Rep. Josh Gottheimer is fundraising off of a somewhat dubious internal poll commissioned by his opponent, John McCann, that shows the latter leading 39% to 36%.
Gottheimer, ready for unscrupulous reporting that takes the internal memo at face value, embraced the apparently unfavorable results and issued a fundraising call on his campaign’s Facebook page and pushed out fundraising emails on his campaign mailing list.
“A new poll has us trailing John McCann by three points. Chip in now before it’s too late,” the Facebook posting read.
But, while the results look bad, it’s not clear whether or not they actually mean anything more than more money in Gottheimer’s already-lush war chest.
Gottheimer, something of a prolific fundraiser, reported having roughly $4.5 million on hand in his most recent quarterly filings, while McCann had about $6,500.
Gottheimer also comes into the race with the distinct advantage of being a popular incumbent who has frequently crossed party lines in a district that, before he won election, had been held by Republicans since 1933.
The internal poll reflected that popularity to a degree, with respondents viewing the first-term congressman favorably, at 36% to 27%. But, equal portions of the remaining respondents – 19% each – said they either had no opinion of Gottheimer or were unaware of him.
“I don’t think this poll looks realistic. I’m sure the McCann campaign will try to exploit this for fundraising purposes, but any educated consumer of polling will see serious deficiencies with this memo,” said Rowan political science professor Ben Dworkin, adding later: “It’s hard to take this seriously.”
Perhaps most startling in the poll was the high level of name ID boasted by McCann. Of those polled, 66% had an opinion on McCann, a surprising figure for a candidate with no reason to be known among voters in the district.
It’s possible that voters were introduced to McCann in the primary, when he and former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan were flinging negative ads at one another without end.
But, were that the case, voters would likely view the candidate negatively, but 45% of them viewed McCann favorably, while 21% held an unfavorable view.
It’s not clear how many of the 400 respondents belonged to either party, as the internal memo did not include a question on party affiliation, adding yet another reason to be wary of the results.
And, as is often the case with such internal polls, the memo did not include a full questionnaire or a full slate of methodological information, like information about the poll’s likely voter model.
“They say ‘here are a few results of interest,’ so we don’t know if they tested negative messages against Gottheimer and positive messages for McCann and then said ‘who will you vote for?’” Dworkin said. “We just have the ‘who will you vote for.’”
A call to McCann’s campaign manager seeking the above information made at 4:43 p.m. was not immediately returned. This article will be updated with comment once it is received.