Political polls aren’t much different than New England’s autumn weather: if you don’t like the climate out there, wait a few minutes.
This week, the polling pendulum swung decidedly toward Republican Richard Tisei, in a poll released by The Boston Globe.
The poll — conducted by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center Sept. 21 through Sept. 27 — found Tisei with a 37 percent to 31 percent lead over Congressman John Tierney, with 30 percent still undecided. That’s a whopping 13-point swing over just 17 days.
Just two weeks earlier, a Mass Inc. poll, conducted Sept. 8 through Sept. 10, had Tierney ahead by 7 points among likely voters — 39 percent for Tierney, 32 percent for Tisei, with 22 percent undecided.
“I feel very confident. I’m out everywhere, meeting thousands of people every week, and I think a lot of people feel it’s time for a change,” Tisei said, speaking from a campaign stop at the Topsfield Fair’s Senior Citizen Day. “The trend is definitely in my direction.”
A recent poll conducted by Young Guns Action Fund, a pro-Republican super PAC, also found Tisei with an eight-point lead — but the internal Republican poll numbers seem a bit dubious, considering it also had President Obama and Mitt Romney in a dead heat in Massachusetts, and Sen. Scott Brown trouncing Democratic opponent Elizabeth Warren by 12 — at odds with nearly every poll in the nation.
In addition to his own grassroots campaigning, Tisei credited Tierney’s campaign strategy for his poll boost, citing the eight-term incumbent’s television ad that tries to paint to moderate Tisei as a Tea Party radical.
“People have made a determination on John Tierney,” Tisei said. “The fact that he has run such a negative and dishonest campaign painting me as an extremist — a lot of people have rejected that.”
Tierney, speaking on a conference call with reporters yesterday, said the Globe poll “has obvious glaring deficiencies.”
It did not, for instance, mention Libertarian candidate Daniel Fishman, he said. The poll also “over sampled Republicans and it is inconsistent to other polls out there” that had Tierney ahead, he said.
Speaking on the conference call, Tierney seemed to admit that the large and costly effort by outside Republican groups may be making an impact with voters.
The Young Guns have spent almost $1 million on negative print and television ads, and the National Republican Congressional Committee has spent nearly $900,000 against Tierney. Most center on Tierney’s family woes.
The congressman’s brothers in-law for years operated an offshore gambling business in Antigua, and Tierney’s wife, Patrice, went to jail for 30 days last year for helping her brother file false tax returns. Tierney has never been accused of wrongdoing.
“They’re spending $3 million on a character assassination,” Tierney said. “We always knew this would be a close race and we knew he (Tisei) would sink to this level and sell out to the right wing agenda, because they gave him their money to do that.”
The Republicans’ outside noise is designed to “hide the fact that (Tisei’s) first vote will be to put the right-wing agenda in place,” Tierney said, speaking of the vote to elect the speaker of the House.
Tierney has argued that Tisei will be beholden to the Republican leadership if elected, including Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan and House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor, who are both affiliated with the Young Guns super PAC.
“His first act of the campaign was to sell out to the right wing and get them to do his strategy and pay for vicious personal attacks that distract from the issues,” Tierney said.
Meanwhile, Tierney’s outside support has dwindled. The House Majority super PAC, whose aim is to take back the House majority for the Democrats, pulled $630,000 worth of television spots last week that would have attacked Tisei.
According to the Federal Election Commission, a little more than $1.76 million in outside money has been spent against John Tierney this election cycle. The FEC has no independent expenditures listed that oppose Tisei.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has reserved about $1 million worth of ad time in the Boston area, according to The Washington Post, but it’s unclear how much of that will go toward helping Tierney in the 6th District.
Tisei said the outside spending has “opened up people’s eyes to some of the things going on in the last year and a half. From the beginning we said we were going to run our own campaign and whatever else happens is outside of our control.”
Talks to limit outside spending by signing a pledge similar to the one that Warren and Brown signed, fizzled between the two rivals in May, allowing for outside groups to influence the race.
Can Dems take the House?
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi thinks so, saying on CNN Sunday that her party has a “very excellent chance” to gain the 25 seats needed to take back control.
“There is the prospect of doing that,” he said. “There are a number of House seats in play that are close, a number of which Democrats are leading.”
Stumping for Tierney on a conference call yesterday, Rep. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, said his party is “in striking distance” of taking the House and it will come down to races like this one.
“This race is an essential part of the Democrats taking a majority in the House,” he said. “If people want to make sure Democrats have the majority in the House, they need to make sure John Tierney is elected.”
Van Hollen said a Democratic majority is essential to stop Republicans from passing budgets that cut taxes for the rich at the expense of the middle class, seniors, students and investment in the future.
Tisei rejected the idea that Democrats can take back the House and argued, as he has in the past, that it’s essential to have a Massachusetts representative in the Republican caucus.
“There isn’t an analyst in the entire country that predicts the Democrats can take back the House majority, so the question is who would best represent the district?” he said yesterday. “I think I’ll be able to get more done for the state as a member of the majority.”
“People know me; I have a 26-year record as being someone who can work with people on both sides of the aisle,” Tisei said.
Tierney, however, said that he believes the election will come down to a simple truth: 6th District voters like the Democratic plan better than what the Republicans have to offer.
“People will place great weight on the fact that they don’t want the Republicans’ anti middle-class agenda,” Tierney said.