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On Tuesday, Mississippi Democratic Senate candidate Mike Espy's campaign released an internal poll showing him in the lead in Mississippi's upcoming Senate election. The headline might sound like good news for Democrats—every candidate obviously prefers to be ahead, and Mississippi is extremely red. But if you dig beneath the toplines, you'll see that this poll isn't a clear signal that Espy is doing well.
First, it's an internal campaign poll and you should handle such data cautiously. The main goal of a campaign is not to provide clear readings of public opinion to the American people—it's to help the candidate win. So skilled, talented pollsters might be privately getting numbers that accurately reflect the state of the race, but they're likely going to publicly share only data that helps their candidate shape the narrative. There's nothing inherently wrong with that (campaigns should try to help their candidate win), but it's important to remember the campaign's motivations when evaluating one of their polls.
Toplines - Espy - Poll - Vote - Percent
Second, the toplines aren't that great for Espy. The poll gives him about a third of the vote (34 percent) and gives two Republicans—Senate appointee Cindy Hyde-Smith (she'll replace Sen. Thad Cochran, who is resigning due to health reasons, next week) and Tea Party favorite Chris McDaniel—27 percent and 21 percent of the vote, respectively.
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