Wait -- This Might Be Even Stupider

While I was busy blogging earlier today about something stupid Martha Coakley said, her campaign sent out a press release touting an internal poll. The headline blares: "Martha Coakley Holds Sizable Primary Lead in Special Election for U.S. Senate."

That headline has an important problematic grammatical issue, which I'll return to shortly.

But first, why would Coakley's campaign release an internal poll showing their candidate with a massive, whopping lead? The numbers are Coakley 47%, Capuano 12%, Pagliuca 4%, Khazei 1%, which leaves about a third of the electorate undecided. Let's not quibble with questions about the polls accuracy and reliability (as an internal poll, we cynics are naturally skeptical). Why would they want to tout this?

There are two problems with releasing this poll, in my view. First, the campaign seems to be hell-bent on stoking the perception that you're supposed to vote for Martha Coakley -- because she's a woman, because she's supported by the important people, because she's endorsed by the important groups, and most of all because she's going to win. It's the classic frontrunner's inevitability ploy, and it's why we are currently blessed with President Hillary Clinton and Governor Tom Reilly, who both ran with the exact same strategy. It's the same ploy that came thisclose to losing every point of Niki Tsongas's similar gazillion-point lead in the polls, in a similarly quick special-election timeframe.

But worse, by releasing this poll now, the campaign practically guarantees that there will, before too long, be a campaign narrative about the race narrowing -- or put another way, about Coakley's lead vanishing. It's inevitable, as Democrats across the state find out who the hell Capuano, Pagliuca, and Khazei are, that their numbers will go up. Frankly, even if they don't, there will likely be at least one poll that makes it look like it's closer, because of when or how or who they polled. Remember when one oddball poll set off a week's worth of stories that Kerry Healey was closing the gap on Deval Patrick?

And there's another reason that we can be pretty sure the race is tightening -- and here's where the grammatical problem comes in. Because this poll doesn't show that Coakley "Holds" a lead, it shows that she "Held" a lead. Two weeks ago, before the campaigns really got started.

According to the press release, the poll was conducted September 21-24. According to my little appointment calendar, that's two weeks ago. These are two-week-old numbers -- in a 12-week campaign. Nobody can claim with a straight face that these figures reflect the present tense reality.

These figures are essentially pre-campaign numbers. Capuano and Pagliuca had just launched their web sites, and just begun airing TV ads when this poll was taken. Alan Khazei formally announced his candidacy on the 24th.

And just in case you imagine that anybody was already paying attention to those other candidates, I remind you that September 22 was the Boston mayoral preliminary, which pretty well captured the headlines those days -- at least, those headlines not devoted to the Patriots-Jets game and the Red Sox playoff race.

So the question is, why would Coakley's campaign release an old internal poll today? To distract from the Menino email thing? To reassure supporters who are worried about her not being up with ads yet?

I tried to ask Coakley's campaign that question, but they haven't gotten back to me.

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