• Poll: Douglas first, Pollina ahead of Symington
    By LOUIS PORTER Vermont Press Bureau | October 11,2008
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    MONTPELIER — A new poll by Rasmussen Reports shows incumbent Republican Gov. James Douglas in the lead, with challengers Gaye Symington, a Democrat, and Independent Anthony Pollina competing for second place.

    The poll of 500 Vermonters, done in early October by automated telephone call, puts support for Douglas now at 45 percent of likely voters, Symington at 20 percent and Pollina at 25 percent.

    However, the independent polling firm, through follow-up questions and analyses, tries to factor in voters "leaning" one direction or another to predict the outcome of the November election between the three front-runners. On Election Day Douglas will have between 45 percent and 53 percent of the vote, Symington will have 20 to 39 percent and Pollina will have 4 to 25 percent, according to Rasmussen.

    In Vermont if no candidate wins 50 percent of the votes the Legislature gets to decide — by written ballot — who wins the office.

    Dennise Casey, Douglas' campaign manager, said that public polling chronically undercounts support for Douglas, seeking his fourth two-year term.

    "We have this discussion every two years," she said. "Public polls consistently have the governor below where we know him to be. We have every reason to believe the governor is going to be comfortably above 50 percent."

    A Symington spokesman, Michael Carrese, said the Rasmussen poll is not credible.

    "We are in good company," Carrese said in a statement. "The Associated Press, as a policy, does not report on Rasmussen polls because of doubts about their approach. It is worth noting that this is apparently the third time Rasmussen has done polling in the Vermont governor's race in the last month. The first two polls were not released because mistakes were made in the design of the poll."

    Meg Brook, Pollina's campaign manager, said it has seemed to those working on the Independent's campaign that they were gaining ground while both of Pollina's opponents have been falling back since a poll by WCAX television earlier this year. Brook is happy that is borne out in the Rasmussen poll.

    "We went up and Douglas and Symington both went down," she said. "That is what we are hearing on the street."

    That may be a product of the debates among the candidates or because Pollina has picked up some key endorsements, Brook said.

    Eric Davis, a Middlebury College political scientist, said one interesting part of the poll is that it shows more voters have a favorable impression of Douglas personally than approve of his job performance.

    "People like Jim Douglas as an individual even if they don't like everything he has done," Davis said.

    With the benefit of hindsight, the race might have been very different if Pollina, who entered the race early, and the Democrats had gotten together to present a united front, Davis added.

    "I wonder if Anthony Pollina had received the support of the Democratic Party when he asked for it, would we be looking at a very competitive two-person race between Anthony Pollina and Jim Douglas," Davis said.

    "Douglas is clearly in first place by a substantial margin but it is an open question whether he can get to 50 percent on Election Day," he said of the poll.

    If Douglas receives less than 45 percent of the vote, and if the second place candidate is within 5 percent it is possible lawmakers would vote to install the challenger in office instead, Davis said.

    The Rasmussen Reports poll can be seen at www.rasmussenreports.com.

    Contact Louis Porter at louis.porter@rutlanherald.com.
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