Landrieu battle cry: 'The only poll that matters is on Election Day'

When politicians say 'the only poll that matters is on Election Day,' they're telling you their candidate is behind. So we're hearing that a lot with Sen. Mary Landrieu ahead of Saturday's runoff election.

Gerald Herbert/AP/File
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) of Louisiana talks to union supporters at the construction site of the New Orleans VA Hospital on Election Day in New Orleans. She faces a runoff election Saturday.

“The only poll that matters is on Election Day.” This is the standard spin move of candidates who trail in public-opinion surveys and seek to discount them.

Saying this “doesn’t guarantee defeat in the upcoming election,” the Rothenberg Political Report’s Nathan L. Gonzales observed, “but it means you are losing the race at the time and have no empirical evidence to the contrary.”

The expression has been bandied about in the most prominent election left in the 2014 cycle: Saturday’s Louisiana Senate runoff race between incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu – the last member of her party to represent the Deep South in the chamber – and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. Senator Landrieu, who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, has pulled out the phrase in an attempt to refute numerous polls showing her far behind Representative Cassidy. 

But Landrieu is just one in an extremely long line of politicians to utter or tweet some variation of this last-ditch battle cry. They include Democratic Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley, who used it just before losing last month to Republican Charlie Baker. Last year, Toronto Mayor Rob Ford also turned to it after he was caught on video smoking crack cocaine and his approval ratings took a nose dive.

But winning candidates and their backers say it, too – just to ensure their supporters don’t get complacent and decide to stay home without voting.

Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal, campaigning for Cassidy recently, cautioned Republicans against overconfidence by declaring: "The only poll that matters is on Election Day. Let's make sure Landslide Landrieu” – a sarcastic reference to the senator’s history of nail-biting races – “has seen her last election.”

Chuck McCutcheon and David Mark write their "Speaking Politics" blog exclusively for Decoder Voices.

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