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One Candidate’s Positive Poll Is Another’s Fundraising Boon

Campaigns often use polls that make them look bad to ask for money

Sen. Michael Bennet turned a poll showing his GOP challenger within single digits of him into a fundraising tool, a not unusual move for candidates of both parties. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Sen. Michael Bennet turned a poll showing his GOP challenger within single digits of him into a fundraising tool, a not unusual move for candidates of both parties. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

When campaigns encounter polls they don’t like, they can either refute them or they can use them for their own good.  

Since Darryl Glenn’s surprising victory in the Colorado Republican primary for Senate, Democrats have been gleeful about running against an underfunded challenger with few paid campaign staff and little establishment support.  

But two polls in the past week from conservative pollsters have put the spread between Glenn and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet within single digits.  

An internal poll from Senate Conservatives Fund, which boosted Glenn during the primary, put Bennet at 47 percent and Glenn at 42 percent, with 11 percent undecided. The poll surveyed 500 likely voters.  

On its face, those results aren’t good for an incumbent who has millions more dollars in the bank than his challenger. But an internal poll from a conservative outside group isn’t likely to be taken too seriously by Democrats.  

Instead, they used it to their advantage.  

In a fundraising email, Bennet’s campaign argued that the closeness of the poll meant the campaign needed more money to fend off Glenn.  

“BREAKING: New Poll has Colorado Senate race within single digits,” the email announced, without specifying the name of the pollster or the results. The email laid out three reasons why the race against Glenn “would come down to the wire.”  

First among them was that the Washington Post called Bennet’s race “the toughest of any Senate Democrat.” That’s true. Bennet is the only Democratic incumbent Republicans had any chance of knocking off this year.  

Even before Glenn’s victory, the Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report/Roll Call rated the race Democratic Favored . And with Glenn winning the nomination, the possibility of Republicans taking out Bennet looks less likely. Many Republicans have written off the Colorado Senate race, with the National Republican Senatorial Committee not committing to spend in the race.  


Republicans Struggle to Keep Colorado Senate Race in Play


The second reason was the closeness of the last two Senate races in Colorado: both were decided by two points or less.  

The third reason — in bold — was the poll.   

And then came the plea for money. “This election year, everything depends on Colorado — and with polls this close, we’ll fall behind if we don’t respond FAST,” the email read, directing supporters to donate.  

“We need to act fast and fund a campaign strong enough to beat Darryl Glenn at the polls,” the email concluded.  

Bennet already has a commanding financial advantage over Glenn. The two-term senator raised $2.7 million in the second quarter and ended the period with $6.1 million.  

Glenn hasn’t yet released his second quarter fundraising numbers, but he ended the pre-primary reporting period in early June with just $50,000.  

Fundraising emails are famously desperate. Earlier this year, Nathan Gonzales reported on a fundraising email Oregon Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden sent in January, when he had nearly $6 million in the bank and his best-funded challenger had less than $2,000.  


Politicians Who Cry Wolf in Fundraising Emails


It happens at the House level, too. Illinois Democrat Cheri Bustos recently sent an “urgent request” to supporters ahead of the Republican National Convention.  

“Since Cheri has been called one of the most vulnerable Democrats in the country, you can bet she’s going to be one of their top targets,” the email reads. It directs supporters to Busto’s Act Blue page.  

Neither Bustos, nor any Democratic incumbent, appears on Roll Call’s recent ranking of the most vulnerable House members .  

Bustos was among the first crop of members the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee added to its Frontline Program in February 2015, but she doesn’t face a serious threat in November. 

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