Polls on the Republican race are mostly misleading and badly misreported

As an inveterate poll-watcher, I find that the surveys at this early stage of the race for the Republican presidential nomination are in a class by themselves — if I might use the word “class” in this context. These polls are useless for the most part. Their only importance is that weak numbers might prompt marginal candidates to withdraw from the race for lack of money. Fat-cat donors aren’t likely to waste too much moohlah on somebody who seems doomed to defeat even before the contest heats up. Another problem with these early polls is that the mainstream media generally don’t know how to interpret the numbers and accurately report their real meaning. For example, we’ve read a lot in recent days and weeks about how Donald Trump is leading the race, but the headlines are highly misleading. How many media have been straightforward in reporting that the vast majority of Republican poll respondents don’t see Trump as their preferred choice for the nomination? How many media have reported the percentages of Republican poll respondents who say they would NEVER vote for Trump? How many media have reported on the margins of error in the polls they cover? There’s a new poll out today from Rasmussen Reports that has a margin of error of 4 percentage points. That’s as much or more as the percentage of respondents favoring Chris Christie, John Kasich, Rand Paul or any of  half a dozen other candidates. In other words, some of these candidates might have nearly zero support among prospective Republican voters. When was the last time a network newscast really delved into poll numbers on the Republican race? The answer is never. All we get are misleading headlines or statements that say Trump is leading by a wide margin. No wonder so many people seem to think that the Trump bandwagon is rolling along at break-neck speed. It’s not, and the polls don’t really say that it is. The problem is that almost nobody in the media will bother to tell the truth about the poll numbers. By the way, HERE are some highlights from the latest Rasmussen poll: Donald Trump remains the leader in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, but his support has fallen by a third over the past week-and-a-half. Carly Fiorina is now near the front of the pack. The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds Trump with 17% support among Likely Republican Primary Voters, down from 26% in late July before the first GOP debate.  Senator Marco Rubio and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush are in second place with 10% support each, in a near tie with Fiorina and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker who both earn nine percent (9%) of the likely primary vote. Next with eight percent (8%) come retired neurologist Dr. Ben Carson and Senator Ted Cruz at seven percent...

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It’s foolish to say Obama should play patty-cake with GOP opponents of the Iran deal

Some right-wingers are arguing that it was wrong for President Obama to say in a speech last week that congressional Republicans who oppose the nuclear deal with Iran have common cause with the extremist mullahs in that country. I say it wasn’t — especially in light of GOP rhetoric suggesting that the president actually wants Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Besides, Obama is not so naïve as to think that nice talk about Republican politicians might persuade a few of them to support the nuclear deal. That simply isn’t going to happen, no matter how polite the president is. E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post adds THIS: Obama does not need any private briefings on how Republicans are thinking. He realizes, as everyone else should, that there’s only one way to save the Iran accord. Republicans will have the votes to pass a measure disapproving it, and he needs to keep enough Democrats on his side to sustain his veto… In broad terms, this is an argument over whether the foreign policy of George W. Bush, with its proclivity toward unilateral military action, or his own approach, which stresses alliances and diplomacy, is more likely to defend the United States’ long-term interest… The president was not wrong when he said that “many of the same people who argued for the war in Iraq are now making the case against the Iran nuclear deal.” …[I]t was useful that he reminded Americans of the run-up to the Iraq invasion, when “those calling for war labeled themselves strong and decisive, while dismissing those who disagreed as weak — even appeasers of a malevolent adversary.”        ...

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The GOP debate seemed to indicate that Fox News has an anti-Trump agenda

In several respects, the latter of Thursday’s two Republican presidential debates was more entertaining than I had anticipated. The questions posed to the candidates generally were sharper than one would expect from Fox News personalities. And, more to the point, the questions seemed to reflect an agenda — the objective being to put the repugnant Donald Trump in his place. This mission somewhat surprises me. I didn’t know that the suits at Fox News don’t much care for Trump. I don’t watch Fox News Channel a lot, but I had noticed that Sean Hannity likes to play patty-cake with Trump. I had assumed that this affection for The Donald pertained among the whole crowd over there. Apparently not. Ed Kilgore’s TAKE ON THE DEBATE is especially insightful: Fox News’ purpose in the main 10-candidate event was made plain with the first question: an in-your-face spotlight on Donald Trump’s refusal to promise not to run as an independent candidate. And the relentless pounding of Trump—on his bankruptcies, his past support for single-payer health care and abortion rights, his “specific evidence” for claiming Mexico has dispatched criminals to the U.S. (slurs about immigrants by other candidates didn’t come up) and even his sexist tweets-—continued right on through to Frank Luntz’s post-debate focus group, designed to show how much damage Trump had sustained. (Snip) From the perspective of Fox News and its GOP allies, you’d guess the ideal denouement would be Trump crashing in the polls, to be replaced in the top ten by Carly Fiorina. We’ll see how avidly and universally the conservative spin machine pursues that outcome in the days just ahead....

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What do GOP voters want in their nominee? Electability or ideological purity?

Democrats have reason to be encouraged by evidence, scant though it may be, that rank-and-file Republicans are more interested in nominating a presidential candidate who hews to the right-wing line than one who might have a better chance of winning the general election. The situation brings to mind the debacle Republicans experienced in 1964 when conservatives opted for extremist Barry Goldwater as the party nominee — and lost in a landslide to Democrat Lyndon Johnson. This issue arises again this year with the emergence of dingbat Donald Trump as the front-runner for the 2016 Republican nomination. If and when Trump fades, will the party turn to someone who seems more electable? Blogger Steve Benen writes THIS: [T]he latest NBC News/Marist poll asked Republicans in Iowa and New Hampshire for their 2016 preferences, but they also asked a question that was arguably more interesting: “Which is more important to you: a Republican nominee for president who shares your position on most issues, or a Republican nominee for president who has the best chance of winning the White House?” The results weren’t even close. In New Hampshire, 67% of GOP voters want a candidate they agree with, while only 29% are principally concerned with electability. In Iowa, the results were practically identical. (Snip) [T]he GOP base has been told repeatedly – by party leaders, by conservative media, even by Republican candidates – that compromise is wrong. Concessions of any kind are offensive.   It’s a little late in the game for the same party to tell these same voters not to support the unelectable guy at the top of the polls.  ...

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Lots of Republican kooks still think that Obama is not a real American

One of the more pathetic aspects of Mitt Romney’s effort to deny Barack Obama a second term in the White House a few years ago was the extent to which he or his surrogates portrayed the president as the dreaded “Other,” a “foreign” interloper who’s not really American. “I don’t think he understands America,” Romney said of Obama at one point. “I wish this president would learn how to be an American,” said Romney campaign chairman John Sununu. Obama’s political philosophy “does not comport with the American experience,” Romney said in a public appearance. Romney wouldn’t come right out and say that Obama was foreign-born or a Muslim, neither of which is true. But he was not above slyly implying as much, just to stir up his party’s crazier elements. That frame of mind persists to this day among more than a few Republicans. Political analyst Jeff Greenfield wrote THIS just the other day: The baseless notion that Obama is not really “one of us” is not confined to questions of birth. It is also linked to a broader notion that in countless ways, the president is not really “one of us.” For ex-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Obama’s worldview is explained as “Kenyan anti-colonial behavior.” For FOX’s Sean Hannity, Obama is “the Manchurian candidate,” whose (perhaps unconscious) attraction to America’s enemies was shaped by ties to onetime Weather Underground bomber Bill Ayres and his longtime pastor, Jeremiah Wright. For former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, the conclusion is clear: “I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America,” he said in February. “He doesn’t love you. And he doesn’t love me. He wasn’t brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country.” If these are the public views of some of the more prominent voices on the Right, it’s no surprise that a majority of Republicans believe that “deep down, Obama is a Muslim,” or that a significant chunk of Republicans think it’s likely that Obama is not a citizen.      ...

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