Thursday, November 09, 2006

Auditor's Race to will not End This Afternoon? Any Time Soon

1350 Radio Free Ohio is reporting in its news updates that Democrat Auditor candidate Barbara Sykes "is willing" to concede the race. No further details like who exactly is saying that in the Sykes campaign or when the announcement might come.

Apparently I misheard Tom Duresky. He said Barbara Sykes "is not willing," but I heard "is now willing." Apologies. More update below.

With the victory of Mary Taylor nearly assured, let's look a bit at why. No question Barbara Sykes ran the weakest campaign of the statewides. In addition to just not doing a heck of a lot of campaigning, I thought her cries about racist polling rang false* and certainly turned off some downstate moderates.

Inner city turnout also hurt. Cuyahoga, as noted early, turned out less than 40% of registered voters -- the only large county to do so poorly. If 50% of Cuyahoga County voters had turned out -- still weak, but closer to the mode of 55%, and the county split stayed steady at 62%, Sykes would have netted another 26,739 votes, putting her that much closer, though still over 50,000 votes short. Franklin and Hamilton Counties were both down as well, presumably weighed down at least in part by turnout in Columbus and Cincinnati. (all this based on results on the SoS website)

If Dems are to consolodate power, they need to improve GOTV in central cities.

UPDATE: YellowDogSammy has a breakdown of the vote and interview results with Sykes' campaign manager. The manager notes the same problem with the urban vote I do below. Her take seems to be that someone should have tried to turn urban blacks out. Agreed. But Sykes shares in the fault there. She was supposed to be running a statewide campaign. She was the reluctant candidate from the start and it showed in the campaign. If she had worked hard to turn out the urban vote in Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati, not only would she have won, she could have pulled some of the Congressional candidates across the line.

Barbara needed to have a little Ted in her.

*ADDENDUM: 54cermak's comment reminded me that I never actually wrote about the Taylor poll controversy. I bitched up a storm to whoever would listen, but it was while I was working for Tom and in self-imposed blackout.

So here it is. The poll went into the field relatively early in the campaign and contained both positive and negative information. This suggests that the poll was not a push poll, but a message poll. A push poll exists solely to get information out. A message poll is a real poll designed to get information about the strengths and weaknesses of an opponent. That's why the poll included positives about Sykes and her professional accomplishments. Chairing the Black Caucus was one of her accomplishments. You could quibble about how important it was for the Taylor campaign to know how people felt about that accomplishment vis-a-vis other accomplishments, but the fact remains that putting that in the poll is a rational, defensible decision.

What's more, it makes little strategic sense to put it in a push poll. Push polling is an relatively expensive way to disseminate information. The claim was that they were using the poll to alert voter to the fact that Barbara Sykes is black. There were far easier ways to accomplish that -- airing attack ads with her picture or sending out a side-by-side mailer (one column for Taylor and her accounant degree, a column for Sykes showing how she comes up short, pictures at the head of each column.)

I suppose if the poll or a subsequent ad campaign had really gone after the Black Caucus, I might feel differently about. But it didn't.

Finally, if you are going to call racism in a campaign, you really need to have the goods. If you make the claim based on facts as thin as these you look like a wild-eyed professional victim. Not what people are looking for in a State Treasurer.


54cermak said...

I agree to an extent that Sykes lawsuit over the racist polling probably didn't help her standing downstate, but what part of it rings false? Why else would Taylor have put such a question in the field if not to appeal to white prejudice? I have no problem with Sykes calling the GOP on their BS. The southern strategy is alive and well as the Corker ad showed. And while Taylor's poll might not have been as odious as the slime against Ford, she was playing the only game the GOP knows how to play.

Unknown said...

On the topic of GOTV for black voters, I blogged a short time ago about this week's column in Sojourner's Truth by Toledo's former mayor, Jack Ford.

You might find some of it interesting, the direct link to the article is here.

He seems to feel that neither the Republican or the Democratic party did a good job in attempting to reach black voters....

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know how large the sample size was? If there were only a few hundred calls made, it was most likely a poll to measure voter reaction. If tens or hundreds of thousands of calls were made, it's more likely to be a push poll.

Kyle said...

As we all know, the only reason Barbara Sykes isn't measuring the drapes is because of her line in the debate about "voting for the Bob Taft tax increase." In my poli-sci class last night, my professor talked about luck and politics in reference to that line and Mary Taylor's soon to be win.

Anonymous said...

Let's look at the real reason, which is that Barbara Sykes not only ran a weak campaign, but she is also a weak candidate. Nobody in her own county party can stand her, because the only time she or Vernon get involved is when it benefits them. She thinks the party owes her its support, rather than her having to earn it. I guess she thinks she can sue her way to winning the Auditor's race just like she tried to do when her daughter lost the Miss Tuskegee University pageant.

Scott Piepho said...


Thanks for the link. It is an interesting article and I hope to have time to write about it later.


Agreed that the comment hurt her. I met people coming out of that debate who said "OMG, you won't believe what Sykes just said." Still, the fact that this race was so close means that it was winnable if Sykes had really gotten after it.

Scott Piepho said...


I wouldn't say no one in the party can stand her. First and foremost she is quite popular with blacks voters. She appears to get on well with black pols in the party. If they have problems with her, they do a good job of keeping it within the family.

As for rest of the leadership within the party, my perception is that it's more frustration than actual dislike. And it touches on racial politics within the party generally and Summit Co. in particular -- a fraught issue that I wouldn't presume to have a strong handle on.