Saturday, February 2, 2008

Oh, shut up: Gallup counting "leaners"

It is utterly irresponsible to do this kind of crap in a national poll in a primary campaign.

National presidential numbers are nonsense, period. A presidential election is not a nationwide popularity contest, OK? It's 50 contests in 50 states.

But publishing as "news" a graphic that measures "leaners" at this stage of the game? That's insane -- just completely insane.

America is cursed with a media establishment that doesn't understand electoral politics and doesn't understand how to apply poll data to the political process, and therefore ends up pushing nonsense numbers and tendentious spin into the public discourse as if it were scientific proof of something.

And look how bloggers are rushing to imitate the MSM they claim to loathe: "This poll shows ...."

Well, OK, what does it show, you morons? What do you know about the sample demographics, the order and phrasing of the questions?

How about LOOKING AT THE DATE OF THE FREAKING SURVEY, FOOLS! It's a three-day tracking poll, Tuesday through Thursday. Considering that Monday and Tuesday's news was all about how Obama whomped Hillary in South Carolina, until suddenly the news was the Beatification of St. John, those "trends" you're seeing reflect short-term preferences of people who are apparently pretty damned fickle.

What do these polls tell you about the professionalism of each campaign's organizing staffs in any particular state? Nothing.

What do these polls tell you about preparations for last-minute contacts and get-out-the-vote efforts by each campaign and in each state? Again, nothing.

Or, say, what about sign-placement? Absentee-ballot and early-voting efforts? Robo-calls? Dirty-trick e-mails? Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing.

A party primary is not a general election. Get that through your thick skulls, people. Apples and oranges.

Year after year, election after election, I watch the same crap happen over and over again. Every Election Night, when the actual votes are counted, and the paper's finished, I compare the result to the polls and laugh.

Do you people have amnesia or something? I remember the week before the 2000 election, Bush was pulling away, the trend clearly in his favor. Then the Democrats sprang that little DUI trick on Thursday, and five days later, we were looking at the worst-deadlocked election in American history.

You can go state-by-state, year-by-year and cite similar examples. In 2002, no important pundit predicted the fatal disaster that struck the Georgia Democratic Party on Election Day. The GOP defeated Tom Murphy in his Haralson County stronghold. Nobody, and I mean nobody, had predicted that.

There is simply no reliable way to predict what is going to happen on Tuesday until it happens. David Weigel says the winner-take-all factor in the GOP primaries means that McCain has it locked up. He may be right. He may also be wrong.

With a hotly-contested Democratic contest to keep Democrats from crossing over in open-primary states, and given the traditional advantage in organizing strength of social conservatives, I have a hard time imagining that Crazy Cousin John will just waltz away with the nomination on Tuesday. With both Fred and Rudy gone now, and Huckabee short on cash, the dynamic has changed a lot in a very short time frame.

If the GOP nomination is still up for grabs on Wednesday -- that is to say, if McCain doesn't have enough delegates after Super Tuesday to be the de-facto nominee -- all bets are off. And I think there's a very good chance that Romney can win enough states Tuesday to prevent McCain from locking it up.

If I'm right -- and I could be completely wrong, of course -- then Huckabee will drop out on Wednesday. That would mean (a) Romney could finally consolidate the Religious Right voters, and (b) McCain will have to withstand yet more withering scrutiny, and be booed loudly if he dares attend CPAC.

Between my gut and Gallup, I always trust my gut.

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