on re-electing Congressman Perlmutter to another term,” said Coors campaign manager Dustin Zvonek, who took the helm last week, in a memo released by the campaign.
“That is not even close to what ours show,” said Perlmutter spokeswoman Leslie Oliver, who declined a request by The Colorado Statesman to release any of her campaign’s internal polling. “We never talk about them, it’s our standard policy,” she said. “Ed’s doing well, Ed’s got good support. It’s broad, it’s bipartisan.”
FEC reports show that the Perlmutter campaign spent $37,000 on polling with Virginia-based FrederickPolls in April and May.
Democratic operative Laura Chapin had a more pointed take on the Coors poll: “A month old poll without crosstabs is like a guy in Vegas not wearing his wedding ring,” she tweeted.
Coors spokeswoman Michelle Yi said that the campaign delayed releasing the poll results because the survey was conducted just a few days before the horrific mass-shooting at an Aurora movie theater last month.
“It takes a couple weeks for the results to be processed,” she said, adding that the campaign “wanted to be sensitive to families and communities” who were taking “time to process the tragedy.”
While the Coors campaign declined to release the lengthy poll’s cross-tabs — a detailed breakdown of survey results — it did release the answers to two other questions.
Asked about the state of the economy over the past year, 43.5 percent of respondents said it had gotten worse, 28.8 percent said it had gotten better and 26.3 percent said it had stayed the same.
A majority of those surveyed — 55.2 percent — said they favored repeal of Obamacare, the president’s signature health care reform legislation, while 37.8 percent opposed repeal. The rest didn’t have an opinion or refused to answer.
Asked to provide details on the poll’s methodology, the Coors campaign made one of the polling firm’s principals available to discuss how the poll was conducted, though declined to release more results from what they described as a voluminous survey.
“We ask a lot of questions that are very strategic in nature,” said OnMessage partner Wes Anderson. “If the Perlmutter campaign wants to see those numbers, they have to pay for them.”
Anderson said the firm based its sample on turnout in the 2008 election — the better to compare apples with apples, since the 2010 election had a proportionally higher Republican turnout — and distributed voters according to the redrawn district’s geography.
Broken down by self-identified partisan affiliation, the sample included 39 percent Democrats, 37 percent Republicans and 24 percent unaffiliated. (Self-identification rarely aligns completely with actual registration, he noted, and partisans are more likely to vote than unaffiliated voters, accounting for their lower number in the sample.)
At the end of July, there were 101,471 active Democrats in the 7th CD, or 34.7 percent of the 292,769 active voters, according to state elections officials. Republicans claimed 94,185 of active district voters, or 32.2 percent, just a hair behind the 94,492, or 32.3 percent, who were unaffiliated.
Two years ago at the same point in the election calendar, Democrats had a wider lead in a differently configured 7th CD, with 38.5 percent of active voters, far ahead of the Republicans’ 30.0 percent and the 30.1 percent unaffiliated.
Perlmutter won the 2010 election over Republican Ryan Frazier, at the time an Aurora city councilman, by an 11-point margin, an outcome not lost on Oliver.
“Ryan Frazier did the same thing, showed a poll showing him ahead two years ago, and we saw how that worked out,” she said.
Almost exactly two years ago, Frazier released a poll conducted by Louisville-based Magellan Data and Mapping Strategies that showed the Republican with 40 percent support, just ahead of Perlmutter’s 39 percent backing.
“We know what ours say, we know what Ed hears at the door, we know what kind of broad-based support he’s got,” she said. “It’s a competitive district, it’s going to be a competitive race, there’s no doubt about that.”
In the internal memo released by the Coors campaign, Zvonek also predicted a close contest.
“We fully anticipate that as we move closer to the November election, Congressman Perlmutter and his Washington allies will pour millions of dollars into this race in an attempt to distort Joe’s record as a successful businessman, job creator and fixture of the Colorado community,” said Zvonek. “These dirty campaign tactics will undoubtedly tighten the race.” He added, “The race is far from over, however, a clear path to victory does indeed exist.”