Clout understands why State Sen. Doug Mastriano, the Republican nominee for governor in Pennsylvania, touted on social media the results of a new “poll” that for the first time showed him with a narrow lead over the Democratic nominee, state Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
What we don’t get: Why did Mastriano and campaign advisor Jenna Ellis leave up those social media posts for five days — as it soon became clear it was a hoax and the “pollster” had pranked him?
Curious call for a cantankerous candidate who dismisses any media reporting that does not exalt him as “fake news.”
The “pollster” — who would only identify himself as “a high school student from southwestern Connecticut who likes politics” — told Clout in a Twitter message exchange that he created the Twitter account Carleton Polling this month to test a theory about a “double standard” for polling and political parties.
His hypothesis: Republicans attack the credibility of established polling firms that release surveys with results they don’t like but take seriously and push polls even if they “don’t seem legitimate.”
Mastriano was his first test.
He posted it on Twitter Saturday afternoon with an all-caps siren headline — New #PAGOV POLL SHOWS MASTRIANO LEAD.” It claimed Mastriano led Shapiro 47.4% to 45.3% in a survey of 2,800 likely voters.
Mastriano, whose Twitter account was tagged in that tweet, quickly retweeted it and retweeted supporters who also retweeted it.
“The Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania literally retweeted a joke poll from some high schooler without questioning anything,” the student said in a follow-up email to Clout. “I’ll admit, I expected some random Twitter accounts to share it, but not Doug Mastriano himself.”
Mastriano also retweeted a Carleton Polling post Sunday that said, “It has become abundantly clear” that he “is going to win the Pennsylvania governor’s race. All the data we are analyzing right now shows him ahead.”
Ellis, a senior legal advisor to Mastriano’s campaign and one-time lawyer for former President Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign, also retweeted the poll Saturday. And then she retweeted a Carleton Polling post Sunday that said: “It’s ironic how everybody on Twitter is mad at us because we’re the only ones not putting out fake Democratic propaganda polls.”
Breitbart, a right-wing web site, included the Carleton Polling tweet in a story Monday about Mastriano’s chances but then cut it, posting an editor’s note that the story would “focus only on established pollsters.”
Carleton Polling responded with a tweet, accusing Breitbart of selling out “to the liberal media.”
More discerning Twitter users started to poke holes in the results. Philly lawyer Adam Bonin, who works for the Shapiro campaign but did the math to satisfy his own curiosity, employed algebra to show what little information Carleton Polling had released produced unfeasible results.
The Carleton account turned to trolling, with a tweet Tuesday about a New York congressional special election that said: “Top-of-mind issues for voter: Local plumbing problems, construction of a life-sized statue of Rudy Giuliani, and leaked texts revealing Pat Ryan’s obsession with bacon grease.”
Ryan, a Democrat, won Tuesday in a race seen as a toss-up and now regarded as a hopeful sign for his party in November’s midterm elections.
The Carleton account, gaining attention and critics, on Tuesday added “parody” to a description that still claimed to be “the gold standard of American polling.” The high schooler said he didn’t want Mastriano to use his “joke poll” to claim some sort of election fraud.
“It’s my belief that most people knew it was all a joke,” he added.
Mastriano’s campaign, of course, did not respond when asked about that.
Clout provides often irreverent news and analysis about people, power, and politics.