As Rhode Island Primary Draws Near, Conservative Group Accused Of "Push Polling" Against Chafee
With just days to go before Republican primary voters will vote in Rhode Island, prospective voters are saying that incumbent Senator Lincoln Chafee has become the target of a "push poll" campaign.
A push poll is a telephone survey in which questions are designed to weaken support for one candidate or build up support for another. The negative campaign tactic is illegal in some states, but not Rhode Island.
Several voters told the Associated Press that they received automated telephone calls asking whether they would vote in the primary and which candidate they would choose. Those who chose Chafee heard graphic descriptions of an abortion procedure opponents call "partial-birth abortion," which the poll said Chafee supports.
Chafee, a moderate who is running for a second full term, faces the relatively conservative Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey in Tuesday's Republican primary. The winner will face Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse in November.
How does a push poll work? Ask Eva Geoppo, a Providence resident.
Geoppo said she received four phone calls because she has multiple phone lines at home. On the first call she received, she chose Chafee when asked who she planned to vote for.
"It just freaked me out," said Geoppo, who owns a general contracting business. "They said something along the lines of 'Do you realize Sen. Chafee is for partial-birth abortions and he's a war monger?'"
The next time, she chose Laffey.
"It was 'Do you need a ride to the polls?'" she said.
The calls are apparently not coming from Laffey's campaign, but from Common Sense 2006, an Ohio-based anti-abortion group that has also been running television ads in that state against gubernatorial candidate Ted Strickland, a Democrat who supports abortion rights.
Chafee has had a surprisingly tough battle from Laffey. Democrats would love to see an upset, because polls show that Whitehouse would crush Laffey in the general election. The same polls show Whitehouse and Chafee to be a toss-up.
Democrats consider Rhode Island a must-win if the party is to have any chance of picking up the six seats necessary to regain control of the Senate.