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President Obumble: Letterman, Univision, 60 Minutes, The View and the UN; and the Quinnipiac Twist

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Comments on the latest rigged-game polls from Quinnipiac in a moment and the tie in Rasmussen this morning, but first, the president’s U.N. speech.

It did not register with folks right away yesterday, but the president’s assertion at the U.N. yesterday that “The future must not belong to the slanderers of the prophert of Islam,” is a puzzling and troubling declaration from anyone but especially from a president of the United States.

Here is the context:

The future must not belong to those who target Coptic Christians in Egypt – it must be claimed by those in Tahrir Square who chanted “Muslims, Christians, we are one.” The future must not belong to those who bully women – it must be shaped by girls who go to school, and those who stand for a world where our daughters can live their dreams just like our sons. The future must not belong to those corrupt few who steal a country’s resources – it must be won by the students and entrepreneurs; workers and business owners who seek a broader prosperity for all people. Those are the women and men that America stands with; theirs is the vision we will support.

The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam. But to be credible, those who condemn that slander must also condemn the hate we see in the images of Jesus Christ that are desecrated, or churches that are destroyed, or the Holocaust that is denied. Let us condemn incitement against Sufi Muslims, and Shia pilgrims. It is time to heed the words of Gandhi: “Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth of a true democratic spirit.” Together, we must work towards a world where we are strengthened by our differences, and not defined by them. That is what America embodies. That’s the vision we will support.

As I asked on yesterday’s show, what portion of these remarks will be excerpted and played on Al Jazeera and on Jihadist websites across the world? Of course the ringing expression that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.”

What does “slander” mean? Does it include disputing the divine writ of Mohammed, and if so, did the president appear to come out on the side of theocracy wherever it can be established? He spoke of opposition to the bullying of women, but what about freedom for and equality of women under any idea of universal human rights?

No, here the context does not help the president. The blunder among all these pretty phrases is too immense. The president should never have said such a thing. It was a horrible mistake to do so. The debate moderators ought to ask him exactly what he meant by this and, more to the point, what did he expect the world to hear?

President Obumble continues with his 0-5 streak: Letterman, Univision, 60 Minutes, The View and the U.N. Mitt Romney has to hope the president keeps coming out in the public view. As he does, the Rasmussen and Gallup numbers will continue to improve for the GOP.

Now for the polls. First, I hope you read Jay Cost’s piece in the Weekly Standard, and of course my interviews with Jay and with National Journal’s Steven Shepard from yesterday’s shows, the transcripts of which are here. Some listeners think Mr. Shepard didn’t acquit himself too well, but what he does is reflect the refusal of Beltway journalists to question big newser polls despite the obvious problems in samples and methdology and despite the huge gaps between Rasmussen/Gallup and these state-by-state polls by Quinnipiac and Marist etc. When I pressed Mr. Shepard on the suspension of a journalist’s ordinary skepticism, he did sound a little bit lost, but he one of the herd and the herd doesn’t dare yell “naked” at the emperor for fear of being confused for one of those non-Beltway unwashed who atren’t sophisticated about such matters. Thus did Bernie Madoff make his killing.

Look at Quinnipiac’s samples from its New York Times poll today: The polls’ samples in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania included 36% 35% and 39% Democrats respectively, versus 27%, 26%, and 28% Republicans in those states.

That’s a projected Democratic tunrout gap favoring Obama of 9% in Ohio, 11% in Florida and 12% in Pennsylvania. Utter nonsense in other words, designed by who knows who for the purpose of collecting a check and generating a headline. The predictive power of such a sample is close to zero unless one adjusts for the terrible bias.

Pollsters defend their work and say there is significance in these samples since they are random calling, but of course they weight polls for race, gender and age, but don’t do so for party identification because, as Mr. Shepard explained, that is a factor that might change over time and even be influenced by the answers in the poll itself. Again, utter nonsense –not Mr. Shepard’s of course, but the pollsters. There would have to be a study showing that a significant number of polled respondents change their party identification at the end of a survey in order to prove the utility of a methodology that both asks for party identification and then doesn’t use that question’s repsonse as a weighting factor or an independent fact of consequence.

Why ask party identification if it doesn’t matter, in other words, and if the answer is the one offered by Mr. Shepard –to discover trends in party identification– then why not report that trend in every story instead of usually omitting it entirtely or of burying it deep in the story?

Pollsters like Marist and Quinnipiac are headed for the land of Zogby, Strategic Vision, the Minnesota Poll etc, all examples of pollsters the world knows crashed and burned among honest consumers of news. Even if Quinnipiac and Marist begin to weight their results to reflect a realistic turnout model, it will be too late to undo the damage done to their brands, and indeed increasingly their colleges. If the institutions allow themselvs to get caught up in partisan slugfests, then the institutions attract partisan reputations. “Not fair,” some alum and adminsiutrators will say. “We don’t control the pollsters!”

And they don’t. But their names are getting splashed across all the blogs in the land as blocking tackles for a very unpopular president. Like football teams, polling institutes have upsides and downsides. When your pollsters fall in love with their own “methodology,” and that methodology becomes controversial, the public hears and absorbs the news. They will have defenders, like Mr. Shepard, but facts are stubborn things, and a turnout model this twisted does not look accidental or its dissemination the function of a neutral observor.

What does Rasmussen tell us, (and indeed the intenral numbers from the Quinnipiac poll itself when it comes to independents?)

That the race is tied. In Ohio and Florida, specifically, and that even in Pennsylvania the Obama lead is not too great.

Watching Marist and Quinnipiac trying to escape from their own jails will be fun, and is now a subplot in the huge story of election 2012.


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