Why is it that we only pay attention to polls during a political campaign? Surely the fine folk with Gallup and Zogby and USA Today conduct polls on topics other that politics. Otherwise, that would be a fairly easy job to just come into work once every four years for a month or two. But that's beside the point.
A new poll released over the weekend shows the race for Missouri governor is a virtual dead heat between Matt Blunt and Claire McCaskill. If that comes as a surprise to anyone, you haven't been paying too much attention. Both Blunt and McCaskill are skilled politicians with little if any negative political baggage. They both have fairly decent name recognition though Blunt may have the edge thanks to his position as secretary of state and the legacy of his father, Congressman Roy Blunt.
The only rub on Blunt is that some believe he is too young to take over the state's highest elected office. But he clearly knows his way around state politics, he is well financed and seems to be spending the amount of time on the campaign trail that is required.
McCaskill, on the other hand, is far from a stranger to state politics. She too won't lack for funds and amazingly, voters in both camps give her high marks for her aggressive and feisty style. And just so no one will forget, she upset an incumbent Governor just last month.
So given that background, the pollsters made their phone calls and now say this race is far too close to call. I could have saved them time and effort. Of course it's too close to call. And it's that way because it's a race of personalities and style. There is nothing in either candidate's background that will generate negative attacks. And thus, we're left with two capable candidates, both with strong appeal.
Here is my prediction. Actually it's just an observation. Prediction sounds better.
The outcome will hinge on the results of the Presidential race in Missouri and on the turnout in heavily Democratic St. Louis city. Blunt will do better in the rural areas but not by a landslide. McCaskill should do exceptionally well in her home base of Kansas City. And St. Louis is firmly Democratic. So if Bush runs strong in Missouri and the rural vote is above average, Blunt gets the nod. If Missouri is very close on the national ticket and St. Louis turns out in strong numbers, McCaskill gets the nod.
So back to polls. I have often told myself that I'll collect polling data from an election, keep it in a special file and remind voters in the next election just how wrong the polls were. But my passion decreases following the vote count and the "special" file gets lost in the shuffle.
All I know is that in the race for Missouri governor, I have talked to two strong party members who have told me privately they will vote for the candidate from the other party. I won't fill in the blanks because these may be the only two in the entire state who - despite very strong party ties - will cross the ballot this year in the state's top race.
And that is my secret information. The governor of Missouri this year will be elected by party members of one political party who - for whatever reason in this race - will vote across their party line. And that, my friends, is something that polls won't tell you.