With about two weeks left before the May 22 election, Augusta mayoral candidate Gould Hagler sent out a press release this week insisting that he was tied with “career politician” Mayor Hardie Davis.
Tied in the mayor’s race?
Hagler must be dreaming.
While anything is possible, and the mayor has really turned people’s stomachs during his first term in office, Davis still won the 2014 race with 75 percent of the vote and Hagler is a newbie on the local political scene.
So, where is Hagler getting the proof to back this claim that he’s neck and neck with Davis?
None other than a paid pollster.
Apparently, according to a survey conducted earlier this month by Clout Research, a national opinion research firm based in Ohio, Hagler holds 42 percent of the vote while Davis has 41 percent. The remaining voters are reportedly undecided.
So, not only does this research firm have Hagler tied with Davis, but it actually has him one percentage point ahead of the mayor, eh? (Of course, it should be pointed out that the survey has a margin of error of 4.86 percent, but that’s beside the point.)
Seems awfully optimistic for Hagler, doesn’t it?
According to a memo by Fritz Wenzel, founder and partner of Clout Research, his company’s telephone survey of 404 Richmond County residents found Davis with a “statistically insignificant edge” over Hagler among voters who said they were firm in their selection.
According to the survey, Davis was leading 35 percent to Hagler’s 33 percent, with 18 percent yet undecided in the contest.
“When those who said they were ‘leaning’ toward one or the other of the candidates are
folded into the equation, Hagler wins 42 percent support, compared to 41 percent for Davis,” Wenzel wrote in this week’s memo. “Among the ‘leaners,’ Hagler was favored by 9 percent, while Davis has 6 percent who said they are leaning toward supporting him.”
The only category that Clout Research has Davis significantly leading in the race is with local Democrats.
“Davis wins 58 percent support from Democrats, while 28 percent of Dems said they support Hagler,” Wenzel wrote. “Among Republicans, 63 percent support Hagler, compared to 20 percent who support Davis. Among political independents, 42 percent support Hagler, while 35 percent are backing the incumbent.”
But those independents could decide the future of the city, Wenzel wrote.
“Among independents, 23 percent are undecided, and this is a demographic group that could become very important in the next two weeks,” the memo stated. “That said, 18 percent of Republicans and 14 percent of Democrats remain undecided with two weeks to go.”
“That the level of undecided voters is so high is not good news for Davis, as incumbents
who have locked down their re-election seldom face such indecision among the electorate so late in an election race,” Wenzel wrote. “Another indication that Davis may have hit his high-water mark in the race is that his core supporters – the 35 percent who said they are ‘firm’ in their support of the incumbent – represent barely one-third of voters in the election.”
According to Clout Research’s survey, Davis should be worried about Hagler’s momentum prior to May 22.
“Davis is also a well-known quantity for a local political figure, as 85 percent of voters know who he is. While 57 percent have a favorable opinion of Davis, 28 percent hold an unfavorable view,” Wenzel wrote. “Hagler is known by 56 percent of voters, including 44 percent who have a favorable opinion of him, compared with 13 percent who hold an unfavorable opinion. That Hagler is unknown by 44 percent of the electorate, and yet is statistically tied in this race, is a tremendous negative mark against Davis.”
Wenzel insisted that all Hagler has to do is focus on getting his name out into the public.
“The challenge for Hagler is to boost his name identification over the next two weeks, and to offer a simple and direct contrast to Davis and a forward-looking agenda in terms of political leadership and management of the city and Richmond County,” Wenzel wrote.
That’s it. No problem… except for one thing: People hate polls.
Even though this research firm’s surveys have been featured on several major television and cable news networks across the country, doesn’t mean it can accurately predict a local political race.
In fact, just ask Jon Ossoff, the former Democratic candidate for Congress in the special election for Georgia’s 6th Congressional District.
An automated survey in March 2017 by the very same Clout Research showed Ossoff leading the pack in the race to replace former Georgia Republican Rep. Tom Price.
Clout Research’s survey indicated that Ossoff was leading the race in March 2017 with 41 percent followed by two Republicans: former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel and businessman Bob Gray, who had 16 percent each.
The July special election quickly became one of the most expensive U.S. House races in history with Handel and Ossoff competing for the seat.
Politicians from all over the country got involved in this race, including President Donald Trump.
But in the end, guess who won?
Despite the results of the survey by Clout Research, Handel won in an extremely close race with 51.9 percent of the votes in Georgia’s 6th Congressional District compared to Ossoff’s 48.1 percent.
Close, but no cigar.
So, if Hagler is smart, he won’t take the results of this survey too seriously.
If he really wants to win, he needs to hit the streets and work for it.