Pro Clinton Push Poll Reported In California (UPDATED)

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.

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  • Holly_in_Cincinnati

    Of course, Obama's supporters could be doing the push-poll and the email could have gone by way of Timbuktu.

  • AustinRoth

    Slightly unrelated question.

    Where have all the TMV commentators gone? It used to be that less than 10 – 15 comments was 'light' commenting, and that 40 or 50, or even more, wasn't uncommon.

    With each passing week, the number of 0 comment posts, or those with 5 or less, seems to be increasing dramatically.

    Thoughts?

  • casualobserver

    Stop in over at the dark side, AR. The missing side to the balanced equation can be found there.

  • cosmoetica

    Austin: I've been commenting at TMV for almost its full 4 years. Look at the number of bloggers on board and posts per day. If there are 200 potential comments a day, and only 5 or 6 posts a day, do the math. If there are now 25-30 posts a day, do the math. The number of bloggers and posters has outgrown the growth of readers and commenters.

    Quite simple.

  • http://writeslikeshetalks.com Jillmz

    I hate pushpolling, really hate it. I've written about it a few times when it's come to my home, whether it's candidate-oriented or issue-oriented.

  • Jim_Satterfield

    I would hope that if push polls receive enough publicity there would be a push back. A hard push back.

  • StockBoySF

    Holly- I guess you could be right- any of the other candidates could be doing the push poll as a set-up for Hillary's campaign. News gets out that Hillary is doing a push-poll, Hillary is cast as a sleazy politician in the media and her opponents all win). But that would mean that whoever is doing the push poll is taking a risk that it wouldn't lure more voters to Hillary than would turn against her. We've already seen the tactics Hillary uses- there aren't too many sleazy tactics she hasn't used yet. A push-poll aimed at her opponents is to be expected.

    Also, if the push-poll is done as a set-up of Hillary, by an opponent, I would have done it to minimize any risk to my delegate pool. It would make more sense to do the push-poll in a smaller market where Hillary is clearly ahead. Not only that, but it would have to be done in one of those states with the “winner takes all” delegates. That way if the push-poll didn't pay off, I wouldn't be putting my delegate count at risk (the reason why you would do a sham push-poll in a state where you're already losing). The aim of the sham push-poll would be to create a backlash against Hillary. All that needs to be done is get it in the national news cycle.

    No, if this is a push-poll, it would be by Hillary (or her supporters). It wouldn't be by one of her opponents. Not this particular one, anyway. At least that's my take. Subject to change as more facts come out.

    I suppose if this gets reported in the broader media (I haven't seen anything else on it), Hillary will deny any knowledge. Funny how her supporters seem to be the most zealous in using dirty tactics…

  • joegandelman

    Just because you don't see comments doesn't mean we don't have readers. This goes in spurts. We also have a different off site commenting system now. We have more posts than we have in a long time now because we have a lot of cowriters sign up BUT that is no guarentee than on X day you'll only see 4 new posts…on others more. Never judge a blog readership by comments. Comments make up only a small portion of a blog's overall readership. With THAT SAID please keep this thread commenting on the issue. Nothing is more boring that blogs that get fixated in comments with a discussion of the mechanics of a blog. I think this issue is important.

    Also, there are very few instances of a push poll done by a candidate to blame on the other candidate. The RISK is too great. Also, the Clinton camp has turned off a LOT of people (including Democratic bigwigs) due to the kinds of tactics used. There is a pattern here. Ask any political reporter and they will not be able to give you an instances of a candidate who rigged push polling so they could leak a story about push polling to get the publicity to hurt the other side.

    Again the risk is TOO GREAT for that. Push polling is believed to WORK. If the Clinton camp wanted the could have denied this immediately.

    I worked in the media and when you contact someone over and over and they don't get back to you for a denial..three is usually a reason why. And if they do not get back to you and it's a matter of forgettting or messing up, that person the news outlet contacted needs to be fired or transferred. Stories DO get run on a deadline and the rules of the game are understood by campaigns and p.r. people. Not responding won't stop a story from being run and all it would have taken is a short statement. But the didn't do it.

  • daveinboca

    Of course, Hillary will claim she's being set up as Holly suggests. Then her husband will come along and claim she's been “exonerated:” Of course, Bill has said this about other little episodes in Hillary's career, but she’s never been exonerated about the cattle futures windfalls, since there was never full disclosure.

    And she’s never been exonerated about having her so-called health care task force operate in secret in direct violation of the law. In fact, that was confirmed.

    Of course, she’s never been exonerated about any of the Castle Grande lies and overbillings – or how the missing Rose Law billing records just happened to show up near her office, conveniently, right after the statute of limitations expired. Although Bill claimed she was, she’s never been exonerated for her role in the Whitewater development…but hey, that was only a simple resort scam designed to fleece seniors.

    She’s never been exonerated about her role in the disgraceful Travel Office scandal, where nonpartisan career government employees all lost their jobs to make room for her friends, nor for trying to cover it up with a fraudulent IRS audit and criminal charges against Billy Dale – charges which took a jury only minutes to laugh out of court. And of course, the Vince Foster suicide, which had her rummaging through his office while his body was still warm.

    How about the FBI files on her political opponents, which were illegally obtained by her chosen aide, Craig Livingstone? How much of that information did she copy? How much does she still have and plan to use? Exonerated? I don’t think so.

    As I recall, one of the deputy independent counsels during Whitewater even prepared a draft indictment of her for perjury, which Janet Reno quashed. That’s not exoneration either.

    And the Hsu campaign donation “bundling,” which hasn't really been seriously investigated. Her husband was disbarred for perjury, but so far she hasn't had to undergo Grand Jury proceedings for dozens of serious felonious charges.

    Does anyone actually think she will be investigated for the push-polling in CA? She knows she's virtually immune from prosecution no matter what crimes she commits in pursuit of political and financial goals.

  • Idiosyncrat

    Mark Blumenthal's take at pollster.com on why he doesn't think it was a push poll but rather a message-testing survey here:

    http://www.pollster.com/blogs/proclinton_push_p

  • http://mythoughtworld.com Chad

    I concur, Joe. Comments are a poor indicator of a site's readership to be sure. I have experienced this myself at our humble blog, where many of our readers email me personally with comments and/or content submissions. We have a respectable amount of traffic, but you wouldn't know that from looking at the recent comments in the forum.

    Also, the fact that the campaign ignored the push poll query just makes them look guilty, even if they aren't. PR people are all to aware of this, yet in this instance, they chose not to release a short statement decrying their innocence. Why? Having worked as both a writer and senior editor in printed media myself, I can readily attest to the cold shouldered stodginess surrounding those who often have something to hide.