Fiorina, Whitman leading in California?

This goes in the opposite direction than other polls seen in the last few weeks, especially in California’s gubernatorial race, where Jerry Brown had begun to create a lead against Meg Whitman in other polls.  Wilson Research Strategies, which does a lot of polling for Republicans, sees it differently.  Last night, they released results of their California survey showing Whitman and Carly Fiorina with narrow leads over Brown and Barbara Boxer, respectively:

Carly Fiorina currently leads by three points against Barbara Boxer in the race for United States Senate from California.

U.S. Senate Ballot
Total Fiorina 46%
Total Boxer 43%
Total Other Candidates 5%
Undecided 6%

Meg Whitman leads by one point in the race for Governor of California.

Governor’s Ballot
Total Whitman 45%
Total Brown 44%
Total Other Candidates 4%
Undecided 7%

Conclusions
Republicans currently hold narrow leads in California’s top two statewide races this fall, though both remain very competitive.

Wilson claims its margin of error is 3.5%, which means that their Senate findings would almost be outside the MOE … almost.  However, Wilson doesn’t produce any crosstab or sample data, which usually helps to check the assumptions of the pollster, especially with likely-voter models.  (PPP is taking a lot of flack, for instance, about presuming a better Democratic turnout in some races than in 2008 while giving Dems leads in tight races.)  Their methodology also seems somewhat unorthodox, as explained on their website:

WRS selected a random sample of likely general election voters from the California voter file using Registration Based Sampling (RBS). RBS is an innovative method of stratifying samples based on a set of demographic and behavioral characteristics. The sample for this survey was stratified based on age, gender, ethnicity, partisan affiliation, and geography. This methodology allows us to avoid post-survey “weighting” which can reduce the reliability of survey results.

Respondents were contacted by phone via a live telephone operator interview October 13-14, 2010. The study has a sample size of n=800 likely voters. The margin of error is equal to ±3.5% in 95 out of 100 cases.

So it’s a randomly selected sample of voters derived from … handpicking?  Weighting creates its own issues, of course, but all pollsters weight results in likely-voter products.  It’s the method and assumptions of the weighting that makes a difference.  CBS routinely discloses its weighting results, which usually show them taking a somewhat-unrepresentative sample and making it ridiculously unrepresentative.  If Wilson is sifting its potential sample by known characteristics before making the calls, it’s still weighting the sample — it’s just weighting it before the calls.  I’m not sure that it’s any more or less accurate method than traditional weighting, and in any case Wilson isn’t disclosing the sample composition or the crosstabs of results.

I’d like to believe that both Fiorina and Whitman have jumped out to leads, but we’ll probably need to see some further polling to corroborate it.  On the other hand, with Barbara Boxer having memory losses on her tax-hike position on the campaign trail like this, perhaps that lead for Fiorina might be realistic after all:

Since it was approved by Congress in February 2009, unemployment has risen from 12.4 percent to 14.2 percent in the county and 10.2 percent to 12.4 percent statewide, Fiorina said.

“Borrowing is not working. It is failing,” she said. “We have to realize simply throwing taxpayer money at a problem isn’t helping it.”

She supports extending Bush-era tax cuts, set to expire Jan. 1, to everyone, while Boxer supports extending the cuts to all except wealthy Americans.

A Boxer campaign worker said Boxer hasn’t decided if she would support extending the tax breaks to those with an annual income of $250,000, but does support eliminating them for those who make over $1 million and businesses that outsource jobs overseas.

Really?  Boxer seemed pretty certain about it almost two weeks earlier:

Fiorina wants the federal government to extend Bush-era tax cuts for everyone. But Boxer sides with Obama, who supports extending the tax cuts for individuals making less than $200,000 and married couples making less than $250,000.

But three weeks before that, Boxer had a different plan:

Some Democrats favor a higher threshold, saying residents in places with a high cost of living should be protected. Among them, Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said this week she supports extending the cuts for anyone who makes less than $1 million annually.

“I think millionaires can pay more, but most of our Californians really need this tax relief to continue,” said Boxer, who faces a tough re-election fight against conservative Republican Carly Fiorina.

In April 2009, though, when Boxer put her vote on the line, it was to hike taxes at the $250,000 level.  On April 23, 2009, Boxer said this on the Senate floor:

Madam President, I listened to Senator Grassley’s remarks, and I have been in conference with folks who have read this budget line by line. It is important for me to say something as someone who represents the largest State in the Union. As I look at this budget and it is how one looks at it-I see it as a boon to small business. I don’t see one specific tax increase aimed at small business. Yes, if an individual is over $250,000 a year, for all of us in that category, the tax breaks will expire. But to say that all small businesses are hit hard is an argument that doesn’t hold up, in my eyes.

Six days later, Boxer voted for a conference report that, among other issues, would have extended all the tax rates except for those making more than $250K per year, just as she had stated the week prior.

So which is it?  Apparently, Boxer herself doesn’t know.  That’s not leadership; it’s an attempt to hoodwink voters in California.