Monday, November 20, 2006

NOTE TO SELF: STOP OBSESSING

Anonymous Liberal, guest blogging over at The Carpetbagger Report, splashed some metaphorical cold water on my face yesterday as he gave a look at some early 2008 presidential polling. As I've noted numerous times, I enjoy the early polls and straw polls especially. No rhyme or reason I suppose; I guess I just enjoy the hazy look into the future they can provide. Well, AL is having none of it.

The basis for his disdain is a new Pew poll out with its early frontrunners:

Republicans
Rudy Giuliani……….27%
John McCain……….26%
Condoleeza Rice…..21%
Mitt Romney………..7%
Newt Gingrinch…….6%

Democrats
Hillary Clinton……..39%
Barack Obama…….23%
John Edwards……..10%
Al Gore…………….10%
John Kerry…………7%

So what does this mean? Is Hillary a lock? Is Giuliani in the driver’s seat? No and no.The bottomline is this: these polls are all but meaningless. Perhaps nothing illustrates this point better than looking back at polls from this point in the last election cycle. For example, a Fox News poll conducted in January of 2003 (which was closer to the election than we are now) reported the following results:

Joe Lieberman……29%
Dick Gephardt……15%
John Kerry………..13%
John Edwards…….8%
Al Sharpton……….5%
Howard Dean……..2%

In fact, throughout 2002 and much of 2003, Joe Lieberman led in virtually every poll. Did that mean that Lieberman had some deep base of support among Democratic primary voters? Of course not. All this reflected was the fact that Lieberman had the highest name recognition of anyone in the field by virtue of his status as the Vice Presidential candidate in 2000.

...

Take Rudy Giuliani, for example. He polls well because most people know who he is. But I suspect most Republican voters don’t know very much about the guy, and the more they learn, the more likely they will be to reconsider their support. Conversely, most Republican primary voters don’t know who Mitt Romney is. But, like Howard Dean in 2004, Romney may well emerge as a real contender as we get closer to the actual primaries.

The Democratic side is even more interesting. Four out of the five candidates topping the polls are people who have significant name recognition. Gore, Kerry, and Edwards are all former national candidates. And Hillary is, well, Hillary. But notice that the least well known (by far) among the five, Barack Obama, is already polling at 23%. That strikes me as far more significant than any other data point in the poll.

And, of course, you always have to be on the lookout for the person who will inevitably emerge from total obscurity to become an important player. It happens almost every cycle.Long story short, don’t read too much into these polls.


I think AL makes some really excellent points, including the name recognition factor. One candidate in particular, Romney, is someone who I'm favoring given my big love for governors-as-prez-candidates and the fact that he's putting together quite an operation (the guy just bought Clear Channel for crissakes!), including his courting of bigtime Bush donors. And his last paragraph lends credence to my Mike Huckabee theory, as he fits the bill of obscurity while still being a governor (Arkansas). His time is growing short to make a big splash, but I still see him having potential.

On the Dem side, he also makes a good point about Barack Obama, a man who entered the national scene in a somewhat limited capacity just two years ago. For him to already be polling this strong this early bodes well for him.

Still, AL does make the most important point of all; this stuff means next to nothing. Still, if nothing else, I'll be able to look back on this 18 months from now and see just how right or wrong some of my ramblings may have been.

1 comment:

myclob said...

I like the "big love" reference.

Romney is no longer the CEO of clear channel, does not run them any more. I do not know who their current CEO is but it has been a long time sense Romney worked there. I bet most of the people who work there (has it been 20 years) know little about Romney...

I bet current employees of the company, would laugh to think that their purchase of clear channel has any benifit for Romney... Just my opinion, I may be wrong...