By Jon Cohen
Eager to tamp down a bubbling storyline that Terry McAuliffe has a double-digit lead in the three-way contest for the Democratic nomination for Virginia Governor, former delegate Brian Moran's campaign today released its own poll showing the two locked in a very close race.
Campaigns poll a lot, but release their internal data infrequently, usually in an effort to nudge coverage their way or attract support. The move comes on the heels of a second publicly-released poll putting McAuliffe, former chair of the Democratic National Committee, atop the field.
Those two polls - one by SurveyUSA, and the new one by PublicPolicyPolling (PPP) - use automated telephone calls to gather data, a newer methodology that remains controversial. (The Washington Post does not typically report these types of polls.)
The poll commissioned by the Moran campaign, was conducted Al Quinlan of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research (GQRR), using live telephone interviewers. While SurveyUSA and PPP disclose much of their collected data online, GQRR's release was substantially more sparse, limited to a few results favorable to their client.
The polling hubbub masks a central point: polling primaries is difficult, particularly this one. This is the first contested Democratic gubernatorial primary in years, Virginia has no party registration so any registered voter can opt to vote in the June race and Barack Obama's reshaping of the electorate creates new unknowns.
Just what will turnout be? What types of voters will come out on Election Day?
Will turnout be similar to the 2006 Democratic primary for Senate, where about 150,000 participated, or somewhere closer to the nearly 1,000,000 who voted in the Democratic presidential primary last year? No one expects the higher number, but estimates vary widely, and matter, perhaps as much polling methodology.
The Post will explore each of these questions and its polling team will describe how the paper decides which polls to report -- and which to ignore -- as the June 9 primary approaches.
And one commonality in all the data now in the public domain is that there are high numbers of undecided voters, meaning that the contest is fluid, no matter what the current horse-race standings may be
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