Cook’s Fundraising Email is Way Off Base

UtahPolicy.Vaughn Cookcom published a survey showing a potential primary matchup between Democrats Vaughn Cook and Michael Weinholtz would be a virtual toss-up, mostly because nearly 70% of Utahns have no idea who either man is. 

Another survey showed how they would fare against the Republican candidates in November.
Cook’s campaign is seizing on those poll numbers to show he’s more “electable” than Weinholtz.
Cook sent out this fundraising email touting how he would be the strongest candidate to take on the Republicans in November. The headline is “Cook emerges as the strongest nominee against Herbert.”
Cook fundraising email
Not really.
First of all, in a head-to-head matchup with Weinholtz, Cook wins among all Utahns by a 21-13% margin. But, that’s misleading because, in a primary election, not all Utahns would vote. That same question found Weinholtz has more support among Democrats than Cook – 34-25%. Even though a primary election between the two men would be open, meaning any Utahn could vote, you can probably exclude Republicans from that tally. Cook wins Republicans by a 17-6% margin, with 77% undecided. 
Where Cook can make his bread and butter against Weinholtz is with independent voters, who break toward Cook 28-12%. Still, that number is quite misleading because 60% of independents are undecided.
Where Cook’s email engages in a flight of fancy is when he claims he would be the strongest candidate against the Republicans.
That is patently untrue.
If the November election were today, Cook would get trounced by Herbert 63-21%. Weinholtz would lose to Herbert 65-19%. Both sets of numbers are within the margin of error (4.0%), so it’s safe to say both Democrats would fare equally well against Herbert, which is to say not at all.
The same thing goes for a matchup with Jonathan Johnson. Right now Johnson leads Cook 39-25% and Weinholtz 44-23%. Both numbers for the Democrats are within the margin of error, so there’s statistically no difference between them.
So, the claim that Cook would do better against the Republican candidates holds no water statistically. In other words, it’s an exaggeration.
In reality, there’s not much of a path for either candidate to win the governor’s mansion this fall. If Herbert wins the nomination, both campaigns are in danger of matching the disastrous numbers put up by the 2008 Democratic ticket of Bob Springmeyer and Josie Valdez, which lost by 58 points and failed to get above 20% of the vote.
But, wait, you say! Jonathan Johnson is below 50% in your poll. That means either man can win.
Maybe, but it’s going to be tough. 
First of all, Republicans would likely rally around Johnson if he were the party’s standard bearer in November. That alone would narrow any Democratic path to victory as Democrats need to pick off around 20% of the Republican vote, plus win a majority of independents to triumph over a Republican nominee in statewide races.
The statewide ceiling for Democratic candidates in the past 4 or 5 election cycles has been around 35%. 
  • Charles Stormont pulled in 27% against Sean Reyes in 2014.
  • Peter Cooke won 28% against Gary Herbert in 2012.
  • Scott Howell got 30% against Orrin Hatch in 2012.
  • Dee Smith garnered 30% against John Swallow in 2012.
  • Sam Granato tallied 33% against Mike Lee in 2010.
  • Bob Springmeyer got just 20% against Jon Huntsman in 2008.
Sensing a theme?
There is nothing in our poll numbers to suggest that either Cook or Weinholtz would be the stronger candidate against the Republicans.
That’s what happens when you pick and choose survey numbers to confirm what you already believe. It’s called “confirmation bias.” And it’s a very dangerous thing in politics.