Early signs: Heated races on ‘18 horizon

Published 1:28 am Saturday, April 1, 2017

On a recent Sunday afternoon, the weekend after Gov. Bentley appointed then Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange to the U.S. Senate, the home phone rang.

We are those non-digital natives who can’t let go of the notion that there should be a home phone, partially because we lived through the aftermath of Hurricane Ivan, when our non-portable landlines were about the only gadgets that worked. The only weekly calls for me to that line are from my mother, so it was unusual that I answered this one.

The caller id said something like “American Polling.” Mr. Honey would have screened that one, but I have a peculiar interest in how pollsters phrase questions to get the answers they want, and think it’s fun to try to figure out who’s buying the poll.

A nice young woman on the other end of the line asked me all about Big Luther’s appointment, my voting record, and for whom I would vote in a field of future candidates for the U.S. Senate. She was not prepared for me.

Fully cognizant that my answers could and would be easily traced to me, I made mental notes of the questions and actually said to the pollster, “I can’t wait to see what I get in the mail as a result of this.”

On Thursday, there was a very important-looking piece of mail addressed to me. I had been “selected to represent voters,” and there were “documents registered in my name enclosed.” Prominently displayed on the outside of the envelope were the words “Congressional District Census,” insinuating that this was official government business.

This poll-answering, first-born rule follower got busy.

The polling organization for this official-looking census, which turned out to be the Republican National Committee, was oh, so curious.

“Do you identify yourself as a conservative Republican, moderate Republican, independent voter who leans Republican, liberal Republican, Tea Party member or Democrat?”

(Note, there are lots of kinds of Republicans, but only one form of Independent or Democrat, in this survey).

“From what media do you regularly receive your political news?”

Let it be noted that The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Wall-Street Journal where I read political news daily, were not among my choices.

“Please indicate the top five issues that you believe should be acted on immediately.”

(The 13 choices sounded oddly like President Trump’s laundry list from any of his campaign speeches with the notable exception of “Lock her up.”)

It was an interesting exercise to stop and think about each of the issues, and the ways the questions were phrased. At the end of this official-looking document, the RNC politely asked me to send a minimum of $15 “to help pay for the cost of processing my census document.” Larger amounts also were suggested. It is smart fundraising.

For now, I’m choosing not to pay for that.

Candidates in the 2018 elections cannot begin fundraising until June, but these early signs indicate that Alabama’s U.S. Senate race, as well as the 2nd Congressional District U.S. House race, are going to be extremely heated and expensive.

The only thing I read to form that political opinion was my snail mail.