Tom Jensen over at Public Policy Polling's blog got the ball rolling on this today, by giving us all a sneak peek into the firm's monthly 2012 presidential trial heat poll (due out Thursday). The early conclusion? The former Arkansas governor's commutation of Maurice Clemmons, who subsequently went on a shooting rampage, killing four Washington state police officers, has not affected Mike Huckabee's favorability compared to a few weeks ago. And he'll be even closer against Obama than he has been all year in the head-to-head match up.
Granted, some of the reaction has been Huckabee Unscathed and Huck holding on and FHQ isn't really buying that due to a couple of caveats (We would add a "yet" to the end anyone attempting to glean a long-term pattern in all of this.). First, I'm treating this like the McDonnell thesis revelation in the Virginia gubernatorial race. That news had been out in the open for two solid weeks before there was any noticeable tightening in the race between Bob McDonnell and Creigh Deeds. I don't think that the two week pattern is any hard and fast rule for finding the true impact of some moderately large piece of news (positive or negative), but the thesis example does indicate that it takes some time for that news to filter into the public's consciousness and into survey results. In this case, the Huckabee news broke coming out of Thanksgiving weekend.
Were/are people even paying attention? And speaking of attention, all this Huckabee speculation concerns 2012. Some people -- present company included -- are certainly thinking about that election, but most out there are not. This Clemmons/Huckabee connection isn't like the McDonnell thesis; it did not come out in the middle of a campaign. Well, the invisible primary campaign is active for the 2012 Republican nomination whether anyone wants to admit to that or not, but that is on the candidate end and not the voter end of the matter.
Long story short, then, this matter has not fully played itself out yet. It is just too early. It would have been different had this happened in the midst of the actual 2012 campaign or if PPP had posed a question about the Clemmons situation prior to asking the Huckabee favorability question. But it didn't. As such, wait for the effect. Keep an eye on the January numbers.
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