Several pollsters tell C&E they are nothing short of stunned by the discrepancy between House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-Va.) published internal poll numbers and the results of Tuesday’s primary.
Cantor was downed in a stunning upset by Dave Brat, a college economics and ethics professor who ran a campaign on a shoe-string budget. Words like unreal, seismic and surreal are being used to describe the defeat of the House Republicans’ No. 2, who spent more than $5 million compared with Brat’s $200,000 (of which he’d dropped only $122,793 by May 21).
A senior GOP pollster says Cantor’s numbers put him at a complete loss for words. “Frankly, I don’t know what to say,” the pollster told C&E. “Speechless.”
Ahead of the primary, Cantor’s campaign released an internal survey conducted by Republican polling firm McLaughlin & Associates that showed him up by 34 points. The margin for error on the published poll was +/- 4.9 percent.
The race was called quickly Tuesday with Brat leading Cantor 56-44 percent. It left Cantor’s team and other campaign professionals scratching their heads.
Internal polls released by campaigns are always taken with a grain of salt, and for good reason. But several pollsters contacted by C&E on Tuesday were taken aback by the 46-point differential between Cantor’s internal and the actual primary result. However, none of the researchers would comment on the record and all declined to speculate on a possible cause of the polling discrepancy.
The internal numbers had Cantor’s team sounding extremely confident heading into Tuesday’s vote. “I’m just not worried,” Cantor adviser Ray Allen, told The Hill last Friday.
Cantor pollster John McLaughlin did not respond to a request for comment following the House Majority Leader’s loss.