John Zogby, one of the nation’s top pollsters, is always the first to see a New York surge for the GOP. He may be giving his number-one client in the state—the New York Post—exactly what they want to hear. But his Post numbers last Friday, showing a one-point Rick Lazio lead, echoed his performance in the 1998 Senate race. He was the only pollster who predicted an Al D’Amato win over Chuck Schumer, coming up with numbers the Sunday before the election that dovetailed with the Post‘s cheerleading headlines for the supposedly hard-charging senator.
Based in Utica, New York, Zogby was on Face the Nation this weekend, explaining that defecting Jewish voters accounted for much of Hillary Clinton’s slide. That was what he wrote in 1998 as well, even though exit polls later indicated that 76 percent of Jews backed Schumer, who beat D’Amato by a whopping nine points.
In Murdochland, apparently, it doesn’t matter if you take money from one of the partisans even while you poll their race for the Post. The latest filing of the New York State Republican Committee lists a $5000 disbursement to Zogby on August 22. Asked about it by the Voice, Zogby flew into a rage, calling this reporter an “asshole” five times and adding that other reporters, including the Voice‘s Jim Ridgeway, “think you’re an asshole.” Zogby claimed the disbursement was payment for a poll “in a local assembly race,” but when asked why the local candidate didn’t pay for the poll (as in other cases he cited), he replied: “Well, actually, I’m not sure what race it is.”
In 1997, the Voice reported that the Giuliani campaign paid Zogby $54,000 after he predicted a 29-point Rudy win in his final Post poll. Zogby nearly doubled Giuliani’s eventual 15-point margin and, like in the D’Amato race, was the only major pollster to miss the outcome so badly. But in that race, none of the payments to Zogby appeared on a filing until after the election. This time, he may have gotten a little ahead of himself. It’s certainly unclear what the final GOP tally to him may be.
The other interesting tidbit from the most recent state Republican filings is the timing of a September series of transactions that suggest that Lazio was engaged in soft-money maneuvers even while he was pushing Hillary toward a ban. The state GOP paid for $183,000 in radio commercials denouncing Hillary on September 22, eight days after Lazio staged his soft-money confrontation with Clinton in the first debate. Republican sources say that a businessman who bought the time for business ads—some of it on the Howard Stern show—decided he didn’t want to do the ads and donated the time to the state party. That means the donation was 183 times the $1000 federal limit.
The party filled the space with ads done through Strategic Media Services in Washington, and they aired right around the time Lazio was demanding a ban on a daily basis.
Similarly, the National Republican Campaign Committee and one of its subsidiaries, the State Elections Committee, transferred $821,000 to the New York party in September, ostensibly in part for use in the Senate campaign. Incredibly, $142,000 of it was transferred on September 21 and 22, just as Lazio was taunting Clinton with letters signed by 14 “independent” committees who had agreed not to raise or spend soft money on his behalf. By September 23, she’d agreed to the ban.
GOP sources say the national motherlode is helping two Republicans in tight House races in Suffolk, though some of it is undoubtedly also a boon to Lazio. The soft-money agreement only wound up covering television and radio commercials, but Lazio was pushing for a ban on all soft-money expenditures.
Research: Robbie Chaplick, Jennifer Fagan, and Rob Morlino