On balance, it was a night short on stories. The gubernatorial nominees (Republican Greg Abbott and Democrat Wendy Davis) were a foregone conclusion from the get-go, and were nominated with 90 percent and 79 percent of the vote, respectively. The much anticipated GOP Senate duel between incumbent John Cornyn and batshit two-time Rep. Steve Stockman never materialized, as Cornyn won easily (59 percent) over Stockman (19 percent).
By late evening (at least on my feed, which is heavy ... bless their hearts ... on election nerds like myself), the story became a poll.
This poll, to be precise. A survey conducted by the University of Texas (on behalf of the Texas Tribune) was just about the only game in town as it related to data on the Texas primaries. And it had some very, very outsized "misses."
More on the first election night of the 2014 cycle below the fold.
In their defense, they hit the fairway on several races, as well. They hit the Abbott win for governor down to the percentage, and came only a few points of hitting Cornyn-Stockman on the screws (they had it 62-16). They had a bit of a miss on the Davis primary win, forecasting a much bigger win over Ray Madrigal. But blowouts are tough to hit on the percentage to begin with, and the outsized polling margin might've hinted at an undercount of Latino voters, which was Madrigal's best demographic last night.
But the misses were "holy crap" misses. They put a legit scare in the Democratic establishment when they had LaRouche devotee Kesha Rogers leading the Democratic primary by 8 percent, though below the 50 percent to make the runoff. She wound up losing by 25, as wealthy dentist David Alameel heads into the May runoff with a 47-22 edge over Rogers (who did sneak into second place ahead of Maxey Scherr).
They also missed bad on the GOP side, where they declared incumbent Lt. Governor David Dewhurst a slight leader to head into a runoff with state legislator Dan Patrick (Patrick actually won round one by 14 points). Worse still: They had teabagger Debra Molina as a clear leader (by 13 points!) for state Comptroller. She did not even make the runoff, if one will happen (Republican Glenn Hegar is sitting on ... wait for it ... 49.99 percent of the vote at last check).
So, what happened? Two things can be cited as causes for the errant numbers. Neither of those factors necessarily acquit UT entirely, but do offer valuable context.
First off, the poll is actually a little bit older than one might think. It was released early last week, but it was already a week old when it was released: It was in the field from Feb. 7-17. This means that the respondents missed the late campaign efforts of the candidates, which certainly played a role in the Democratic Senate primary (where Alameel did run ads late) and may have done so in the other downballot affairs, as well.
Second, turnout sucked. Both the Republican and Democratic primaries saw turnout that, at last check, was 150,000 voters fewer than came to the polls in 2010.
As for the other pollsters being held to account: The short answer is that there weren't many others to assess. Perhaps due to the genuine lack of competitive races of interest (with due respect to Alameel or Rogers, the Democratic Senate primary is all but assumed to be a battle for who will lose by 20+ to John Cornyn in November), only two other primary polls were released. One, a December poll by a GOP pollster interested in the Senate race, was too early to "judge," but was pretty close to correct, anyway (they had Cornyn leading Stockman 50-6). The other, a Gravis poll from last month, was an air ball. They had Stockman at 28 percent, and they had Cornyn well under the runoff threshold (43 percent). Not. Even. Close.
For poll watchers, though, the next two weeks brings a ton of intrigue as the special election in Florida's 13th district will be followed shortly thereafter by the hotly watched Illinois primaries, where the GOP nod to take on embattled Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn is the hot ticket.