By Johnny Kampis | Missouri Watchdog
ST. LOUIS — Republicans want voters to believe their U.S. Senate candidate is well behind in the polls. Democrats insist the race is neck and neck.
Welcome to the currently twisted world of Missouri politics.
In the fallout from U.S. Rep. Todd Akin’s controversial comments last week regarding rape and abortion, each party cites poll numbers with an agenda. Democrats want to keep him in, while Republicans want Akin to withdraw.
A Public Policy Polling survey released after Akin declared it’s unlikely a woman would get pregnant during a “legitimate rape,” showed Akin with a single percentage point lead over Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. The poll surveyed 500 people and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.
Another poll, from Rasmussen Reports, said on Thursday that likely voters indicated a big preference for McCaskill over Akin, who represents District 2, 48 percent to 38 percent. Rasmussen also asked 500 people, with the same margin of error.
Which to believe? Democrats, who see McCaskill’s best chance at a victory against Akin, want him and the GOP to believe the PPP numbers, while Republicans cite the Rasmussen poll as a reason for Akin to get out of the race.
Akin has vowed to stay in, but has until Sept. 25 to petition a court to remove his name from the ballot.
PPP is seen as left leaning, while Rasmussen is perceived to have a right-leaning bent.
Jim Geraghty with the conservative political magazine National Review, noted that the PPP sample size was heavily weighted toward Republicans.
“Anyone suspect that the Democratic polling firm might be trying to get the result they want, to ensure Akin stays in, so that he can get pummeled in November?” he wrote.
A third poll, released Sunday from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, shows McCaskill with a 9 percentage point lead over Akin — 50 percent to 41 percent. The poll, with a margin of error of 4 percentage points, asked 625 Missourians which candidate they preferred.
University of Missouri political science professor Peverill Squire told Missouri Watchdog that surveys will have “random noise,” but the latest numbers showing McCaskill with the lead are probably accurate.
“My guess is that many Republicans will still rally to Akin, and these latest polls show the worst he’s going to do,” he said. “Still, they indicate he will have a difficult time overtaking McCaskill.”