Forget the Polls - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Forget the Polls

The Dukakis campaign could have been forgiven for humming a few bars of Hail to the Chief.

Here is the New York Times on July 26, 1988:

Dukakis Lead Widens, According to New Poll

The Times story began this way:

In the aftermath of the Democratic National Convention, the party’s nominee, Michael S. Dukakis, has expanded his lead among registered voters over Vice President Bush, the probable Republican nominee, according to a Gallup Poll.

This was among the findings of a national public opinion poll of 948 registered voters conducted late last week for Newsweek magazine by the Gallup Organization. The telephone interviews took place on July 21, which was the last night of the convention, and on the night after that.

Fifty-five percent of the 948 registered voters interviewed in the poll said they preferred to see Mr. Dukakis win the 1988 Presidential election, while 38 percent said they preferred to see Mr. Bush win. The poll had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

This represented a shift in Mr. Dukakis’s lead from the 47 percent to 41 percent advantage he held in the last pre-convention Gallup Poll, taken by telephone July 8-10. In that poll, 1,001 registered voters were interviewed.

Got all that? Following the 1988 Democratic Convention, Governor Dukakis went from a six-point lead over Vice President George H.W. Bush to an eye-popping 17-point landslide-style lead over Bush.

Alas, alas.

On election night, George H.W. defeated Dukakis in a 53.4 percent to 45.6 percent landslide, carrying 426 electoral votes to the Dukakis 111. Forty states went for Bush, with ten plus the District of Columbia voting for Dukakis.

Further back, way back there in January of 1979, was this gem in the Times:

Carter Leads Ford, Reagan in Poll

Said the Times:

WASHINGTON, JAN. 20 — President Carter would easily defeat either former Governor Ronald Reagan of California or former President Gerald R. Ford if the election were held today, according to the Gallup Poll.

In the end, of course, it was Reagan, not Ford, who emerged as the 1980 GOP nominee, and the poll was enough to send shudders through the Reagan camp. Reagan would lose to Carter 57%-35%. In the actual general election between Reagan and Carter? That would be a wipeout, with a Reagan landslide win of 50.7 percent to 41.0 percent and 6.6 percent for Republican-turned-third party candidate (the Gary Johnson of his day) Congressman John Anderson. Reagan carried 44 states to Carter’s 6-plus-the-District of Columbia. So much for that Gallup Poll-predicted 57-35 percent Reagan loss. A 22 percent loss for Reagan in the poll became in reality an almost 10 percent win.

And who can forget all those polls from 1948 — the year every political pro in America was certain that Thomas E. Dewey was going to defeat President Harry Truman? Suffice to say, whether it was polling for 1948, 1980, or 1988 (not to mention other years), mistaken assumptions derived from polls — even good polls — have been commonplace.

Now? Here is the new poll from the Wall Street Journal with this breathless headline:

Hillary Clinton’s Lead Over Donald Trump Widens to 9 Points, Poll Shows

Support for Republican nominee falling after series of missteps since convention

The Journal story begins:

Republican Donald Trump has lost ground with voters amid a series of missteps following the party conventions, with a new national poll showing Democratic rival Hillary Clinton opening a 9-point lead over the New York businessman.

The new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows Mrs. Clinton leading Mr. Trump 47% to 38%, marking an expansion of her lead from last month’s poll, before either the Democratic or Republican conventions, when Mrs. Clinton led 46% to 41%.

In other words? In other words, Hillary Clinton has a 9 point lead over Trump — in August. And the unwritten assumption by various GOP elites is — it’s over! Oh nooooooooo!

This is somewhere south of nuts.

One of the polls showing Trump behind Hillary Clinton is the Franklin and Marshall poll run by Dr. Terry Madonna. (Full disclosure I am F&M alum.) Dr. Madonna, a neutral in these matters, tells me that Pennsylvania is perfectly winnable for Trump. The F&M poll’s latest reflects the traditional “bounce” from a convention — and in this case an added benefit for Clinton is that the DNC was in Philadelphia, generating reams of favorable local coverage for her across the state in addition to the national coverage provided by the broadcast and cable networks.

Has Hillary Clinton had a good couple of weeks? Yes. Has Trump had a good week and bad week? Yes. And…what?

What this is really all about is the same political wiz bangs who insisted Donald Trump could never win the nomination showing their usual perspicacity in proclaiming him a political dead duck — again. Remember all those endless stories that proclaimed Trump had a “ceiling” of support that he wasn’t breaking through — and thus was never going to be nominated? Uh-huh.

Somewhere along the line reality may have a shot at crashing through the hardened silos of the GOP Establishment of consultants and others who insist what is happening right in front of their eyes isn’t happening.

But whether they realize it or not, there is a long way to go in this campaign. These polls could turn on a dime. Heaven only knows what events — a terrorist attack, an economic downturn, or something totally far-fetched like the revelation of the Obama administration paying a $400 million ransom to Iran for American hostages — could happen. Oh wait! Suddenly Americans are learning that last one isn’t farfetched after all.

Believe the polls for a November election — in August? Tell that to former President Dukakis.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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