Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Here's the scoop on the ARG poll and the comments in their daily poll analysis suggesting that someone was telling older independent voters that they weren't eligible to vote in the Democratic primary.

This afternoon I spoke to Dick Bennett, president of ARG. And here's what he told me.

On Wednesday evening, ARG interviewers (i.e., the folks who call you on the phone) started noticing that a number of older independent voters were screening themselves out of the survey because they'd been called by another campaign and told that they wouldn't be eligible to vote because they'd missed the deadline to declare as Democrats.

But that's not how New Hampshire law works. Independents (called undeclared voters in the state) can vote in either primary. And they don't have to decide till they're at the polling station.

ARG's interviewers kept hearing the same thing on Thursday night and Bennett told TPM he found out about it when one of his supervisors asked him whether the voting law in the state had been changed.

Bennett said his interviewers had not compiled a list or numbers of how many people they called who had mentioned this. But his interviewers apparently spoke to quite a few respondents each evening who had gotten these calls.

Based on that information, Bennett decided to mention it in his daily poll analysis.

Okay, this is weird.

The analysis on today's ARG poll release concludes thus ...

Over the past 2 days of calling, a number of older respondents registered as undeclared voters have reported that they have received telephone calls from a campaign informing them that they will not be allowed to vote in the Democratic primary because they missed the deadline to switch parties. A respondent discovered, however, that when she told the caller that she was thinking about voting for Howard Dean, the caller told her that she would be eligible to vote.

The clear implication of this comment is that someone <$Ad$>from the Dean campaign is making some sort of push-poll trying to depress the turnout of a voting group that leans against Dean (or at least isn't his strongest), i.e., older voters.

[Late Update: A number of readers have asked about this sentence above, believing I'm implicating Dean. I'm not. I'm saying the clear implication of ARG's comment points toward Dean. And I think that's obviously true. That doesn't mean it's clear Dean's behind it. In fact, I suspect it's as likely as not that those who are behind it aren't even Democrats. I'm looking into it.]

If true, it's the slimiest stuff imaginable -- the kind of trash tactics Dems are used to seeing from the other side.

But how did ARG get this information about these calls 'from a campaign'? Did it come up in the course of the polling questions? Or is it scuttlebutt in New Hampshire campaign circles?

Things like this do happen. Sometimes overenthusiastic volunteers just go off the reservation and do stupid things. But it seems odd to hear about it from a polling firm.

I'm not casting doubt on the claim. I don't know any more about it than this little bit of text I quoted above. But something seems funny about it. It's quite a charge and it deserves more explanation.

No time to discuss it in detail now. But keep a close eye on this developing situation with the Kurds in northern Iraq, which is discussed in this piece in tomorrow's Washington Post. Also note this post on Juan Cole's site.

I haven't yet had a chance to give a close look to the Carnegie Endowment'sreport on Iraq and WMD. But it's awfully distressing to see Colin Powell (almost a tragic figure in all this) spouting the ridiculousness that whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction is still an open question.

"This game is still unfolding," said the Secretary today.

Game, indeed.

There are real questions about just how almost everyone in the US government seemed to get this one so wrong. (The administration systematically exaggerated the evidence. But even the 'good' evidence turned out to be wrong.) But that we got it wrong really isn't up for discussion anymore.

The fact that David Kay says he wants out and that, as Times reported today, we have "quietly withdrawn from Iraq a 400-member military team whose job was to scour the country for military equipment" makes the point pretty clearly.

At a certain point, the inability to come to grips with this publicly just becomes pathetic.

But this is what it's come to. We're like OJ and Scott Peterson, off searching for the 'real killers.'

Or when they bring back 'In Search Of' ... Amelia Earhart, the Bermuda Triangle and Iraqi WMD.

If you're going to be in Washington on January 13th consider attending the Second Annual "REAL STATE OF THE UNION" Media Briefing and National Policy Forum put on by the New America Foundation and the Atlantic Monthly.

Find out more here.

Finally! New numbers out of Iowa.

Dean 29%, Gephardt 25%, Kerry 18%.

Those numbers are from a poll out this afternoon from Research 2000 for KCCI-TV.

Some backdrop to Democratic congressional candidate Ben Chandler's (Kentucky-6th) endorsement of Wes Clark, noted below.

The following numbers are from a poll taken in mid-December in Kentucky's 6th district, a district which has been held by Democrats and Republicans and is a fairly Democrat-friendly district by Kentucky standards.

For Bush ...

69% favorable/29% unfavorable

The breakdown: 46% very favorable, 23% somewhat favorable, 9% somewhat unforavable, 20% very unfavorable, 2% don't know.

For Dean ...

22% favorable/40% unfavorable

The breakdown: 5% very favorable, 17% somewhat favorable, 12% somewhat unforavable, 29% very unfavorable, 29% don't know, 9% never heard of

The poll was conducted by a well-known Democratic polling firm. Dean was the only one of the Democratic presidential candidates who's name was tested. The poll was not commissioned by or connected in any way to the Clark campaign.

The sample group was made of a 400 registered voters who said they were at least "very likely" to vote in the February 17th special election.

Today's ARG New Hampshire daily tracking poll: Dean 35%, Clark 18%, Kerry 12%.

It's worth saying that the ARG poll is not the most respected poll in the business. They completely missed the result of the Republican primary in New Hampshire in 2000, in which John McCain outdid George W. Bush. But it's hard to miss the pretty clear trend in these numbers.

On December 28th the spread was Dean 37%, Kerry 19%, Clark 12%.

When do we see some new numbers out of Iowa?