Clinton Caught Push-Polling in California

It looks like Hillary Clinton just cannot mange to keep the fight clean. After using a number of dishonest tactics in the early primaries, from mailers which distort the positions of her opponents to negative robocalls, Clinton has been caught push-polling in California.

The Los Angeles Times reports on the experience of a California voter who agreed to answer the questions from someone identifying himself as a pollster. He soon noticed that all the questions about Clinton were positive while those about the other candidates were negative and utilized some of the dishonest attacks Clinton has used in the past:

“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.

Coghlan said he was offended by such underhanded tactics and knew he was going to get out a warning about this dirty trick, but he said he played along for the full 20-minute “poll.”

“The guy was very slick, very personable,” Coghlan told the Ticket. “He never fell out of character as a pollster the entire time. He seemed interested in my answers and just kept going through his list of questions as if he was noting my answers. He was very good, very smooth.”

For instance, the caller inquired, had Ed watched a recent Democratic debate? Ed said yes. And who did Ed think had won the debate? the pollster inquired.

Coghlan replied, honestly, that he thought Edwards had won because he was calmer and more reasoned didn’t get involved in all the petty arguing and finger-pointing like the other two. Now, the pollster said, if Ed knew that most people believed John Edwards could not get elected in a general election, would Ed be more or less likely to vote for him?

The Los Angeles Times tried to verify whether the Clinton campaign was behind this:

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.

Yes, I’ve also noticed that some of my email to the campaign’s blog liaison is returned and some questions are never answered. It’s not hard to guess why.

Update: Mark Blumenthal believes this was not push polling, but he doesn’t convince me otherwise. His major argument is that the “pollster” spent twenty minutes on the call, arguing that if the goal was to influence voters they wouldn’t spend so much time with each one. Perhaps if they might if this is all it takes to make people less suspicious. Blumenthal makes an error in saying that the only specific negative message is about Obama’s “present” votes. However the report also specifically mentions a negative message about Edwards and mentions these as only a couple examples of negative questions on other candidates compared to positive questions on Clinton. It also remains suspicious that the Clinton campaign did not deny the accusation when asked. If they were innocent one would think they would have denied this.

In the event Clinton should turn out to be innocent on this one, it also demonstrates the problems in getting caught in a number of other lies during the campaign. Once you destroy your credibility in this manner, people are not likely to give you the benefit of the doubt when other questionable matters arise such as this. Several other bloggers have reported on this incident, with some available through Memeorandum, and virtually all are assuming Clinton is guilty here.

Update II: An even weaker defense comes from Pamela at The Democratic Daily. Pamela also quotes Blumenthal’s flawed explanation and then states, “I got to say, as a registered Democrat who lives in the Sen Fernando Valley, I must have missed the ‘push polling’ calls.” She apparently missed the fact that the report specifically states the calls were being made to registered independents, and not registered Democrats. We also would not expect everyone living in a state, especially one the size of California, to receive calls so the fact that any individual was not called is a meaningless defense. Pamela has also been repeating the Clinton talking points for quite a while and has defended Clinton in several of the cases where dishonest tactics were verified.

I see no reason to “correct the record” as Pamela suggests but, in the interest of presenting both sides of the story, I had already added an update upon discovering Blumenthal’s post. It remains curious that while there are rare bloggers defending Clinton, the Clinton campaign itself has not denied the accusations.

Update III: When my reaction to the comments at The Democratic Daily were first posted, an automatic track back got placed on the linked post. I now note that it has been removed. This looks like the response of someone who realizes she is playing with a very weak hand and has no interest in really correcting the record.

I have also checked the rather Orwellian named Clinton Fact Hub. This is a campaign site which is packed with false information to defend Clinton and attack her opponents. In terms of accuracy and honesty it is comparable to Fox News or Pravda. The site regularly issues protests when opposing candidates, newspapers, and even blogs post material which contradicts their claims. Just Friday they denied a different claim posted on a blog. There are several entries on a variety of topics today. Yet they have not denied a charge such as this posted by The Los Angeles Times. None of this is proof of guilt, but when accompanied by the several cases where dishonest tactics have already been verified I remain highly suspicious.

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5 Comments

  1. 1
    MarjorieG says:

    Thanks for being such an asset to Obama, clear-minded and factual as always.

    But in the race to post, did you mean questions about Clinton positive? Maybe it’s me.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    Yes, that’s been fixed. (You are right about race to post. I happened to check the news quickly while checking some test results on a hospital computer. When I saw this item I very quickly threw together the post.)

  3. 3
    Christopher says:

    If Hillary awakens Tuesday morning to internal polling that shows her behind Barack, expect a Meryl Streep-style crying jag on the footsteps of Los Angeles City Hall. Hillary will deliver a performance worthy of an Oscar.

    “It’s not about me…., sob, sob, sob,…..it’s not about my campaign…., sob, sob, sob,…., it’s about the little people, ah, I mean the working people…., sob, sob, sob.”

    Puke.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Christopher,

    In California, at least, I expect Clinton will win even if she is behind in the polls. There have already been a lot of votes cast ahead of time in California from when Clinton had a big lead. I fear Obama will need a huge lead in those who turn out to vote Tuesday to actually win the state. However I am hopeful that Obama can keep the number of delegates for each relatively close to keep Clinton from getting a big advantage from those who voted early.

  5. 5
    mikey joe says:

    Well, if Hillary is the nomination I guess this is the kind of dirty campaign we expect for the rest of the year before we lose in a landslide.

    But either way, I’m excited as hell to get to vote for Obama tomorrow!

    Obama!

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