It was a push poll robocall that favored Republican Charles Trump in his campaign to upend Democratic incumbent State Senator Donald Cookman in the race for West Virginia Senate District 15.
The robocall — audio here — which began hitting residents of Morgan County last week, asks questions that leave a poor impression of Cookman.
“Democrat Donald Cookman voted to cut education, senior centers and programs vital to our families,” a chirpy female voice says. “Does knowing this specific information make you more or less likely to vote for Donald Cookman?”
Trump is an old school conservative Republican.
And yet, the people who put together the robocall are apparently seeking to defend Trump against any criticism that he is a Tea Party extremist.
“Some say Charlie Trump is a supporter of an extreme Tea Party agenda and would support eliminating Social Security. How likely are you to believe such claims against Charlie Trump?” the robocall woman asks.
“If you heard someone say, in an advertisement on radio or TV, that Charlie Trump is a supporter of an extreme Tea Party agenda, who would favor eliminating Social Security, how likely would you be to believe such claims?”
“Some say that if Charlie Trump is elected, he will favor policies backed by big corporations and groups funded by the Koch Brothers. Would this information make you more, or less likely to vote for Charlie Trump in the race for state Senate?”
Trump said that the robocalls did not come from his campaign.
“I assure you my campaign did not make those calls,” Trump said. “I have had numerous people call me and tell me about them, but I do not know where they came from.”
Who paid for the robocalls?
“I have no idea,” Trump said. “It was not me or my campaign.”
Trump said his campaign has done no polling of any kind.
When asked by a reporter about the robocall, Cookman said that it the first he had heard of it.
Cookman says he believes that the reference to cutting “education, senior centers and programs vital to our families,” might refer to a budget vote earlier this year in the state legislature.
Cookman said that he has never referred to Trump as a supporter of an extreme Tea Party agenda, has never suggested that Trump would favor eliminating Social Security, and has never suggested that that Trump, if elected, would favor policies backed by big corporations and groups funded by the Koch Brothers.
And Cookman said he has never heard anyone make such claims.
The Cookman campaign says it ran a live call poll the first week of August, but it refused to release the results of that poll.
“We neither endorse or condone any form of push poll, as it is illegal,” the Cookman campaign said in an e-mail response.
West Virginia law allows campaign expenditures on opinion polls, but not on push polls.
According to the law, no opinion poll “shall be deceptively designed or intentionally conducted in a manner calculated to advocate the election or defeat of any candidate or group of candidates or calculated to influence any person or persons so polled to vote for or against any candidate, group of candidates, proposition or other matter to be voted on by the public at any election.”
The robocall also seeks to portray Trump as a pro-coal, pro-education, anti-Obama candidate.
“Would you be for or against a candidate who strongly opposes a state based cap and trade measure that could cripple West Virginia’s coal industry?” the robocall asks.
“If a candidate for state Senate strongly favored repealing Obamacare, would you be more or less likely to vote for that candidate?”
“If a candidate for state Senate strongly favored increasing the amount of money that West Virginia invests in education, would you be more or less likely to vote for that candidate?”
“If a candidate for state Senate promised to take all possible actions to stop Obama’s EPA regulations, would you be more or less likely to vote for that candidate?”
West Virginia Senate District 15 covers all of Hampshire County, all of Morgan County, Berkeley County — with the exception of Martinsburg — and Mineral County — with the exception of Keyser and Piedmont.