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Poll: Alabama AG race is as close as you thought it was

By TODD STACY, Alabama Daily News

MONTGOMERY, Ala. – New polling shows a close race between the top three Republican candidates for Alabama Attorney General with the majority of voters still undecided.

In a recent Leverage Public Strategies – Alabama Daily News survey, 14 percent of those polled said they would vote for incumbent Steve Marshall if the election were held today, while 13 percent said they would vote for former Attorney General Troy King and 10 percent said they would vote for former U.S. Attorney Alice Martin. Former Trump campaign official and judge Chess Bedsole received four percent.  

Fifty nine percent of GOP primary voters said they were undecided in the race.

The survey was conducted from April 23-30 and sampled 600 likely Republican voters using a combination of live phone calls and touch selection surveys with a margin of error of +/-3.94 percent. Voters were reached both on landlines and cell phones for the survey.

A few data points

With so many undecideds, it is hard to find many statistically significant data points. Still, there are a few, starting with geography.

King stands out as the clear favorite in the Dothan and Montgomery media markets at 33 percent and 32 percent, respectively. That makes sense because King is a Wiregrass native.

Marshall does best in the Huntsville-Decatur-Florence media market, pulling in 18 percent while the other candidates don’t register in the double digits. Marshall is from Northeast Alabama.

Martin does best in the Birmingham-Anniston-Tuscaloosa market at 13 percent, but still trails Marshall there by three points.

Age wise, King’s 24 percent support among 35-50 year olds also stands out. Marshall’s best age groups are the 51-65 and 66 plus age ranges where he registers at 15 percent and 17 percent, respectively.

What does it mean?

This is a wide open boat race.

Again, I’d rather be the candidate with more support than less. But, unlike the Lt. Governor’s race where one candidate has a distinct 12 point advantage going into the last month, the top three candidates are within the margin of error.

The top two candidates are almost certain to go to a runoff because it is unlikely any one will earn 50 percent plus one on June 5. That makes this essentially a playoff. All four candidates are playing for the next round and the margin between #2 and #3 could be thin.

Remember the GOP Primary for governor in 2010? Second place Robert Bentley edged out third place Tim James 123,870 votes to 123,672 to make it into the runoff with Bradley Byrne. That race – and so much more – was decided by 208 votes.

This year’s GOP primary for Attorney General could absolutely be that close.  

What’s next?

Like the other races, much will depend on the quality and frequency of the candidates advertising over television, radio, mail and digital.

Marshall went up on cable and broadcast three weeks ago. I understand his campaign is prepared to make another significant buy in the coming days. Bedsole is also increasing his presence on television with a new ad running on cable, broadcast and satellite.

King, who probably has the strongest name recognition already, just went on broadcast and cable in each market statewide as well.

Martin is currently up with ads on cable and broadcast in Birmingham and Huntsville and her campaign plans to ramp up its presence statewide in the coming days and weeks. 

While advertising will prove important, there is another factor that will play a bigger role in this race than perhaps the others: media coverage.

The competitive nature of the race, the apparent willingness of candidates to appear at events and mix it up, plus some chippiness over issues make this race more compelling for reporters to cover. Media coverage and voters’ perception of that coverage will matter.

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