Sue Lowden would beat Mark Hutchison 46 percent to 32 percent in the GOP primary race for lieutenant governor if the election were held now, according to a poll released Friday that shows both Republicans would defeat Democrat Lucy Flores in the Nov. 4 election.
Lowden would beat Flores 44 percent to 36 percent with 20 percent undecided, according to the survey conducted for the Lowden campaign. Hutchison would defeat Flores 41 percent to 34 percent with 25 percent undecided, the poll found.
The poll used small samples sizes, which reduces its reliability, particularly for the general election matchup. The small sample size and large margins of error also make the race a fairly close contest in both the primary and general elections.
For example, 216 likely Nevada voters were asked about the general election, giving that part of the poll a margin of error of plus or minus 6.67 percentage points. The GOP primary poll surveyed 443 likely voters for a margin of error of plus or minus 4.66 percentage points. The poll would have had to ask about 600 voters to cut the error margin to 4 percent, which is common in political surveys.
Pollster James Medick of Precision Research defended the survey, saying the intention of the general election poll was to get a broad “top line” look at the lieutenant governor’s race and other state office contests.
“The general election poll was just a pure snapshot look because it was a very small sample,” Medick said.
The main goal of the GOP primary poll, he said, was to test campaign themes and attacks Lowden and Hutchison might use against one another, then to measure where the candidates were in the race three months before the June 10 primary.
So those polled were asked, for example, whether they knew Hutchison had voted three times to implement President Barack Obama’s health care insurance law in Nevada. A whopping 85 percent said that knowledge would make them less likely to vote for Hutchison. The votes involved tax abatements, setting up facilitators to the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange and expanding Medicaid as part of the state budget. The poll didn’t note that Hutchison, an attorney, represented Nevada for free in its legal opposition to Obamacare, something he touts on the campaign trail.
For Lowden, the poll noted her contributions to Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s past campaigns. About 77 percent of those polled said that information would make them less likely to vote for her. She has defended the donations, saying she made them a couple of decades ago when she considered Reid more moderate.
The pollster also asked about Lowden’s remaining $500,000 debt from her failed 2010 U.S. Senate campaign against Reid. The question said she has offered to repay the debt at 40 cents on the dollar. Knowing that, 46 percent said they would be less likely to vote for her, showing that the issue hurts her chances.
Medick said he doesn’t think inclusion of those questions before the respondents were asked who they would vote for influenced the outcome, though critics of such question ordering call that a “push poll” aimed at doing just that.
“We really wanted to test arguments first and then as the top line question,” he said. “That was the purpose of the poll.”
Lowden has far more name recognition than Hutchison, according to the poll, which found that 73 percent didn’t know who state Sen. Hutchison was while 50 percent didn’t know Lowden, a former state senator and Nevada GOP chairwoman.
For the June 10 GOP primary matchup between Lowden and Hutchison, 22 percent said they were undecided. Of those who were undecided, 17 percent said they lean toward Lowden; 16 percent toward Hutchison.
Lowden’s campaign showed the survey results to potential donors Thursday to boost her ability to raise money against the better-funded Hutchision, who has been endorsed by Sandoval. Hutchison raised $857,235 last year for his campaign compared to $210,475 raised by Lowden, who loaned herself $100,000 of that amount.
Lowden’s campaign manager Tom Letizia said he was pleased with survey results because Lowden has only been an announced candidate since October.
“I’m pleased where we’re at today, but we’ve got a lot of work ahead of us,” Letizia said. “And no one works harder than Sue Lowden.”
Ryan Cherry, a spokesman for Hutchison’s campaign, criticized Lowden’s poll as distorted.
“Sue’s attempt to contort a poll to try to raise money is little more than a last gasp of another failing campaign,” Cherry said in a statement. “The money she spent on the poll and consultants to spin it should have gone to the small businesses she still hasn’t paid from her last unsuccessful primary campaign.”
The survey also looked at other races up and down the ticket and found that popular GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, as expected, would easily win the Nov. 4 election with 58 percent of the vote compared to 16 percent for Democrat Chris Hyepock, 12 percent for David VanDerBeek of the Independent American Party and with 14 percent undecided.
In other statewide races, the poll found:
■ In the secretary of state’s race, Democrat Kate Marshall would defeat Republican Barbara Cegavske 40 percent to 31 percent with 30 percent undecided. Marshall is state treasurer now and Cegavske is a state senator.
■ In the attorney general’s race, Democrat Ross Miller would beat Republican Adam Laxalt 44 percent to 36 percent with 20 percent undecided. Miller is currently secretary of state while Laxalt is a political newcomer.
■ In the state treasurer’s race, Republican Dan Schwartz would narrowly defeat Democrat Kim Wallin 38 percent to 33 percent with 28 percent undecided. Wallin is now state controller. Schwartz is an experienced businessman and investor.
The telephone survey was conducted March 3 through March 5. About 75 percent of the calls were over land lines and 25 percent were over mobile phones.
Contact reporter Laura Myers at email@example.com or 702-387-2919. Follow her on Twitter @lmyerslvrj