by Chris Bowers, Sat Feb 25, 2006 at 10:23:23 AM EST
Useful: Polls that examine the size of the anti-Clinton vote
We all know that Clinton is the frontrunner for 2008, and that she is going to top any poll among Democrats in every state in the country. Duh. What we don't know is the degree to which the people who are currently not opting for her in these polls are seeking another alternative. Some of the first information I have seen on this subject comes from Dick Bennet of ARG, and was posted earlier today on Political Wire (emphasis mine):Clinton may be the front-runner, but it is more in the sense of the 1976 or 1992 primaries. A large field will help her, but one candidate becoming the "anti-Hillary" will hurt her because she does not gain additional support as the field narrows. Our interviewers report that the intense negatives for Clinton reach across party lines as there are some Democrats with as strong reactions against her as Republicans, so the real race will be who can become the anti-Hillary the fastest. This is useful information about the potential campaign dynamic. That Clinton's support does not rise among voters even as the number of non-Clinton choices decreases tells us that 30-40% might be something of a limit to her "easy" support. Even as candidates drop out or fade, support for Clinton may not increase. This seemingly indicates that 60-70% of the Democratic electorate would seriously consider another candidate. Hillary might be vulnerable.
Not Useful: National telephone surveys
Here is some totally useless information about 2008:WNBC/Marist Poll. Feb. 13-15, 2006. Asked of Democrats and Democratic leaners nationwide. MoE ± 5.
"If the 2008 Democratic presidential primary were held today, whom would you support if the candidates are [see below]?" This is so useless I am not even going to show you the results here. There is no national primary. Why did Marist publish a national poll on the Democratic nomination this far out? For that matter, why did they publish a national poll at all when they have never conducted state polls of either Iowa or New Hampshire? Everyone knows that national polls before and after Iowa and New Hampshire are almost unrecognizable. Several candidates will drop out after those two primaries. Others will receive large boosts from the news coverage they will receive for doing well. It would have cost Marist the same amount of money to conduct an Iowa or New Hampshire poll as this national poll cost. The sad fact is that WNBC probably commissioned Marist to conduct this useless national poll instead of a useful statewide poll because a national poll has higher entertainment value. It wouldn't be the first case of poll whoring by MNBC / Marist.
Useful: Activist Straw Polls
Too large and too quick to be effectively stuffed, by far the best way to get a sense of how the progressive activist base is thinking is to check out the semi-monthly Dailykos 2008 straw polls. And if you want to get your finger on the pulse of the conservative activist base, then check out the 2008 straw poll conducted at the Conservative Political Action Conference.
These polls do not give an accurate picture of national public opinion, but they do give some real insight into the potential dynamic of the 2008 campaign. These are polls of the people who will actually donate to, and volunteer for, Presidential campaigns. These are polls of people who pay attention to politics every day or every year, and who are highly influential among their family and friends when it comes to political discussions. These polls show us which candidates have the most upward potential in the 2008 campaign. They don't tell us what the campaign is like right now, but they do give us strong indications of what the campaign will look like in the future.
Not Useful: Trial Heats Without Favorables
"Not useful" might be a bit of a strong term here, but certainly favorable / unfavorable numbers would be a lot more useful right now in determining the possible dynamic of 2008 than would trial heats. The reason for this is that at this point in time, trial heats are basically measuring name recognition. The candidates with high name recognition, Clinton, Edwards, Gore and Kerry, (or McCain and Giuliani) will always do better in these polls than candidates with low national name recognition, such as Warner, Bayh, Feingold, and others.
Since trial heats are basically just measuring name recognition, wouldn't it be more useful to actually conduct a poll that measures the quantity and quality of name recognition? Knowing, for example, that Clinton has an 80 / 18 favorable / unfavorable rating among Dems, that Kerry has a 52 / 47, that Warner has a 12 / 3, and that Feingold has a 5 / 2 would tell us a lot more than any trail heat ever would (note: I'm just making these numbers up for the sake of argument). We would learn, for example, that Kerry would have no chance at all. We would also learn just how much work Warner and Feingold would have to define themselves. In other words, we would actually learn about hwo the campaign could potentially unfold, rather than just where it stands before it has even begun. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, to date there has not been a comprehensive favorable / unfavorable survey of the potential Democratic or Republican candidates. Instead, we are treated to a regular diet of empty-calorie trial heats.
Useful: Cash on Hand and PAC fundraising
If you are not a big netroots candidate, you are going to need a strong, already developed fundraising base in order to succeed in 2007-8. Hell, even if you are a netroots candidate, you are still going to need a strong donor base outside of the online community in order to make a strong campaign. However, since no one is "officially" raising money for a presidential run yet, it is best to get a sense of what donor base s/he has lined up.
On that front, here are two good sources for information on the shadow money race: Demcoratic PAC fundrasing and Open Secrets.
Not Useful: Congressional Vote Rankings
Some people may be into these, and I even have my own, but quite frankly there are so many of them from so many different organizations and they are all so opaque and riddled with questionable methodological issues that I just don't find them all thr>at useful. This is especially the case when considering that the Senate, the congressional chamber that produces by far the most Presidential candidates, is notoriously Byzantine in its rules and procedures.
But if you are one of the rare few for whom this is really your thing, go ahead and check out some of the latest from National Journal.