If Polling were Illegal, Who Would You Support?
“Electability” is a canard.
Richard Nixon appeared on the Jack Paar show on February 20th, 1963. Paar asked him, “Of all the possible republican candidates, who would be the best to beat Kennedy?”
“Which one?” Nixon replied. With one Kennedy in the White House, one as the Attorney General of the United States, and a third Kennedy just elected to the Senate, the laughing audience got the joke.
Paar replied, “Don’t you just hate a smart-alecky Vice President?” Paar expected, of course, for Nixon to make some reference to Nixon himself being the “best” candidate to take on Kennedy in a redux of 1960. Instead, he got a fun, glib answer from a man famous for his lack of chirpy candor. Nixon went on to entertain the audience with some hipster piano-playing that rather invoked Buddy Love from the Nutty Professor.
The appearance on the Jack Paar show occurred some four months after Nixon’s famous “Last Press Conference”, which was the final coda to his failed California gubernatorial bid, in which he flipped the verbal bird at the press mob and told them to enjoy the moment, because the vultures in the press wouldn’t “have Nixon to kick around anymore”. A Time magazine reporter left that meeting and wrote: “Barring a miracle, Vice President Nixon’s political career is over”.
So, it was this walking political corpse the audience witnessed of Richard Nixon, that night, four months later, all those long years ago on the Jack Paar Show. A widely regarded political wag wrote that, if Nixon had demonstrated the suave, at-ease side of himself that he did that night in 1963, Nixon would have beaten Kennedy in 1960. But, by 1963, Nixon was a political Dead Man Walking; –And it would take a miracle to resurrect him.
In 1972, running for his re-election as the 37th president, Nixon beat George McGovern by some 22,000,000 votes. Not bad for a political corpse.
In politics, “miracles” are astonishingly commonplace. And, they really aren’t miracles.
But, if the well-heeled, well-connected wags in the political warehousing business say it, it must be true. Time Magazine said Nixon’s career was over. If Time said it, for criminny sake, it must be true. Likewise today, if Karl Rove says it’s a two-man race for the Republican nomination, it must be a two-man race. If Pat Caddell says Michele Bachmann is a nut-job, well, she must be a nut-job. Charlie Cook sez that Barack Obama has 217 electoral votes sewn up, so, voila! 217 electoral votes it is. If Scott Rasmussen says Mitt Romney has 31 percent of primary voters locked up, it must be true.
But, remember Mark Sanford? Anybody? Buhler? Politics can, and always does, change on a dime. Suppose Mitt Romney says at his next press conference that he’s been “brainwashed” into thinking Barack Obama is such a bad, bad man. For insight into this, Google “George Romney” and “Brainwashing” for a window into what can happen, primary-wise.
Not a single vote has been cast, and won’t be, for nearly four months. At that, these votes will be cast in relatively small states with Republican voters that aren’t entirely representative of the broader moods of the party as a whole. For contrast, how would things look right now if the “first in the nation” primary were held in, say, Alabama, or Georgia? How would the polls look? It is tenuous political fiction that polls of any sort mean anything right now, and yet, as all the RedState political junkies can attest, it is an animating dynamic; so animating that we pore over them, disect them, pay for them, drool over their latest sputters and burps.
But, they mean nothing if Rick Perry is photographed tomorrow stumbling out of a Texas interstate Rest Area wearing a cocktail dress– and this is where the lie is put to the enduring flatulence of “electability”.
Stop thinking about candidates as numbers on a poll matrix. Think of them as potential leaders.
If it was illegal to conduct or publish the results of a political poll– who would you support?