[See my earlier post on polling here]
Candidates in down-ticket races have a problem – they need professional help to run their campaigns, but, unless they are independently wealthy, they usually can’t afford the price of a professional political consultant. For small cities (in my area of California, we have a number of incorporated cities with a population less than 4000), it is possible to talk and get to know each and every voter, but for larger municipalities, like my own city of Santa Rosa with an acknowledged population of around 175000 people, it is essentially impossible.
What are candidate for low-profile but important offices like the Santa Rosa City Council to do? I have spent a large amount of time over the last twenty-five years trying to help local candidates deal with this problem. And, as a result. I have a pretty good feel for the political landscape of this part of the world, But I am just one person, and the need is great (every two years). Some candidates, as you might expect, hire consultants from out of the area. Often this works fine – because the outside consultants have the sense to associate themselves with people who know the area. But there have been a number of races (I name no names) that have been badly screwed up because the consultants did a poll and failed to understand what the undecided electorate was like.