First, came the controversies about the innuendos about Senator Barack Obama, the apologies and the occasional resignation (after the info was thrust into the news cycle). Next came The Bill Clinton offensive and display of the race card. And now comes this L.A. Times’ blog report about push polling — again coming from supporters of Senator Hillary Clinton:
[UPDATE: Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall has his doubts about the veracity of this story since it reportedly ran 20 minutes and the story was sourced to just one person. Click on the link and read his post. Also read Pollster.com's take. ]
Ed Coghlan was just starting to prepare his dinner in the northern San Fernando Valley the other night when the phone rang. The caller was very friendly. He identified himself as a pollster who wanted to ask registered independents like Coghlan a few questions about the presidential race and all the candidates for Super Tuesday’s California primary.
Ed, who’s a former news director for a local TV station, was curious. He said, “Sure, go ahead.”
But a few minutes into the conversation Ed says he noticed a strange pattern developing to the questions. First of all, the “pollster” was only asking about four candidates, three Democrats — Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, who was still in the race at the time — and one Republican — John McCain.
Also, every question about Clinton was curiously positive, Coghlan recalls. The caller said things like, if you knew that Sen. Clinton believed the country had a serious home mortgage problem and had made proposals to….
freeze mortgage rates and save families from foreclosure, would you be more likely or less likely to vote for her?
Ed said, of course, more likely.
Every question about the other candidates was negative. If Ed knew, for instance, that as a state senator Obama had voted “present” 43 times instead of taking a yes or no stand “for what he believed,” would Ed be more or less likely to vote for him?
Please note that all sides call push polling sleazy and almost all politicians officially decry it (when it happens to them). MORE:
“That’s when I caught on,” said Coghlan. He realized then that he was being push-polled. That malicious political virus that is designed not to elicit answers but to spread positive information about one candidate and negative information about all others under the guise of an honest poll had arrived in Southern California within days of the important election.
It could become an issue in the closing hours of the campaign.
Someone who obviously favors Hillary Clinton is paying an unidentified company to spread this material phone call by phone call among independent voters, who can, according to California party rules, opt to vote in the Democratic but not the Republican primary on Feb. 5, when nearly two dozen states will choose a large chunk of the delegates to the parties’ national conventions next summer.
According to the LA Times’ blog Top of the Ticket, Coghlan was turned off by this but played along to hear the whole thing.
And the Clinton campaign? Did they immediately deny it and/or denounce it and say they not only had no part in it but they completely repudiate such tactics?
Phil Singer, the spokesman for the Clinton campaign. was contacted by e-mail last night. He answered that he was there. He was asked if the Clinton campaign was behind the push-poll, knew who was behind it or had any other information on it. That was at 5:27 p.m. Pacific time Saturday. As of this item’s posting time, exactly eight hours later, no reply had been received.
Silence is sometimes eloquent — particularly if it seems to be part of a distinct pattern.