March 21, 2018

Is the governor’s race tied?

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In the past few weeks, I noticed something from Steve Pearce’s campaign. Twice, staffers posted on social media that in the governor’s race, he is “tied” in the gubernatorial race against Michelle Lujan Grisham.

And this week, when replying to the story about his controversial comments on same-sex marriage from 2008, his campaign manager asserted the video came out because national Democrats “are panicking because this race is tied.”

Democrats still have a contested primary, while Pearce has no opponent in June.

I asked Pearce’s campaign manager why he said that, and he pointed to Google Ads by Lujan Grisham’s campaign asserting that the race is tied.

“I’d assume it’s one of their internal polls but that’s a guess,” Paul Smith wrote in an email.

He forwarded a Pearce campaign email with a screenshot of a Lujan Grisham ad that says, “New Mexico polls TIED.”

After this, I reached out to the Lujan Grisham campaign, asking if the poll was an internal poll or another available poll.

Tuesday, spokesman Victor Reyes responded.

“Our digital ad is referencing the Pearce campaign poll from last May that showed the race within the margin of error,” Reyes in an email.

We wrote about that poll when it was released. It was from The Tarrance Group, a Republican pollster which has worked for past Pearce campaigns, though this poll came from before Pearce officially entered the race.

The poll showed Lujan Grisham with a 47 percent to 43 percent lead over Pearce.

Both campaigns surely have more up-to-date polls—but neither have released any since then. Instead, both campaigns opt to fundraise off a nearly 10-month old poll.

Saying a race is close—or even that your candidate is in peril—is one strategy to drive donations. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee infamously uses this to almost absurdity. Every few months, another news outlet writes about the emails. Buzzfeed News most recently wrote about the “dire email fundraiser” technique. (And before them the Center for Public Integrity,  Observer, The New Republic and many other outlets).

It also shows the complete lack of public polling in the race. Those on the outside of the campaigns have no real sense of where the race actually stands.

Lujan Grisham faces former media executive Jeff Apodaca and state Sen. Joe Cervantes in the Democratic primary in June.

Polls in that Democratic primary have shown Lujan Grisham with a large lead.