Under the Dome

PPP chief contributed to Cunningham

The head of Public Policy Polling has picked a candidate in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate.

Dean Debnam, the chief executive and president of PPP has contributed $2,400 to Lexington lawyer Cal Cunningham, according to the Federal Elections Commission.

Longtime Dome readers know that both of our most frequently cited pollsters have partisan leanings.

Public Policy Polling is a Democratic firm and the Civitas Institute is a conservative organization. Dome frequently cites polls by the groups because their methodology is sound and the polls have proven to be consistent and accurate. (You can compare results on the same questions from both pollsters at our Polling Central feature.) 

Debnam was out of the country and could not be reached Friday. But director Tom Jensen noted that Debnam also gave contributions to Kay Hagan during her successful run in 2008 for the U.S. Senate. Records show Debnam gave a pair of $2,300 contributions to Hagan, a Greensboro Democrat, in the primary and general election.

"Our polling there certainly held up well," Jensen said. "We have proven our accuracy repeatedly."

Update: Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Ken Lewis called on PPP to include a disclaimer in future polls about the race. Lewis says the contribution to Cunningham, and a $2,500 payment from Secretary of State Elaine Marshall's campaign for polling means that Lewis is being unfairly portrayed as the third place candidate.

"The appearance of conflict becomes even more evident in light of PPP’s recent pronouncements on the race which have consistently been slanted to bolster other campaigns at the expense of the Lewis campaign," Lewis spokesman Ryan Tures said.

Jensen responded.

"Every statewide campaign that has ever publicly attacked us — Richard Moore, Bob Orr, Elizabeth Dole — has ended up losing badly. Attacking pollsters is a sign of a campaign in trouble. But if Lewis' support starts picking up our polls will certainly reflect that," he said.


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Crazy BitterEXDemocrat is unable to define COnstitutionalism

What if I went around aggressively emailing every candidate to ask "Hey, are you a tsilanoit?" Would their refusal to answer best be viewed as:

a. i don't know what that word means to you; please be more specific,
b. i am very busy running for office and am trying to answer legitimate questions only,
c. you seem mentally off-kilter and possibly in need of supervision, or
d. all of the above

Cal refuses to answer direct emailed questions!

Cal, dude, if you cannot even answer a simple question such as

"ARE YOU A Constitutionalist'? HOW can you be worthy of ANYONE's VOTE?

WHY does Cal REFUSE to answer pertinent questions? course, Lewis and Marxshall havent EITHER, so WHY would ANYone vote for them?

NC is COMPLETELY SCREWED by nasty democracks, dont DARE EVER vote for another one!

Too slick for my blood

Cunningham seems just too slick for my blood. I was fooled once by John Edwards but dang if this guy doesn't remind me of him especially with Fromberg on board. Or maybe Cal might end up being a Blue Dog like Fromberg's last guy Nye. But then again so far Cal is facing off against some true Democrats so if he comes out as a Blue Dog that surely can't help in a primary.

"Few folks may know Cal down

"Few folks may know Cal down in your neck of the woods, but around the Triad and in Raleigh he has built a name for himself as an honest, bright, hard-working public servant."

Ha!!! You can't build a name for yourself in 2 years in the NC Senate.

Let's talk about the old Cunningham family name. Old pops is really continuing the family tradition of honesty.

Obvious conflict of interest

I kind of agree with Lewis. PPP does have a conflict of interest.

PPP consistently produced results that favor Democrat even in the face of other polls that show a different story. That is why they are called a Democratic Polling Outfit.

Now this is a primary!

I think Jensen's comments show that PPP is more interested in being a kingmaker than reporting the real atmosphere of the voting public. This is a clear-cut case of conflict of interest. It seems like Cal Cunningham keeps getting tied up with the wrong people for a North Carolina race. He raises money from lobbyists, he gets the Washington crowd to talk him up, and now he has the pollsters in his pocket to skew the results his way.

PPP cannot be trusted

I will give the N&O one thing on this topic - they always say "the Democratic polling firm" PPP. That says it all for me with respect to the PPP. They are a democrat firm and they skew their results to help democrats.

There was a blog on here a few months back that seemed to show that PPP was producing one poll for the public consumption and then doing a behind the scenes poll for a paying candidate that had a different mix of respondents.

Jebus, how long you two been married?

"And he didn't exactly "Quit and go home" but rather served in the U.S. Army and on the NC Banking Commission while raising a family and pursuing his legal career."

No, what you're saying rings so true of grassroots support. Keep going.

Showing up for work

I read the following statement in the Feb. 28, 2010, edition of the Jacksonville NC Daily News:

"As it turns out, Cunningham missed 172 votes of his own during his two-year term in the state Senate in 2001-02."

I think the reference was that Burr has been criticized for not showing up for votes.

roughly a dozen state

roughly a dozen state senators with whom I've discussed Cal Cunningham over the last year have had really nice things to say about him, and some of the strongest praise came from his Republican fact, the smartest and most moderate Republicans. They all respected his sincerity and intelligence. Besides, there's not many more than a dozen state Senators whose word means much, and those were roughly the ones who endorsed Cal.

More broadly, redistricting is such a highly partisan (and despicably perverse) process, the party bosses tend to reward party loyalists with safer districts while sacrificing those less pliable members of the caucus. You know, the 'go along-get along' types who just toe the line set by Basnight/Rand or Burger are real sweet pets for the Easley/Purdue/Ruffin Poole machine. In fact, I would imagine that crowd of cronies did find Cal a little less cooperative than they would have liked.

Of course, if a Senator is independent instead of beholden to party orthodoxy, and some on this blog fault that approach, I'm curious to hear just exactly why one would assert that we need more extremism in Congress.

Finally, Cal Cunningham won his NC Senate seat in a majority-Republican district in Davidson County, and I think that demonstrates his enormous appeal to unaffiliated and independent voters. And he didn't exactly "Quit and go home" but rather served in the U.S. Army and on the NC Banking Commission while raising a family and pursuing his legal career. Burr has been in DC for sixteen years. Who do you think is more in touch with North Carolinians?

Really Ish?

"Few folks may know Cal down in your neck of the woods, but around the Triad and in Raleigh he has built a name for himself as an honest, bright, hard-working public servant."

I thought when the Democrats redistricted him out office because they couldn't stand him, he quit and went home. Is this just news to you?

Coastal Plains misses the point

Few folks may know Cal down in your neck of the woods, but around the Triad and in Raleigh he has built a name for himself as an honest, bright, hard-working public servant. Many North Carolinians support him, and many more North Carolinians will support him after they learn about his record of accomplishments and his goals in the U.S. Senate.

The fact that the D$CC and President Obama have apparently decided to support Cal still doesn't overcome the enormous fundraising advantage enjoyed by Elaine Marshall, who is busily milking the insider connections she's cultivated during two decades in Raleigh. Word on the street is that she decided to not ask Lanny Wilson for a check, but I bet if you compare her donors to Mike Easley's you'll find plenty of overlap.

You badly underestimate your fellow North Carolinians if you think they're going to take DC's word on who to elect; folks I know will look at the merits and make up their own damn mind.

Civitas vs. PPP

The difference between PPP and Civitas is that the latter actively tries to word its questions to sway respondents toward the conservative answer on issues, in order to make the argument that NC voters are more conservative than they are and thereby sway state legislators to adopt more conservative policies. PPP isn't an ideological organization like that. It words its questions and polls on issues and candidates both fairly and even-handedly. The "partisan" part of PPP is that they only do paid, private polling and robocalling for Democratic campaigns. Otherwise, they're just like Gallup or any other organization.

Also, Dean Debnam owns PPP, but it's really just a side interest he started because he had all these phone lines for his main business, Workplace Options. He doesn't actually write the polls or analyze the data himself; that's all done by Tom Jensen. So there is no valid concern on Lewis' part or anyone else's that there will be bias in the public polls on the race.

On becoming popular

This election should be interesting to watch. I believe that over the coming weeks the DSCC will make Cal more popular than Dean Smith, Billy Graham, Michael Jordan, James Taylor and Andy Griffith.

Washington insiders know how to sway the voters and I believe Cal will emerge victorious in November. A candidate can do no better than have the White House and the beltway insiders in their corner.

I hope the pollsters will show us charts that show Cal's amazing rise to popularity even though he is little known at present. It amazes me how a slick campaign can vault a little known into national prominence regardless if they have any type record at all.

It will be interesting to watch Cal's poll numbers rise as the ads begin to hit. I'm believing the others in the race will fade away and Cal will be an overnight sensation.

Rome was built in a day but a candidate can be. And that old saying, "You can't buy love," does not apply in North Carolina politics.

This reminds me of the lyrics of the popular song of years ago, "He took a Hundred Pounds of Clay:"

"He took a hundred pounds of clay
And then he said hey listen
I'm gonna fix this world today
Because I know what's missin'
Then he rolled his big sleeve up..."


Lewis has a point: given the ability of a polling organization to play with the numbers (a little tweak to the turn out model here, political ideology there, age groups over yonder, and so on), the fact that PPP's leadership has financially supported Cal and they've been a paid pollster for Elaine is pretty relevant.

But Ken also has a problem: It just won't be a story.

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