As many as 26 percent of likely Republican voters in key states have not decided which candidate will get their vote in 2008.
That conclusion comes from ccAdvertising, which conducts polls for a range of candidates and members of Congress.
“Undecided is winning,” Gabriel Joseph III, president of ccAdvertising, tells me. “The largest group of voters are people who just haven’t made up their minds yet.”
According to ccAdvertising’s latest poll, Rudy Giuliani challenges Mr. Undecided. Giuliani leads with support from 25.5 percent of those who say they will vote in Republican caucuses or primaries in California, Florida, Iowa, New Hampshire, New York, and South Carolina. Th next three candidates are essentially tied — Fred Thompson with 15.4 percent, Mitt Romney with 14.2 percent, and John McCain with 13.2 percent. Final results will be released Wednesday.
Most pollsters do not emphasize how many people are undecided. Given that recent presidential elections have been won by a margin of 5 percent of the tally or less, the number of undecided votes spotlights how ephemeral polls are.
Confirming that, pollster Joseph notes that polls are nothing more than a quick snapshot of voter sentiment. In fact, he says that polls right now mostly measure name recognition.
“What you’re seeing at this point is a popularity contest,” Joseph says. “The polls are measuring name-awareness. I believe that people are telling our surveys who they’re going to vote for by what they hear. Whether it’s good or bad right now, all they do is hear the names. Fred Thompson’s name has been bandied about a lot. People have heard Fred Thompson, Fred Thompson, Fred Thompson. So they’re more likely to say they’ll vote for him.”
Romney campaign operatives have been banking on Joseph’s take. They point out that in the states where they have focused their efforts — Iowa and New Hampshire — Romney is winning. But only 64 percent of Americans have heard of him.
On the other hand, John McCain’s name recognition is 87 percent, according to a Gallup Poll, and the fact that McCain has been going down in the polls suggests that more than name recognition is at stake. Just before he declared his candidacy, Thompson’s name recognition was a surprisingly low 56 percent.
Early presidential front-runners litter the political landscape — Elizabeth Dole, Howard Dean, and Edward M. Kennedy, to name a few. But it’s not in the interests of either political reporters or pollsters to emphasize their uncertainty in calling the horse race.
On top of these considerations, polling has been facing growing voter concerns about privacy.
“Pollsters right now are struggling to get people to respond to their surveys,” Joseph says. “Because fewer and fewer people are responding to their surveys, two things are happening: They’re going back to a pre-existing survey base — people that have answered before, will answer again. Number two, because when they get somebody willing to talk to them, they want to gather a lot of other data at the same time, the surveys are getting longer.”
When surveys become longer, fewer people complete them, and the results are not counted. So, Joseph says, polls are becoming less reliable as more responses are discarded. Joseph’s company asks a limited number of questions over the telephone using a computerized voice-recognition system for calling people.
“We have the databases and the speed to just keep going until we get the number of respondents that our company and our clients need,” Joseph says.
“What we are doing is measuring what people’s attitudes are today,” he says. “And right now, Mr. Undecided is the winner.”
Alan Greenspan’s Confusion
Alan Greenspan may have been a great Federal Reserve Board chairman, but his take on national security issues seems confused at best. First, Bob Woodward reported last week that Greenspan’s new book "The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World" refers to what Greenspan calls the “politically inconvenient” fact that the Iraq war was “largely about oil.”
Subsequently, Woodward interviewed Greenspan, who said it was he who believed that removal of Saddam Hussein was “essential” to secure world oil supplies, a point he emphasized to the White House in private conversations before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
“I was not saying that that’s the administration’s motive,” Greenspan told Woodward for a Washington Post story. “I’m just saying that if somebody asked me, ‘Are we fortunate in taking out Saddam?’ I would say it was essential.”
Now, in a Wall Street Journal interview, Greenspan says he is puzzled over President Bush’s and Vice President Cheney’s continued advocacy of aggressive anti-terrorism policies that he says have the effect of curtailing civil liberties. If there had been additional terrorist attacks in the U.S. after Sept. 11, he said, “Cheney’s and Bush’s view would be now far more prevalent" in the U.S. But “when events changed, they held the views that they previously held.” He added that while he doesn’t like their stance, “I don’t know what should have been done otherwise” because he lacks the access to classified information that they have.
It doesn’t require a security clearance to know that al-Qaida and its franchises are plotting to wipe out the U.S. As FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III has told me, bin Laden and his terrorist group desperately want to obtain nuclear devices and explode them in American cities, especially New York and Washington, D.C.
The primary reason we have not been attacked in more than six years is Bush’s aggressive policies and the hard work of the FBI and CIA, which constantly roll up plots and terrorists. Thus, the fact that we have not been attacked points to the success of Bush administration policies. Presumably, if Greenspan’s home alarm system never went off, he would drop the service because events had changed, and he no longer perceived a threat from intruders.
If Greenspan had applied the same heads-in-the-sand approach to the economy, we would be in big trouble.
Ronald Kessler is chief Washington correspondent of NewsMax.com. View his previous reports and get his dispatches sent to you free via e-mail. Go here now.
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