Sen. Luther Strange, R-Ala., in a memorandum to supporters is disputing initial polling that showed him losing big to Roy Moore in the special Republican primary election for Senate in Alabama.
The memo features a new poll with Strange, appointed to fill the vacancy created when Jeff Sessions resigned to become U.S. attorney general, losing to Moore by just 2 percentage points, 47 percent to 45 percent. That runs counter to early public surveys of the Sept. 26 runoff for the GOP nomination in the special election but fits with the internal poll conducted for the pro-Strange group, Senate Leadership Fund, a super PAC aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
However, the interesting portion of the memo was the lengthy takedown of two public polls that showed Moore, the former chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, with a wide lead over Strange. Campaigns typically dismiss polls showing their candidate losing. Extensive rebuttals of pessimistic data are less common. That Strange dissected the two early public polls in a memo clearly designed to leak to the political press suggests the senator was concerned about their impact on turnout and fundraising.
"The SLF and Harper polls reflect the true state of the race. The methodology in the other polls (JMC; DDHQ) published in the first days following the primary in Alabama make their numbers extremely suspect," Travis Smith, a Republican strategist advising Strange, writes in the memo issued by the senator's campaign.
The SLF poll was conducted via live-operator interviews and overseen by Republican pollster Jan van Lohuizen. The poll featured in the Strange campaign's memo was produced by the GOP firm Harper Polling. Interviews with 600 "likely Republican primary runoff election voters" were conducted Aug. 24-26 with Interactive Voice Response technology. The error margin was 4 points.
Two polls conducted immediately after the Aug. 15 primary looked much different. The one from JMC Analytics, and the other by Opinion Savvy for Decision Desk HQ, showed Moore leading Strange by 19 points and 18 points, respectively. But Moore won round one with 38.9 percent, just 6 points ahead of Strange's 32.8 percent, and the Strange campaign is crying foul.
Under the heading "Fake Polls," the Strange campaign's memo attacks the JMC survey on the grounds of faulty voter sampling; poor geographic modeling and overall lousy track records of other polls the two firms have conducted. The memo indicts the Opinion Savvy poll for an insufficient voter screen and, as with JMC, bad sampling and incorrect geographic modeling.
"The outcome will be decided by which candidate turns out their voters, not fake polls. Strange has the momentum and he will win this race because no one is going to outwork the campaign, the volunteers, or the candidate," Smith wrote in the memo.
The winner of the runoff is a shoo-in in the December special general election and will almost assuredly win the right to serve out the remainder of the term Sessions won in 2014. The full Strange campaign memo is included below.
Update: The Harper Polling survey is a public poll. The story has been updated to reflect this clarification.