WSJ gave credence to Republican boasts of early voting successes, providing no independent evidence

››› ››› SIMON MALOY

An October 31 Wall Street Journal article reported that "Republicans say they have some good news in early-voting statistics that suggest their voter-turnout machine is providing an edge in some tight races," and quoted from internal Republican Party memos making these claims. The article also noted that "Democrats contend that Republicans are exaggerating their successes so far, by highlighting a few races, while ignoring problems they are having in motivating their troops around the country." The article appeared to be premised entirely on Republican claims; at no point did the Journal actually call attention to the apparent absence of objective evidence or give any indication that it had investigated beyond the claims of Democratic and Republican party officials in an effort to determine whether the Republicans' claims are accurate.

For example, the Journal article reported: "In two Florida districts that are in doubt -- the 13th and 16th, previously held by Reps. Katherine Harris and Mark Foley, respectively -- Republicans are ahead in both absentee balloting and early voting. In previous election cycles, Democrats have enjoyed an advantage in early voting, party operatives say." Was the assertion about Harris's and Foley's districts based on objective data gathered by The Wall Street Journal, or was it based on an internal GOP memo previously referred to in the article? Reporters John D. McKinnon and Erika Lovley did not say.

By contrast, an October 31 report on MSNBC News Live by NBC News congressional correspondent Chip Reid on the Journal article noted that "we really won't know" whether Republicans' or Democrats' claims are true until Election Day.

From the October 31 Wall Street Journal article:

Down in the polls and with their majorities in Congress at risk, Republicans say they have some good news in early-voting statistics that suggest their voter-turnout machine is providing an edge in some tight races.

[...]

In congressional districts from Ohio and Florida to New Mexico and Arizona, Republicans report that their get-out-the-vote organization is gaining traction a week ahead of Election Day. The aim of the effort generally is to maximize turnout among their most loyal and reliable voters. If successful, it could help them to hold down their losses in this election cycle and perhaps even retain their majorities in the House and Senate.

In the fiercely contested New Mexico district held by Republican Heather Wilson, the party says that the number of absentee ballots already requested by Republicans has almost reached the number requested in 2004 -- nearly 22,000 so far this year, compared with almost 24,000 in 2004. The party says it is on a pace to exceed 2004.

Meanwhile, in the bellwether Ohio district held by Republican Steve Chabot, about 60% of all early votes are coming from the roughly 40% of the electorate that the party has targeted for early voting. That's the highest rate in the country, according to an internal party memo, and good news -- "provided they vote the way we predict," the memo adds.

In two Florida districts that are in doubt -- the 13th and 16th, previously held by Reps. Katherine Harris and Mark Foley, respectively -- Republicans are ahead in both absentee balloting and early voting. In previous election cycles, Democrats have enjoyed an advantage in early voting, party operatives say.

And in the Georgia congressional district now held by Democrat Jim Marshall, "nearly twice as many of our supporters are voting as they should be, based on population," according to the internal memo. President Bush will visit the district today to stump for the Republican challenger, former congressman Mac Collins. Republicans hope to unseat Democrats in two districts in Georgia as a way of offsetting losses expected in districts across the Midwest and in the Northeast.

Democrats questioned the Republicans' claims, particularly regarding New Mexico's 1st District. They said Democrats are almost even with Republicans in the number of absentee ballots cast so far in the area, suggesting that the incumbent party is struggling even in a district where its volunteer organization is regarded as one of the best in the country. They also pointed out that Ms. Wilson's real worries lie not with Republicans but with Democrats and independents, who appear to be backing her opponent more strongly than in the past.

"It's a bunch of spin," said Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Stacie Paxton. "I don't think their numbers add up." She said in the battleground state of Iowa, for example, Democrats have returned more absentee ballots than Republicans, and their rate of return is higher too.

From the October 31 edition of MSNBC News Live:

REID: But in today's article in The Wall Street Journal, Republicans say that they are doing better in a wide variety -- a number of districts all across the nation, and they think that they have the advantage. Again, Democrats say it's nonsense -- it's psychological spin by the Republicans; that the Republicans, because they are doing so poorly, are trying to encourage the base and say: "Hey, we're doing pretty well. Get out there and vote, and vote early." So both sides saying that we have the advantage, and we really won't know until afterward who does.

Network/Outlet
Wall Street Journal, MSNBC
Show/Publication
MSNBC Live
Stories/Interests
2006 Elections
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