Commentary Magazine


Topic: Pollster.com

A Real Race in Massachusetts

One poll has Scott Brown up by 1 point in the Massachusetts Senate race, another has him down by 15, and yet another down by 9. Mark Blumenthal of Pollster.com explains:

The big spread in results among the polls, and differences apparent within two of them, are all consistent in supporting one finding: The lower the turnout, the better the odds for Scott Brown. These differences indicate that the voters most interested and most likely to vote are Republican, while Democrats are more blase.

This was the same conclusion another pollster expressed to me, with the additional caveat that the Boston Globe poll, which had Martha Coakley up by 15, was taken a bit earlier (January 2-6) than the Public Policy Polling survey, which showed Brown up by 1.

But we really don’t know exactly where the race stands — a rarity in politics these days, when everyone is quite certain where races stand, except when they aren’t. (The 2008 New Hampshire Democratic primary in which Barack Obama surprised all the gurus is a case in point.) What is clear is that in one of the most liberal states in the country, a Republican, running against ObamaCare and on a national-security message akin to Liz Cheney’s, is in a dogfight to replace Ted Kennedy. It doesn’t help that the Democrats are threatening to ram through ObamaCare even if Brown wins, for that’s sure to further motivate those already angry Republicans and annoyed independents. If the name of the game is turnout, then themes that aggravate the anti-Obama and anti-Beltway Democrat voters are going to play well for Brown.

The race is a reminder for the pundit class: politics is a game played in the context of specific candidates (in this case a mediocre Democrat in this case trying to hide behind an independent candidate in debates), significant national developments (the rise of angry populists and the fading fortunes of D.C. Democrats), and the relative motivation of competing parties. To the extent that Democrats are losing quality candidates (or can’t recruit them), refuse to adjust their ultra-liberal agenda, and continue to ignore the public, the travails of Martha Coakley are going to be repeated again and again — and in locales with voters much more amenable than Bay Staters to the prospect of throwing out Democrats.

One poll has Scott Brown up by 1 point in the Massachusetts Senate race, another has him down by 15, and yet another down by 9. Mark Blumenthal of Pollster.com explains:

The big spread in results among the polls, and differences apparent within two of them, are all consistent in supporting one finding: The lower the turnout, the better the odds for Scott Brown. These differences indicate that the voters most interested and most likely to vote are Republican, while Democrats are more blase.

This was the same conclusion another pollster expressed to me, with the additional caveat that the Boston Globe poll, which had Martha Coakley up by 15, was taken a bit earlier (January 2-6) than the Public Policy Polling survey, which showed Brown up by 1.

But we really don’t know exactly where the race stands — a rarity in politics these days, when everyone is quite certain where races stand, except when they aren’t. (The 2008 New Hampshire Democratic primary in which Barack Obama surprised all the gurus is a case in point.) What is clear is that in one of the most liberal states in the country, a Republican, running against ObamaCare and on a national-security message akin to Liz Cheney’s, is in a dogfight to replace Ted Kennedy. It doesn’t help that the Democrats are threatening to ram through ObamaCare even if Brown wins, for that’s sure to further motivate those already angry Republicans and annoyed independents. If the name of the game is turnout, then themes that aggravate the anti-Obama and anti-Beltway Democrat voters are going to play well for Brown.

The race is a reminder for the pundit class: politics is a game played in the context of specific candidates (in this case a mediocre Democrat in this case trying to hide behind an independent candidate in debates), significant national developments (the rise of angry populists and the fading fortunes of D.C. Democrats), and the relative motivation of competing parties. To the extent that Democrats are losing quality candidates (or can’t recruit them), refuse to adjust their ultra-liberal agenda, and continue to ignore the public, the travails of Martha Coakley are going to be repeated again and again — and in locales with voters much more amenable than Bay Staters to the prospect of throwing out Democrats.

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What Bad News?

This is not an administration that takes bad news well. Or to put it more precisely, this is not an administration that takes in bad news. The president pretended not to hear the Tea Party protesters outside his window in April. The administration brushed off ordinary citizens who turned out to object to ObamaCare at town-hall meetings in August as stooges of the insurance industry or ignoramuses. It went to war with Fox for refusing to toe the sycophantic line. And in December it’s reduced to screeching at Gallup for bearing bad polling news. (Watch out RealClearPolitics!)

Charles Franklin of Pollster.com responds to Robert Gibbs’s outburst:

Gibbs’ “EKG” analogy for President Obama’s approval level is typical rhetoric of any administration in trouble with the public. First imply the polls are “all over the place” and then assert that the president doesn’t govern based on polls. Dems and Reps alike reach a point in their approval ratings when they trot out these chestnuts. Sadly, both assertions are false and administrations that truly ignore public opinion are in more trouble than they know.

And another pollster explains:

I would have to heartily disagree with Gibbs’ comments — the reality is I have that situation all the time when I bring clients bad news. When I bring my clients good news they always tell me how smart I am and when I bring them bad news they tell me that I’m stupid and no better than a 6-year-old with a box of crayons.

The disinclination to hear and process bad news is part of human nature. No one, most especially a “sort of god” who had been virtually immune from criticism, likes to hear complaints and wails of disappointment. But a White House that treats critics as enemies and bad news as disinformation does so at its peril. Without a realistic picture of public opinion and how its own policies are being received, the administration is incapable of making the needed course corrections, personnel changes, and message refinements that every White House must undertake to keep from going off the rails.

This administration, however, seems to have a singular strategy: double down on its nasty rhetoric, keep turning Left on policy, rage at the media for missing the “real story,” and admit no errors. It’s a recipe for failure, both policy and political. The Obami may see more of both.

This is not an administration that takes bad news well. Or to put it more precisely, this is not an administration that takes in bad news. The president pretended not to hear the Tea Party protesters outside his window in April. The administration brushed off ordinary citizens who turned out to object to ObamaCare at town-hall meetings in August as stooges of the insurance industry or ignoramuses. It went to war with Fox for refusing to toe the sycophantic line. And in December it’s reduced to screeching at Gallup for bearing bad polling news. (Watch out RealClearPolitics!)

Charles Franklin of Pollster.com responds to Robert Gibbs’s outburst:

Gibbs’ “EKG” analogy for President Obama’s approval level is typical rhetoric of any administration in trouble with the public. First imply the polls are “all over the place” and then assert that the president doesn’t govern based on polls. Dems and Reps alike reach a point in their approval ratings when they trot out these chestnuts. Sadly, both assertions are false and administrations that truly ignore public opinion are in more trouble than they know.

And another pollster explains:

I would have to heartily disagree with Gibbs’ comments — the reality is I have that situation all the time when I bring clients bad news. When I bring my clients good news they always tell me how smart I am and when I bring them bad news they tell me that I’m stupid and no better than a 6-year-old with a box of crayons.

The disinclination to hear and process bad news is part of human nature. No one, most especially a “sort of god” who had been virtually immune from criticism, likes to hear complaints and wails of disappointment. But a White House that treats critics as enemies and bad news as disinformation does so at its peril. Without a realistic picture of public opinion and how its own policies are being received, the administration is incapable of making the needed course corrections, personnel changes, and message refinements that every White House must undertake to keep from going off the rails.

This administration, however, seems to have a singular strategy: double down on its nasty rhetoric, keep turning Left on policy, rage at the media for missing the “real story,” and admit no errors. It’s a recipe for failure, both policy and political. The Obami may see more of both.

Read Less




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