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Parsing the Polls: Do National Surveys Matter?

Watch cable television for an hour and you're likely to hear some pundit utter the following phrase: "National polls don't matter." The pundit will usually go on to note that the presidential nominating process is a state-by-state affair, not a national contest.

For as long as we can remember the pundits have been right. National polls have served as interesting conversation catalysts, with little empirical value beyond proving who has the highest name identification. Surveys done in traditional early nominating states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, on the other hand, have been considered true indicators of candidate strength.

But does that conventional wisdom make sense in the Fast Track Campaign? We reached out to some of the best and brightest pollsters in both parties to get their opinions. Let's Parse the Polls!

First, the landscape.

The two most recent national polls in the 2008 race were conducted by the Cook Political Report/RT Strategies and USA Today/Gallup.

Both surveys showed similar results. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) finished first in each (20 percent in the Cook poll, 28 percent in the USA Today survey). Former Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) ran within a point of one another in both surveys -- securing second and third place, respectively. Former Gov. Mitt Romney took seven percent in the polls, good enough for fourth.

On the Democratic side, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) led in both polls. She was followed by Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.). In the Cook poll former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.) was third with 13 percent. USA Today/Gallup included former Vice President Al Gore in their ballot test -- taking third place with 18 percent, while Edwards was fourth with 11 percent.

Judging from the national polls, the Republican first-tier includes Giuliani, Thompson and McCain; the Democratic top tier includes Clinton and Obama.

The two most recent independent polls conducted in early voting states tell a very different story.

In South Carolina, a Mason-Dixon poll puts Thompson in first place in the GOP field with 25 percent, while Giuliani takes 21 percent. Romney scores 11 percent and McCain just seven percent. Obama leads the Democrats with 34 percent to 25 percent for Clinton. Edwards comes in third with 12 percent.

The Iowa survey, also conducted by Mason-Dixon, shows Romney in first with 25 percent followed by Thompson with 17 percent and Giuliani with 15 percent. McCain is far back with just six percent. The Democratic race in Iowa is a statistical dead heat between Clinton (22 percent), Edwards (21 percent) and Obama (18 percent).

Those two state polls make a stronger argument for Romney and Edwards than do the national surveys. Romney's strength in Iowa (and New Hampshire) has led many political observers to crown him the race's new frontrunner because wins in those two states -- they argue -- would effectively seal the nomination for him. For Edwards, his continued strength in Iowa has kept him in the first tier with Clinton and Edwards despite national polls that show him trailing the two Senators by double digits.

Is that logic sound? Should national polls largely be ignored in favor of state-specific surveys? Or has the crush of states voting between Jan. 14 and Feb. 5 fundamentally changed not just the nomination fight but the importance of national polling?

We put those questions to a small group of well-respected pollsters within the two parties.

They all agreed that national polls have real meaning in this race.

Fred Yang, a partner in the Democratic polling firm Garin Hart Yang, spoke for the group when he said: "[National polls] are meaningful because they do show broad trends and identify possible dynamics that may matter in the individual primaries."

National polls also tend to drive media coverage, which drives fundraising, which drives polling...and on and on and on. As Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster put it: "The campaign is a national campaign for support, for money, [and] for momentum."

As a result, according to Newhouse, nationals polls serve as a "first cut at the candidates on the 'viability scale.'" He added: "The national polls are going to make it difficult for local voters to decide to support a candidate who might be scoring in the second/third tier nationally, for the simple fact that few voters want to cast their lot behind a candidate who even they believe has little shot to win."

Glen Bolger, a partner with Newhouse at Public Opinion Strategies, agreed that national polls have the capacity to show "momentum" for a candidate but added that they have a tendency to "lag" the results in early states. So Bolger was skeptical that any campaign would spend too much time scouring national polls. "Campaigns are going to focus their efforts on state polling, and they should," he concluded.

So, do national polls matter or not? They do -- within reason. National polls -- especially in a year where, as Yang points out, huge states like California, Georgia, Illinois and others are set to vote on Feb. 5 -- help define the parameters of the field and the issues the candidates are likely to talk about.

But, national polls still lag behind early state polling when it comes to providing an up-to-the-minute look at the state of the race. It stands to reason that voters in Iowa who see the candidates on an almost daily basis -- either in person or on their television sets -- will have a deeper and better sense of who is truly viable than someone who lives in Connecticut or Idaho and occasionally sees a candidate on a news program.

The best way to glean value from national polls is to see them for what they are: a broad look at the shape of the field and the issue matrix. State polls will still tend to be the better leading indicator of which candidates are soaring or sliding.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 20, 2007; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Parsing the Polls  
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Do you ever wonder why these early presidential polls keep fluctuating like the stock market? The answer is simple. Most of them are made up polls by the media. The best way to measure who is doing better now is to look at the number of political contributions to the candidates.

A lot has changed in the past few years. Most people no longer use their land-line telephones. Unfortunately most of the polls are taken using land-line telephones. The good news is that we have a much better measure for prediction. That measure is Contribution Via Internet. This is perhaps the most reliable and measure. The reason is that every candidate has equal chance on the Internet and all voters have the same chance to the use of Internet. If you are want to know how well your candidate is doing look at the number of donations and the number of people donating.

This presidential election will present shocks to so many people. My advise to Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Obama and Sen. John Edwards is to pay attention carefully to the number of your supporters coming in by way of the almighty dollars.

Posted by: Amos Ajo | June 29, 2007 9:18 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: pre-Amerikkkan | June 21, 2007 7:25 PM | Report abuse

Chris Cillizza, I'm glad to see that you've written about this. My favorite show is Hardball, and just the other day, Chris Matthews argued that national polls are good indicators of candidates' strengths: "you think a voter will vote for someone just because they won IA, that's an idiotic way of voting," was the jist of what he was saying. Sure, if you vote for someone just because most "Iowa farmers" did you would be stupid. But, voting for someone with no chance like Kucinich or Gravel is stupid too. Chris Matthews is awesome, but I disagree to an extent. Say I'm voting on Febuary 5th(FL needs to buckle and just join the crowd). If candidate X wins IA, NH, and SC, but candidate Y raised the most money, and candidate Z won NV and came in 2nd in many places, candidates S-W would be wasted votes. In fact I'd doubt if both Y and Z would remain. I sort of thought that the media might just cover nat'l polls so extensively in order to make it a surprising, good story of the underdog outperforming when other candidates, who may fail to do well in nat'l polls, win the early states. But the demographic/issue statistics argument makes good sense.

Posted by: Justin Perez | June 20, 2007 10:36 PM | Report abuse

I believe that demographic statistics suggest that Illinois is our most representative state.

Posted by: DTM | June 20, 2007 8:16 PM | Report abuse

I am a legl american citizen that is totally disqusted with the democrates. I have now changed my party. I am close to the border and am constanly being keep up by illegals that have no respect for my property. I have found used toilet paper and condoms on my property, and my fence is being tore down. what is our government thinking about. i am tired of being the "lazy american" where even being a single, with no child support woman. I have had hard jobs as welding and carpentry to. please don"t let amnesty happen

Posted by: betty moss | June 20, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

the analysis by bob sure makes sense. FL's
early primary may not count for any votes at the democratic conv. and only 1/2 votes at the repub. see

Posted by: more and better polls | June 20, 2007 4:30 PM | Report abuse

An important fact, which is both fascinating and troubling, is that national polls influence fund raising, and subsequent national polls. Furthermore, the COVERAGE of the earliest contests (not, necessarily the RESULTS, but rather the COVERAGE) will dramatically affect subsequent contests - even those on Super-Duper Tuesday.

Howard Dean finished third in Iowa in 2004, but the coverage was of the scream, and the Dean campaign was effectively dead. On the original Super Tuesday in 1988, Michael Dukakis, Jesse Jackson and Al Gore effectively split the 16 contests on March 8, 1988, but the national media decided that the meaning of the vote was a win for Dukakis - making Dukakis the favorite from that point on, and ultimately the nominee.

If McCain finishes no better than 3rd in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada, his campaign will be written off before a single vote is cast in South Carolina. The same might be said for Obama. Florida, with much more convention weight that South Carolina, votes on the same day. That will be five races completed before Super-Duper Tuesday. The national media will have already narrowed the field, based on 5 states.

It is those 5 states (IA, NH, NV, SC, FL) that count the most - and the way their results are spun. National polls, at this point in time, matter only in fund raising.

Posted by: Bob | June 20, 2007 3:59 PM | Report abuse

'I am coward, watch me froth.' zoukie is back. knew it was too good to be true...

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 3:44 PM | Report abuse

Historically, the national polls do not mean all that much as opposed to the early primary states.In the past, when relatively unknown candidates won early states, the publicity they garnered from their victories propelled them to national prominence and their national numbers rose. The question for this heavily front-loaded primary season is can a well-funded, well-known early front runner survive a series of defeats in the first few contests and rely on deep pockets and name recognition to win the multi-state contests coming soon after the first few. Conversely, will a lesser known candidate have the time to build on early victories to do the fund raising and generate enough publicity to gear up for the mega-primaries in such a short time?

I expect the well-funded front runner could survive until the first mega-primary. This becomes easier if no single candidate wins all the early contests. I believe that McCain and, to a lesser extent, Clinton would be most damaged by losing the early contests. I do not believe McCain could survive a wipeout in the early contests. His support has always seemed a mile wide and an inch deep. Clinton probably can weather it but would absolutely have to score big in the mega-primaries. Much of her support is built around her sense of inevitability.

I also believe that it is more likely that a Republican second tier candidate will break through than one of the Democrats. My guess is that if one of the Republicans break through it would be Huckabee. I really can't see any of the Democrats doing it although I would really like to see Biden do it.

Posted by: JimD in FL | June 20, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

I am coward, watch me froth. I am so happy we have a Democrat primary. The rest of the time, my hopes and dreams are considered totally loony.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

Alaska is so far away that people in the other 49 states barely realize that the entire Republican Party of Alaska has been caught with their paws in the cookie jar. I would like to experience the mass frog walks and resignations. Just today Republicrook State Representative Vic Kohring raised the white flag "to focus on his defense against federal bribery and extortion charges."

I'm not sure when Don Young, Ted Stevens and Lisa Murkowski, all implicated in the burgeoning Alaska Republican scandals, will be indicted, arrested or charged. But I hope it's soon and it could certainly be any day. (And I'm in Montreal today, so halfway there anyway.) I also don't know if Rep. Kohring is going to plead guilty to murder, although he seems to imply there's something to that.

"I take the job as a legislator very seriously, but my life is on the line, so I have chosen to defend myself so I can prevail in court," Rep. Vic Kohring told The Associated Press. "It's a very, very ugly decision to have to make, frankly."

Posted by: alaskan politics | June 20, 2007 2:12 PM | Report abuse

I have only seen this story on ABC - why isn't anyone else covering it? And for that matter, wtf is the bush administration? This is happening, publicly and freely, and they're not DOING anything about it? How is there is 'war on terror' if they don't go after actual terrorists? Do you get the feeling they don't actually CARE about terrorism, just oi?

'Large teams of newly trained suicide bombers are being sent to the United States and Europe, according to evidence contained on a new videotape obtained by the Blotter on

Teams assigned to carry out attacks in the United States, Canada, Great Britain and Germany were introduced at an al Qaeda/Taliban training camp graduation ceremony held June 9.

A Pakistani journalist was invited to attend and take pictures as some 300 recruits, including boys as young as 12, were supposedly sent off on their suicide missions.

Photos: Inside an al Qaeda/Taliban 'Graduation'

The tape shows Taliban military commander Mansoor Dadullah, whose brother was killed by the U.S. last month, introducing and congratulating each team as they stood.

"These Americans, Canadians, British and Germans come here to Afghanistan from faraway places," Dadullah says on the tape. "Why shouldn't we go after them?"

The leader of the team assigned to attack Great Britain spoke in English.

"So let me say something about why we are going, along with my team, for a suicide attack in Britain," he said. "Whether my colleagues, companions and Muslim brothers die today or tonight, every drop of our blood will invigorate the Muslim (unintelligible)."

Video: Watch the Taliban's 'Graduation' Ceremony

U.S. intelligence officials described the event as another example of "an aggressive and sophisticated propaganda campaign."

Others take it very seriously.

"It doesn't take too many who are willing to actually do it and be able to slip through the net and get into the United States or England and cause a lot of damage," said ABC News consultant Richard Clarke, the former White House counterterrorism official.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 2:09 PM | Report abuse

The national "who will you vote for" polls are meaningless until after Thanksgiving, but pay attention to the polling on favorability and trustworthiness. A lot of the top tier of candidates still have a lot of room to make a name for themselves, and push up into the 60% range. Barack Obama is in great shape on favorable/unfavorable, polling at least +10 points in most polls, with a lot of undecideds. Guliani is also doing well, but I think that the scandal magnet will kill his favorables before too long. Overall, most of the top tier of candidates is in good shape for building a favorable image.

The one candidate with a significant problem here: Hillary Clinton, polling dead even favorable/unfavorable, with little or no undecideds. Look for this to hurt her down the line.

Posted by: JamesCH | June 20, 2007 2:04 PM | Report abuse

Maybe Rudy's campaign manager was selling some of that crack to Fred Thompson.

Just off the Reuters wire ...

Tougher sanctions or a blockade on Iran could help foment growing internal dissent to topple the government, former U.S. Republican senator Fred Thompson, a potential presidential candidate, said on Tuesday.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Later Update: Giuliani camp on Ravenel: we didn't know he was a crack dealer.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 1:40 PM | Report abuse

from Rasmussen, on Bloomberg:

"If no candidate wins a majority in the Electoral College, the top three candidates are submitted to the House of Representatives. Presumably, this would be a Democrat, a Republican, and Bloomberg. (see polling data)

The House would then vote, but the result would not be determined by the overall number of Representatives. According to the Constitution, each state gets to cast one vote... and a majority of all the states is required to select a President. That means a candidate needs to get the nod from 26 state delegations before moving into the White House.

Today, the Democrats control precisely 26 state delegations. Republicans control 21 and 3 are tied. But, many are closely divided. If the Democrats lose a single state delegation, they lose the majority needed to select a President on their own.

In at least 12 state delegations currently controlled by Democrats, the loss of a single representative would either shift control to the Republicans or create a deadlock. If the Democrats lose just a single net seat in any one of those twelve states, they lose control of the ability to select the next President in the House."

Posted by: more and better polls | June 20, 2007 1:20 PM | Report abuse

Richard Cohen, the Washington Post columnist, has been one of the most consistent liberal wusses for decades now. He is the newspaper equivalent of Alan Colmes, mushy through and through.

I stopped reading Cohen years ago but a friend told me that yesterday's column is not to be missed. In it, Cohen calls for clemency for Scooter Libby.

His main point is that since there was "no underlying crime," lying to the grand jury about it was no crime either.

No underlying crime!

Scooter Libby was a key part of a group of government officials who lied this country into a war that has cost us 3500 soldiers and destroyed an entire country.

It is a war we have lost and which we will be paying for decades hence.

Hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of people will never get over the losses they suffered as a result of Scooter (and his buddies' war). It is sad that Scooter is, at this point, the only one facing jail time. Feith, Perle and the whole bunch should be brought up on charges.

But, even Scooter alone, is better than nothing.

Richard Cohen feels bad for him. And why is that? It is because for Cohen, and those of his ilk, the affairs of government constitute just one big game. A game that ends in time for cocktails.

Cohen can relate to Libby, just the way James Carville does. They are all in the same club. And going to jail is so not the way things are done.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 1:17 PM | Report abuse

Why is CC asking now if 'national surveys matter'? Because the latest one indicates that Dems would be Repubs in every possible matchup -- which he conveniently doesn't mention here? Funny how polls 'don't matter' when they don't favor R's...

'Check out the numbers in the new Gallup poll released this morning. It finds that the top three Democratic candidates for president are all beating each of the top three Republicans in all nine possible matchups:

Clinton (D) 50%, Giuliani (R) 46%
Clinton (D) 49%, McCain (R) 46%
Clinton (D) 53%, Romney (R) 40%
Edwards (D) 50%, Giuliani (R) 45%
Edwards (D) 50%, McCain (R) 44%
Edwards (D) 61%, Romney (R) 32%
Obama (D) 50%, Giuliani (R) 45%
Obama (D) 48%, McCain (R) 46%
Obama (D) 57%, Romney (R) 36%

We keep hearing -- in the LA Times and elsewhere -- that voters are reluctant to support the actual Democratic candidates we have, especially Hillary. Numbers like these would seem to be telling a different story.

Posted by: Cassandra | June 20, 2007 1:14 PM | Report abuse

' Racially, it's only 5% black and 5% hispanic (which actually don't come too far from the median)'

you must be joking. the percentageof hispanics and blacks is MUCH higher than that... google it..

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 1:10 PM | Report abuse

A poll of the regular visitors to this website would be interesting, but the results would not look like any published poll, at all.

Posted by: more and better polls | June 20, 2007 1:09 PM | Report abuse

with her choice of celine dion for her campaign song, hillary has effectively alienated anyone with good taste in music.

Posted by: meuphys | June 20, 2007 12:49 PM | Report abuse

I don't think ANY polls matter that much at this point... of course, they tell us that the bottom-dwellers in each party, with the possible exceptions of Richardson and Huckabee, don't really have a shot. But does anyone know how many responding to these polls claim to have "made up their minds" on their choices? I would imagine that most are still waiting to commit themselves fully. Has anyone seen any numbers on this point?

Posted by: Bokonon | June 20, 2007 12:46 PM | Report abuse

Ummm, so you asked some guys who make their living taking national polls whether what they do for a living means anything. They said it does. Riiiight.

As for the persistant wingnut mancrush on Jack Bauer, even ignoring the rather disturbing implications of their fixation on fictional characters, they always seem to ignore the fact that when Jack did the crime, he was ready to do the time. The Wingnuts seem to believe that doing time is for little people.

Posted by: steve in NC | June 20, 2007 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Mark in Austin-

Too complicated to tell. I was born in IL, raised in WI & migrated to MN for work. Regarding the climate, I asked just last night a related question to a friend who migrated from Kenya, of all places: how did you end up in cold-country? Friends, apparently. Of course, she & I both married locals - multi-generational lutherans who can trace their MN roots back to Dakota Territory.

Posted by: bsimon | June 20, 2007 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Oh, yes, the question: are both states above average or only Minnesota?

Posted by: Mark in Austin | June 20, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Oh, yes, the question: are both states above average or only Minnesota?

Posted by: Mark in Austin | June 20, 2007 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Question for Craig and bsimon:

you two live in states that are too cold to be demographically representative. I get my info from "Prairie Home Companion" and I know that you are white Lutherans who elected 3 Jews and a Slovenian Congregationalist to the Senate and an African-American Moslem to the House. I know, I know, the Lutherans have to stay home to tend to business, and bsimon claims to be the product of a Catholic parochial school. But PHC tells all, and y'all are ABOVE AVERAGE.

Posted by: Mark in Austin | June 20, 2007 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Anonymous Coward writes
"Billions of US taxpayer dollars are missing in Iraq--at least $9 billion to be more precise--and many more billions are being wasted."

That is an interesting statistic. Back a topic or two, Gov Romney broaches the subject of eliminating government waste as part of his Third Leg plan. I wonder if the Governor would enlighten us with regards to his opinion on whether there is government waste in the war in Iraq specifically, or the 'war' on terrorism in general.

Posted by: bsimon | June 20, 2007 11:30 AM | Report abuse

Actually, I believe Wisconsin is the most average of any state. Racially, it's only 5% black and 5% hispanic (which actually don't come too far from the median), but it comes closest to the national average in all sorts of economic ways including median income, age distribution, etc.

Posted by: Craig | June 20, 2007 11:21 AM | Report abuse

Those Iowa numbers for McCain look absolutely disastrous.

Posted by: Eric | June 20, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

A bit of hilarity for political junkies:

'In the captivating new campaign video, "Ann Romney, Christmas 2006," she comes across as funny, honest, and refreshingly normal. So normal, in fact, you almost forget that she's narrating one of the strangest bits of campaign theater ever produced--a 13-minute behind-the-scenes look at Mitt Romney consulting his family about whether to run for president.

With its ridiculous premise, creepy intimacy, and hollow candidate, the Romney video ought to be unbearable to watch. But the opposite is true. When the camera's not on Romney, the video is irresistible. It's like watching a reality show set in the 1950s--in color. It's as if Jerry Mathers discovered a lost episode of Leave It to Beaver in which Ward Cleaver asks June, Wally, and the Beave whether he should challenge Vice President Nixon for the Republican nomination.

Individually, the Romney boys are as dull and wrinkle-free as their father. But put all five of them in one living room with their five wives and 10 children, and the Five Brothers' very sameness is hypnotic. The odds against having five boys in a row are 31 to 1. Five boys even more frighteningly wholesome--and shallow--than their father must be the result of extraterrestrial intervention or human cloning.

The Romney campaign released the video to coincide with Father's Day. (Over to you, Rudy and Andrew Giuliani!'

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 11:18 AM | Report abuse

Billions of US taxpayer dollars are missing in Iraq--at least $9 billion to be more precise--and many more billions are being wasted. It is a travesty that only four fraud cases are unsealed and in litigation, and even in those four cases, the Bush Administration is not participating. Moreover, it has swept such cases under the rug by obtaining and extending court orders sealing the cases when, by law, they are supposed to be sealed (secret) for only 60 days. Then after the cases are unsealed, the courts create and apply strict rules that have no basis in the statute.

As Lincoln said 144 years ago,

'Worse than traitors in arms are the men who pretend loyalty to the flag, feast and fatten on the misfortunes of the Nation, while patriotic blood is crimsoning the plains. . . and their countrymen moldering the dust."

And Rudy Guiliani is the worst of them.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 11:06 AM | Report abuse

When will the press ask Rudy about Iraq?

He has very consistently been ducking the issue for months. He's toed the party line opposing Democratic plans for a pull out. But he ignores the entire issue whenever possible. And when he's forced to address he deals with it as quickly as possible as just one part of the 'war on terror', says he really doesn't know how it's going to turn out, and then moves on to something else -- quickly.

A week ago, Greg Sargent flagged Rudy's eye-raising line that "We may be successful in Iraq; we may not be. I don't know the answer to that. That's in the hands of other people."

Posted by: rudy's cowardice | June 20, 2007 10:48 AM | Report abuse

I assume Scalia was just being his usual rollicking, hilarious self, but I do worry just a tad that he fails to understand that in real life there is no narrative arc and you can't change the script if it doesn't work. And I worry even more that he and his philosophical brethren forget that sometimes the "good guys" are actually the "bad guys" and when the "good guys" are given total latitude to decide what is and is not a "crisis" we will tend to find ourselves in one all the time.

This Jack Bauer phenomenon is getting out of hand. It's bad enough that average Americans get off on the idea that sometimes you just have to take the gloves off and pull somebody's fingernails out. And it's even worse that right wing talk show hosts believe that because "24" gets good ratings it should be taken as a national referendum in support of torture. But I guess I expect something a little bit more serious from Supreme Court judges -- even adorable pranksters like Scalia.

I'm certainly looking forward to the next 20 years of conservative judicial activism, aren't you? I knew they'd be rolling back as much progress as possible, but I didn't actually contemplate that they'd try to roll it all the way back to the Inquisition. Good to know.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 10:45 AM | Report abuse

How many time have you heard a republican use an example of a fictional tough guy [Clint Eastwood, Ronald Reagan, John wayne] from a TV show or movie as if it were real life? I honestly think they don't know the difference -- and it's really scary. That's why there's Fred Thompson:

'Senior judges from North America and Europe were in the midst of a panel discussion about torture and terrorism law, when a Canadian judge's passing joke - "Thankfully, security agencies in all our countries do not subscribe to the mantra 'What would Jack Bauer do?' " - got the legal bulldog in [Justice Antonin Scalia] barking.

The conservative jurist stuck up for Agent Bauer, arguing that fictional or not, federal agents require latitude in times of great crisis. "Jack Bauer saved Los Angeles. ... He saved hundreds of thousands of lives," Judge Scalia said. '

This guy is a freaking lunatic.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 10:43 AM | Report abuse

"Chris Matthews caused some eyes to roll (and some heads to explode) last week when, musing on the 'sex appeal' of Fred Thompson, he asked:

Can you smell the English leather on this guy, the Aqua Velva, the sort of mature man's shaving cream, or whatever, you know, after he shaved? Do you smell that sort of -- a little bit of cigar smoke?

"And now, courtesy of 'Hotline,' comes this comment by CNN anchor Alina Cho after the network aired an interview with Mitt Romney this morning:

He looks great, sounds great, smells great.'

What is it with the pundits and their crush on Mitt Romney -- both male and female? How much does it make your skin crawl to hear Chris Matthews has been sniffing him like a dog?

What in god's name is wrong with the press corp in this country? A pack of poodles and lap dogs.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

The Iowa survey seems spot on.

Obviously the GOP is still thrashing around as unannounced Fred is their second choice.

Rudy is in for an even bigger slide in Iowa after his NY raspberry to the August straw poll and losing his Iowa point man, Bag Man Nussle, to Bush's OMB. No Big Mo there.

The Dem race is close which I tend to think is an accurate picture. I distrust the Hillary is inevitable push and the polls used to support the selling of that foregone conclusion.

Posted by: Truth Hunter | June 20, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

"SC looks far more like the nation than Iowa racially and demographically."

It's not how they look, it's how they think. There are huge philosophical diferences in similarly looking areas which are in different geographic locations.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 10:29 AM | Report abuse

I'm with the people who said that if John Edwards is polling a distant third / single digits in his home state, he is done. The other bits that stands out are McCain's numbers in Iowa & SC. Perhaps it is just the 'freshness' of Thompson's candidacy that generates 3 to 4 times the support McCain has - but if that ratio stays constant, McCain, too, is likely done.

Posted by: bsimon | June 20, 2007 10:24 AM | Report abuse

Perhaps instead of national polls, the better indicators would be prediction/stock markets, such as Intrade or TradeSports. Considering people are essentially betting money on the outcome, I'd imagine that they've done more homework on the candidates than the average American.

Posted by: dc law student | June 20, 2007 10:16 AM | Report abuse

the ne may be more densely populated, but souhtern states are more populous in total than northeastern states. you could look it up.

anyway, that is why the dems overestiamte their strength. they live close to each other.

Posted by: southerner | June 20, 2007 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Aussie, NJ is a good guess on race and hispanic ethnicity, I think.

But NJ is heavily Roman Catholic and also has a relatively large Jewish population. Also, NJ's urban-to-rural mix is heavily urban, even if it is "The Garden State."

There are more Moslems than Jews in America, but probably Moslems constitute a stronger voting group in Michigan than anywhere else.

I never thought of this in quite the light you raise. I am guessing that there are no demographically representative states in the USA.

Has anyone who posts here looked at the Census data?

Posted by: Mark in Austin | June 20, 2007 10:00 AM | Report abuse

And that effects the party primaries in SC, democratic particularly how?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 9:59 AM | Report abuse

'SC looks far more like the nation than Iowa racially and demographically'

Not psychographically -- it's the South, after all. Leaning far more R and very different from the more populous Northeast. Not really representative of the nation as a whole.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 9:54 AM | Report abuse

Which state would be the best microcosm of the US in terms of diversity? I'm guessing somewhere like New Jersey...?

Posted by: Aussie view | June 20, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

How about McCain's collapse! Behind Huckabee and tied with Brownback in Iowa. Not to mention his 4th place showing in South Carolina.

Posted by: Swint | June 20, 2007 9:31 AM | Report abuse

NC Guy -

You said:

"SC looks far more like the nation than Iowa racially and demographically."

In fact, SC's Ds are racially much, much, more African-American than Ds in most states, or in the nation as a whole, and far less Hispanic than the southwest, at least.

Posted by: Mark in Austin | June 20, 2007 8:21 AM | Report abuse

By the way, here is a nice primer on these issues:

Before the Iowa primary, Dean was at 31% nationally. Kerry and Edwards were at 9% and 5% respectively. That pretty much tells you what you need to know about the predictive abilities of national polls.

By the way, lest this be considered a purely anti-Clinton argument, look at the front end of the poll at that link. Dean did not take over decisive frontrunner status from Kerry until late-October/November (that is about four months from now, if you are keeping track). So, this is also consistent with a scenario in which Clinton loses her frontrunner status this fall, and then uses Iowa and/or NH to get it back in time to win the nomination.

Again, all this just points out how little we really get from national polls before the primaries have begun.

Posted by: DTM | June 20, 2007 8:18 AM | Report abuse

Do national polls matter?

Not yet!

Posted by: Anonymous | June 20, 2007 8:14 AM | Report abuse

As an aside, asking pollsters whether national polls have meaning is a little like asking beer companies if light beer is less filling but still tastes great.

Anyway, I agree with the Feiler Faster Thesis, and I think that despite the compressed schedule there will be plenty of time for people to react to the results in early primary states. For example, if Clinton pulls a Dean in Iowa (meaning a distant third place finish--it would be easy for the press to conjure up a "scream" event to go with it), her campaign could be just as finished at that point as Dean's was. And as Dean's experience showed, that could be true no matter how favorable Clinton's national polling might be going into Iowa. In fact, Dean's subsequent loss to Kerry in New Hampshire despite a huge lead in the NH polls prior to Iowa (I think Dean's lead in NH before Iowa was up to something like 30%) shows how quickly and dramatically the public can react to primary events.

Another fundamental problem is that it is June of 2007 and few people nationally are paying serious attention to the campaigns at this point. So, regardless of whether national polls in, say, the beginning of January might be meaningful, national polls today just can't tell us much.

Posted by: DTM | June 20, 2007 8:04 AM | Report abuse

Do national polls rely on the land line telephone?

Are cell phone folks underrepresented?

If so, what does that mean?

Posted by: ??? | June 20, 2007 7:54 AM | Report abuse

I think in this case the SC poll definitely matters. If haven't heard, John Edwards was born in SC and claims only he can win in the south. However, he is polling a distant third to Obama and Hillary. SC looks far more like the nation than Iowa racially and demographically. He is also polling the same in SC as nationally, darn close anyway, and a distant third.

Posted by: NC Guy | June 20, 2007 7:00 AM | Report abuse

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