NORMAN — Two polls released within the last month suggests Democratic gubernatorial candidate Drew Edmondson stands a better chance if Tulsa businessman Kevin Stitt wins next week’s Republican runoff against former Oklahoma City mayor Mick Cornett.
A poll of 404 people from across the state conducted by SoonerPoll asked likely voters from both parties who they would vote for if the general election was today. When asked to pick between Cornett and Edmondson, 173 people, about 42.7 percent, said they would vote for the former mayor, compared to 140, 34.7 percent, who said they would vote for the Democrat.
But when asked to choose between Stitt and Edmondson, 163 people, about 40.3 percent, said they would vote for the Democrat, while 158 people, 39.2 percent, said they would vote for Stitt. That gave Edmondson a lead of just over 1 percentage point, while the margin of error for the poll stands at plus or minus 4.88 percent.
The SoonerPoll was conducted between July 18-20. Another poll from The Right Strategy Group conducted between Aug. 1-2 also has Edmondson performing better against Stitt than against Cornett.
The RSG poll had Edmondson barely ahead of Cornett, with 39.4 percent of 737 likely voters over 39.2 percent for the Republican. The undecided group stood at 21.3 percent.
With Stitt, Edmondson was ahead 42.4 percent compared to 40.9 percent, with 16.6 percent undecided. The margin of error was listed at plus or minus 4.99 percent.
The Edmondson campaign isn’t putting too much weight into next week’s result when it comes to strategy, Campaign Manager Michael Clingman said.
“We’re certainly interested in who wins, but it doesn’t make a difference to us,” he said. “From where we sit, we don’t see a real difference. We haven’t done our own polling on that question.”
The Cornett campaign’s internal polling showed even better results for the candidate, Communications Director Will Gattenby said. In terms of Edmondson fairing better in a one on one with Stitt than with Cornett, Gattenby said they’ve seen that, too.
“At that time, our internals were better than that,” he said. “We’ve seen the same trend along lines of the general election matchup.
“The race is about leadership and who do people want to have as the next governor of Oklahoma. Mick Cornett has a history of results, and clearly that resonates with a lot of voters.”
He said Cornett’s record on jobs and business growth at Oklahoma City should be “attractive to both sides of the aisle.”
In July, SoonerPoll suggested Cornett and Stitt were neck and neck in the runoff to take place a week from today, Aug. 28. Two more recent polls, including the one from RSG, show Stitt leading Cornett.
RSG has Stitt ahead 41.3 percent to Cornett’s 32.6 percent, with 26.1 percent undecided. Similarly, a poll from Remington Research Group — which it says was conducted with 1,757 likely Republican voters and has a plus or minus 2.3-point margin of error — has Stitt ahead by 10 points, 47 to 37 percent.
The Cornett campaign wouldn’t comment on the record about the Remington Research poll, but it is understood they have some issues with it. It’s not something worrying to the candidate and they are still confident of being on the general election ballot in November, based on their own numbers.
Donelle Harder, Stitt campaign communications director, noted the date on the SoonerPoll data and the subsequent polls that are more in the Republican’s favor.
“We feel confident that we can beat Drew Edmondson and that the Republican party will be united,” Harder said. “Kevin’s campaign has been against the political establishment and elite, and that will, again, be what he’s up against in the general election.”
A deeper look into the data shows it may not be as straightforward for Stitt. When the Remington poll was broken down by congressional district, Stitt performed best in District 1, which covers Tulsa, and District 2, which covers the eastern side of the state.
Stitt had an 18-point lead in the Tulsa district.
But in Districts 3, 4 and 5 that include Oklahoma City, Norman, Moore and Lawton, the race is much closer, and Cornett leads by six points in District 5. More than half of likely voters Remington polled were based in those three districts.
And in the SoonerPoll breakdown, Stitt’s support was less pronounced than Cornett’s in all subcategories. For example, among likely conservative voters, Cornett pulled 130 votes compared to 36 for Edmondson and 57 undecided. When asked to choose between Edmondson and Stitt, seven fewer conservative voters chose the Republican, while Edmondson gained those votes.
When it came to likely moderate voters, Edmondson outperformed both Cornett and Stitt in SoonerPoll, but Stitt pulled eight fewer votes compared to Cornett. Edmondson gained seven when facing the Tulsa Republican.
In a similar manner to the RSG poll, most of those polled by SoonerPoll were based in either the rest of the state, 47.8 percent, or the Oklahoma City metropolitan statistical area (MSA), 28.6 percent, while those from the Tulsa MSA sat at 23.4 percent.
That data suggests that while Stitt can pull from a conservative Republican crowd, he has a more difficult time pulling from the middle and the left.
Harder said she doesn’t see Stitt’s message as more polarizing and, instead, is one that attempts to appeal to all Oklahomans.
“He wants us to have a top 10 education system,” she said. “He’s beat that drum since Day One. This is a foundational element to creating new jobs, diversifying our economy and lifting wages.
“What voters will see in the general is an expansion on how we as a state can deliver these core services better and efficiently.”
When it comes to the runoff, however, Stitt’s campaign has shifted to the right. In a campaign ad, Stitt touts his own support for Trump while calling Cornett a “never Trumper” and saying his Republican opponent was a defender of sanctuary cities for undocumented immigrants.
The Cornett campaign denied both claims, and Cornett supporters addressed the sanctuary city remark in their own attack on his opponent in an advertisement titled “Bull Stitt.”
But the SoonerPoll data showing Cornett fairs better with Democrat voters and moderates at least adds weight to the Stitt campaign charge that his opponent is not as conservative as him.
Whether that will hurt Cornett’s chances with Republican voters, or possibly hurt Stitt should he face Edmondson in the general election, will be seen next week and in the months to come.
“Voters have been receptive to Mick Cornett’s messages from the moment he got into this race,” Gattenby said. “And they’re still receptive, and we look forward to seeing that on election night. He has a solid track record at city hall, and he’s an outsider to state government who has seen great success.”