In Ocean State politics, it's officially too difficult to tell which way the political tides are turning.
That's the only conclusion to draw from two Rhode Island polls, both released on the same day this week. One conducted for Sen. Lincoln Chafee showed the moderate one-termer leading upstart conservative Steve Laffey by 14 percentage points (53 percent to 39 percent) in the Republican primary slated for September 12.
Not so, according to the second. A Rhode Island College Bureau of Government Research and Services survey has Laffey leading Chafee by 17 percentage points, 51 percent to 34 percent.
No wonder Washington's chattering class says the race remains a dead heat, and a fulcrum for which party controls the Senate come January. "Polls in this race aren't worth paying too much attention to," says Jennifer Duffy of the Cook Political Report. "I think everybody is flying a little blind here."
For what it's worth, Chafee's camp is crooning about the nearly equal favorable and unfavorable ratings for Laffey among likely Republican voters, while Chafee's appear mostly favorable. Meanwhile, the senator has taken umbrage at the college poll, saying the sample doesn't account for the large number of independents in the state. Laffey's camp, by contrast, is feining indifference toward the numerical wonders of primary polls. "We don't really pay attention to polls when they are good or when they are bad," a spokeswoman told local reporters.
In the land of uncertainty, though, there may be a couple of sure, or surer, things. Rhode Island is small, so a high primary turnout would be 45,000 people, or about half the population of the city of Cranston, where Laffey is mayor. A low turnout would favor Laffey and his base. And getting out the vote, as in most races, is key.