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Gravis Marketing Bucks Critics and Roars Back In 2014

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Winter Springs based polling and marketing firm Gravis Marketing had an extremely successful 2014 after a rough 2012 election cycle — and owner Doug Kaplan has no plans of slowing down.


By Jacob Engels


During this past election cycle, I have gotten to report on Doug Kaplan's work through my publications in East Orlando and Seminole County. Sometimes written off by most in the mainstream media a inaccurate or flawed in his polling methodology, Kaplan is used to defending his results and business on social media and in the press. Before we detail Kaplan's rise from the ashes in 2014, we must first detail his battle scars from the last election cycle.


In 2012 after publishing a poll showing GOP Presidential nominee Mitt Romney on the uptick following the Democratic National Convention - liberal bloggers and operatives started waging an all out smear campaign against Kaplan - who was one of the first pollsters to identify Mitt Romney's likeability rise in 2012.


"They started attacking me personally, harassed friends and family, and launched an effort to compromise our website. It was out of nowhere," Kaplan told the Seminole County Post.


For weeks, liberal and Democratic-aligned websites like Democratic Underground and Daily Kos retained private investigators and worked to gather all the dirt they could find on Kaplan and anyone with close proximity to him or his firm Gravis. They found a 2 old arrests for drunk driving and tax problems that Kaplan was currently working to resolve with the IRS. The left-wing blogosphere and talking heads declared they would stop at nothing to disinfect the country of Kaplan and his firm.


"The tactics they used were very startling. I felt like I was being targeted by the KGB." Kaplan said of the aggressive opposition research and smear campaign that was waged against him and those close to Gravis.


But Kaplan kept his head down and worked to remind the public that his work was well respected and often quoted and featured in the New York Times, liberal leaning Huffington Post, and Nate Silver's 538 blog. Kaplan is not a part of any Republican or conservative scheme to manipulate polls or news about polls, said Carmen Russell-Sluchansky in an interview with Human Events in 2012 following Democrats attack on Kaplan. Russell-Sluchansky is a professional political consultant and pollster, who works exclusively on campaigns for progressive Democrats.


After plastering Kaplan's mugshots all over the web and attempting to discredit Gravis Marketing as a Karl Rove funded operation, Democrats felt they had at the very least crippled Kaplan to the point that he would be rendered irrelevant in 2014. But they were wrong.


Kaplan roared back this election cycle - both nationally and at home here in Florida and Seminole County. Gravis Marketing flourished instead of shuttering as Democrats were hoping.


The Miami Herald declared in February of 2014, that Kaplan had given opponents of the pro-pot Amendment 2 measure the game-plan for stopping medical marijuana in the state of Florida. At the time, the amendment was polling close to 90% and was bankrolled by wealthy trial lawyer John Morgan - no one was stepping up to challenge Morgan's bank account and overwhelming public support.


Following the release of Kaplan's robocall that asked voters about the language and possible effects of Amendment 2, the anti-medical marijuana forces latched on to Kaplan's messaging and banded together. Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson began writing multimillion dollar checks to the No on 2 forces and public support for medical marijuana started plummeting. We coined Kaplan "The Man Who Killed Medical Marijuana," and he ultimately was.


Shortly after the primary election in August, my other publication East Orlando Post commissioned a poll from Gravis Marketing on the Congressional District 9 matchup between liberal firebrand Alan Grayson and newly-minted GOP nominee Carol Platt. Shortly after we published the poll results showing Platt down by at least 15 points. We published an article detailing the results and the Platt campaign called us an accused me of being "bought" and said that I was not interested in real journalism. Grayson ended up beating Platt by 11 points on election day.


After the infamous “fangate" moment during a Florida gubernatorial debate between Governor Rick Scott and former Governor Charlie Crist - Kaplan was the first to determine that the stunt had a negative effect on the incumbent governor. The results were covered without question in publications statewide including the Orlando Sentinel, Miami New Times, and several others.


Nationally, in 2014 Forbes writer and author of the Kaplan hit-piece "The Worst Poll in America" acknowledged Kaplan's comeback. Below is an excerpt.


Earlier in 2014, Gravis Marketing was a source of fool's good for Republican campaigns. At my old Slate perch, I wrote a post with the SEO-friendly title "The Worst Poll in America," shaming Gravis for numbers that predicted a much closer contest in Texas's GOP Senate primary than the one voters actually made. In 2012, it was easy to find conservative-friendly polls that overrated Republican chances, and easier to find critics of Gravis.


Not so in 2014. Polling was so bad in Virginia, so wildly overstating Warner's margin, that Democrats and Republicans have called for it to be investigated. (Veterans of the Gillespie campaign grouse, with reason, that the polling scared away the kind of money that could have enabled an upset.) Meanwhile, Gravis had a really good run. After the election, it reminded reporters that it was on the nose in Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina. It saw a 6-point margin in Iowa when others, like Public Policy Polling, saw a tighter contest.


"We’ve changed our methodology, and we’ve gotten better at researching," Kaplan said. "In 2012 the operation was just me and a statistician. Did we get in over our heads? Probably. This time we brought in someone from a big polling firm. I had a brilliant kid from an Ivy League school."


Aside from the recent positive recognition Kaplan has earned from Forbes and Human Events, Kaplan told us that Real Clear Politics informed him early this week that they were going to again include his poll results in their aggregate numbers. RCP had ceased using Kaplan's results following the bad press Gravis Marketing garnered as part of the smear campaign waged by liberal provocateurs in 2012.


"Being back on Real Clear Politics is huge. It reaffirms that we are producing intelligent and honest numbers. The people at Daily Kos and Democratic Underground must be in crazed state - they are probably shouting "$%*k Doug Kaplan," an ecstatic Kaplan told us.


As far as what he has planned before the end of this year, Kaplan said that several polls touching on the Presidential race and potential United States Senate match-ups in both republican & Democratic primaries are coming very soon. Aside from his polling efforts, Kaplan said that the marketing and direct mail wing of Gravis is constantly growing.


"We've had to hire a few more people to keep up with all the new business. Being able to provide meaninful employment beats any positive press or money we make from our efforts," concluded Kaplan.



Jacob Engels, is the Founder of East Orlando Post & Seminole County Post. He is a seasoned political operative who has led numerous statewide political groups and has worked on several high-profile local, statewide, and national races. Jacob has been interviewed on national television & radio programs, with his work having been featured in the Orlando Sentinel, New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald and other publications nationwide. He can be reached at [email protected]