The Spectacle Blog

No More POLLS!

By on 1.9.08 | 5:41PM

Jennifer, Last night's results should prove once and for all that "polls" and "facts" are almost mutually exclusive things. Especially during presidential primary season, polls about the fall horse race are virtually meaningless. At about this time in 1980, for instance, Jimmy Carter held a nearly two-to-one (!!!!) lead over Ronald Reagan, even as Reagan led the national horse race polls within the GOP. Another thing that is overrated is money. In 1976, Reagan was dead broke and had lost five straight contests and was in terrible shape in the polls. Then Jesse Helms helped him beat Ford in North Carolina, and everything changed. Therefore, what is more important in analyzing who can beat whom in the fall isn't current polls, it is logic combined with past performance and with more generic, NON-PERSONALITY based surveys.

Item: John McCain fares best in current polls vs. HIllary. But item: McCain has NEVER had a strongly negative mainstream media against him. Indeed, the MSM has been described over and over, incuding by the mSM himself, as his "base." Further Item: The MSM is desperate for a Demo president. Further item: The MSM has ALWAYS rallied around the Clintons when it is election time, (and then blitzed them right after election or right after they take office, when it does not much good.)

Item: When the MSM turns on McCain, as it surely will if and once he gets the nomination, where will he go for a "base"? Somebody who has succeeded despite the MSM, as other GOPers have, is in far better shape to beat Hillary than somebody who has succeeded BECAUSE of an MSM that will turn on him (assuming I am right that the MSM will indeed turn on McCain).

Item: Polling 11 months ago showed that the single biggest turn-off for voters choosing a president would be elevated age -- far bigger than Mormonism, gender, or race. Item: McCain has infuriated so many conservatives that he may have an incredibly hard time pulling together his whole party behind him. Put all this together, and combine it with his expected problems with fund-raising, his loony-tunes temper, other pecadilloes, and a NYT investigation that will surely be dumped on him only AFTER the nomination appears in the bag, and what you have is a too old, too angry candidate with no base and no money and too many enemies. He is not the strongest candidate against Hillary, but the second weakest.

Likewise, polls five months ago showed that Huckabee had no chance. Now he is the national front-runner, at least in some polls. What changed? Nothing that logic could not predict. Logic saw a tremendously gifted communicator with very strong political skills and canniness, filling a spot in the campaign with a built-in network of the party's single most fervent constituency, combined with advocacy of a tax plan with a large and organized cult following, and in the person of somebody with a proven capacity for demagoguery and effective class warfare. His rise was therefore eminently predictable, even though the polls said otherwise.

Polls said Hillary was dead. Experience very much suggested otherwise.

Polls, schmolls. Can we PLEASE tak about something other than polls? (Sorry to be grumpy, and do not take this, Jennifer, as a criticism of you. It's just that I am SO sick of the horse-race stuff. I wrote an editorial on just this topic for the Examiner for tomorrow.)

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