Poll results. Plus, Romney’s bad ad strategy
BY SETH GITELL
THURSDAY, AUGUST 29, 2002 -- With 18 days to the Democratic Primary, both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald publish their most recent poll results today. Both contain surprises.
The Globe poll jibes with the current conventional wisdom. It has Treasurer Shannon O’Brien in the lead with 35 percent of the vote -- ahead of former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich with 21 percent. At first blush this seems to show Reich down from the solid 25 percent that other private polls have been showing as his level of Reich’s support. But it doesn’t. With the five percent margin of error, Reich is more or less where he has been in recent weeks. The Globe poll also shows growth for former Watertown State Senator Warrant Tolman and a flattening out -- if not a decline -- for Senate President Tom Birmingham.
You can’t really compare the Globe and Herald polls. The Herald poll, conducted by the reliable R. Kelly Myers, pits individual Democratic candidates against sole GOP gubernatorial candidate Mitt Romney. The Herald poll showed Reich as the candidate with the most support against Romney.
A common thread between both polls -- somewhat buried in the coverage -- is a weakening of support for Romney. One warning sign in the Globe is that his self-selected candidate for lieutenant governor, Kerry Murphy Healey, trails opponent Jim Rappaport by nine points. The Globe quoted one likely voter in the GOP contest, Joseph Anastas of Somerville, as being critical of Romney’s work for Healey: " I don’t understand Romney thinking he can choose whoever he wants; it sounds a little arrogant to me. " And in the Herald, Romney’s popularity versus both Democrats who can credibly boast " outsider " status -- Reich and Tolman -- slips. Romney has lost 14 points against Reich and 13 against Tolman.
More bad news for Romney. The State Republican Committee is up with another radio ad attacking O’Brien. I didn’t like the first one. But the new one is worse. The ad, which plays off of O’Brien’s response to the first ad, features a fictional " voter information hotline. " Instead of getting an operator who substantiates O’Brien’s claim of blowing the whistle on Big Dig cost overruns, this time a caller gets one who is critical of her. Everything is above board until the operator begins to whisper: " I can’t stay on the phone long...it’s all true, this whole voter information thing is a scam...We’re here in this basement near Beacon Hill. " The Republicans paint a picture of imprisoned hacks all-but-held hostage, forced to answer phones on behalf of O’Brien. " If my husband didn’t have that state job in the Treasurer’s office, I wouldn’t have to be here, lying to people all day, " she continues. Then ad goes even a step further. " She’s here, " the operator whispers. " She’s coming this way. I’ve gotta go. Warn others. "
Perhaps under law, the Republican ad passes muster because it is obviously fictional. But this is character assassination at its absolute worst. The Republicans don’t like running against the O’Brien who actually exists so they create a fake O’Brien patrolling a boiler room intimidating innocent telephone operators. It’s a scene right out of Stalin’s Soviet Union for crying out loud. It’s possible that they want the ersatz Romney, who pretends to work at jobs across the Commonwealth in his television spots, to run against a contrived O’Brien who they paint to be a Beacon Hill version of Saddam Hussein.
O’Brien’s people have been quick to put up a response ad. In this one, a caller describes ads as " mean, " which they really are. The political aspect to this is simple. In the Globe poll, O’Brien boasts a considerable lead against her male counterparts, almost a 20 point gap against Reich her closest opponent, among women. If O’Brien is the Democratic nominee, support from women will be key for both candidates. If the Republicans keep up these " mean " attacks against O’Brien, the polls suggest one thing: Women will run away from Romney in droves. Just look at what happened when former Congressman Rick Lazio was perceived as bullying Hillary Rodham Clinton in a key debate in the 2000 senate race in New York. Lazio’s " mean " action -- also pushed by Lazio turned Romney strategist Mike Murphy (and believed to-be-creator of the recent radio ads) -- lead to his downfall. The same thing could happen here in Massachusetts in November.
What do you think? Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Issue Date: Tuesday, August 27
"Today's Jolt" archives: 2002 2001
Back to the News and Features table of contents.