John McCain will win the presidential election, Kellyanne Conway, one of the country’s most respected Republican pollsters, tells Newsmax.
Even before McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, Conway was telling clients and select Republican groups and members of Congress that McCain would win.
In the past, Conway’s predictions have been eerily accurate. In the 2004 presidential race, she won the Washington Post’s Crystal Ball Award. Nine days before the election, she predicted the precise outcome in the popular vote — 51 percent for George Bush and 48 percent for John Kerry.
Conway is president and CEO of the Polling Co., a firm she founded. But she doesn’t base her predictions on every fluctuation of the polls. Rather, she looks to polls to tell her what qualities voters care about in a candidate. Then she applies her own political instincts to the results.
“I predicted the 2004 race not based on horse race numbers,” Conway says. “I stopped looking at horse race numbers, including my own polls. Because they all said the same thing, as they do now: 48-46, 47-47, 50-45, 45-48. It’s always going to be tighter than a shrink-wrapped mummy.”
Instead, she says, "I look at what the polls say about attributes. I noticed in 2004 that George W. Bush led John Kerry by double digits for eight straight months on the question of who is more likely to take a position and stick with it." Conway decided that in the 2004 election, such consistency was “treasured currency to voters.” After all, it was the first presidential election since the 9/11 attacks. “There’s so much uncertainty in the world,” she reasoned. “I didn’t believe people wanted to invite more uncertainly and insecurity in their national leadership.”
In particular, Conway figured that Kerry’s reputation as a flip-flopper would matter to women.
“Women don’t like to rock the boat politically or otherwise, and particularly for women voters, they were going to look for a more sure-footed anchor in the storm,” she says. “To women, a flip-flopper is the functional equivalent of the guy who never calls, and always changes his mind.”
A Focus on Leadership
Fast forwarding to 2008, Conway says voters still want those attributes of steadiness, consistency, and principled leadership in their president.
“Now instead of focusing on likeability in the campaign, we’re seeing a focus on leadership,” she says. “Instead of covering biography, we’re covering experience. Instead of only hearing about hope, we’re talking about the Hanoi Hilton again. In other words, we’re talking about what credentials really matter to most voters.”
Conway notes that a lot of polls ask about likeability: With whom would you rather go to the baseball game? With whom would you rather have a beer? Who would you rather have watch your kids for a couple of hours on a Saturday?
“I’m thinking, with three kids under the age of 4, some Saturdays I’d take any of the candidates,” Conway says. “But these polling questions are not the way the average American looks at the presidential candidates. The average American is more focused on leadership than likeability. And more focused on qualifications than quality of speakership.”
Voters ask themselves a second question about a candidate, Conway says: Are you like me?
“That’s really where Palin has been able to punch up the volume and the excitement and even the content of this ticket, because she’s so relatable,” Conway observes. “She has the common touch. She has connective tissue with the average voter.”
In contrast, “Very few people know anybody like John McCain, someone who suffered and had his body, yet not his spirit, broken for six years as a POW and who has served his nation,” Conway says. “And yet, everybody knows someone like Sarah Palin. They either are her, or they know someone who is like her. They admire that type of organization and moxie and commitment to family.”
Palin “signaled to many professional women, myself included, that maybe you can have it all, all at the same time; but you just need to be a very organized, time-efficient person who completely strips your life of extracurricular activities,” Conway says. “No golf, no boyfriends,” she says, adding, “I say that tongue in cheek because it seems to me that a lot of traditional politicians quite often have affairs.”
Besides her acumen, those kind of quotes help explain why the telegenic blond pollster is in constant demand for television appearances. Yet stories that delve into her personal background are almost non-existent.
Conway, 41, grew up in the south New Jersey town of Atco. She admits to winning the 1982 New Jersey Blueberry Princess pageant. But she says it is more relevant that in 1987, she was named the World Champion Blueberry Packer. For eight summers beginning at age 12, she had been packing blueberries on a farm and was known as the fastest blueberry packer.
Conway’s Irish father owned a small trucking company, and her Italian mother worked at a bank. They divorced when she was 3.
“I grew up in a house with my mom and her mom, and two of my mother’s unmarried sisters,” Conway says. “So four Italian Catholic women raised me. I grew up in a house where we never had a single political discussion, ever. We had pictures of like the Last Supper and the family dog on the wall.”
Conway traces her conservative outlook to growing up in a household “where family and faith and self-reliance were premier. We were not encouraged or allowed to complain or talk about what we didn’t have.”
In her senior year in high school, Conway watched the nominating conventions on TV.
“I thought, 'I’m going to have a great deal of commonality with Geraldine Ferraro,'” she remembers. “But I found myself much more riveted with and in agreement with what Ronald Reagan had to say and what the Republican convention had to say. His messages were optimistic yet sensible and realistic.”
In 1989, Conway graduated magna cum laude from Trinity College and was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa. She studied at Oxford University, then obtained a law degree from George Washington University Law Center.
After practicing law, she began her polling career at the Wirthlin Group, a GOP polling organization that worked for Ronald Reagan.
She moved on to Luntz Research Companies, then founded her own company in 1995. Her clients have included Newt Gingrich, Microsoft, ABC News, American Express, the National Rifle Association, and Major League Baseball.
In 2001, at the age of 34, Kellyanne Fitzpatrick married George Conway, a New York lawyer. Their twins, George and Claudia, are almost 4; their daughter Charlotte is 6 months old. After living in Washington for 20 years, Conway now lives in Alpine, N.J.
Affirmation of Conservative Principles
Conway sees the Palin phenomenon as a reaffirmation of conservative principles. While she predicts McCain-Palin will win, she says the Democrats will still control the Senate and likely the House.
“In the Senate and the House, we’re up against too many environmental negatives,” she says. “Over 30 retirements in the House of Representatives, some of them in non-safe Republican seats. Of the 33 U.S. Senate seats up for election this year, around 21 are held by Republicans.”
Besides having attributes voters admire, McCain and Palin possess cultural and political views that are more closely aligned with a majority of the country than do Barack Obama and Joe Biden, Conway says.
“Obama is ideologically closer to the six unsuccessful Democratic presidential candidates of the last 40 years—McGovern, Humphrey, Mondale, Gore, Kerry, Dukakis — than he is ideologically aligned to the two successful Democratic presidential candidates, Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter,” Conway says.
Given Obama’s lack of experience, Conway notes, the Democrats’ effort to paint Palin as inexperienced has backfired.
“Much of the venom towards her by the mainstream media is because they don’t know anybody like her,” Conway points out, in an observation that helps explain media bias in general against Republicans.
“Outside of the 'Brady Bunch' sitcom, they don’t know anybody who has five children; they don’t know anybody who owns a gun; they certainly don’t know anybody who went ahead and gave birth to a Down syndrome baby given, quote, 'all the other choices,'” Conway says.
Palin is not like “many in the mainstream media because she didn’t go to an Ivy League school and they did, and also because she was a successful jock and they weren’t,” Conway says. “Can you picture half of these folks being picked for kickball in the fourth grade? There’s a great deal of friction there because I think many of them literally believe she’s beneath them.”
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of Newsmax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via
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