Category Archives: Archive

SHIRLEY: Blaming the pollster

– – Monday, November 24, 2014

7daafc4463a17d2b640f6a7067008405_c56-0-4744-2733_s561x327The 2014 elections are over and the 2016 elections have begun. While newly elected officials are readying themselves by closing campaign offices, making moving plans, debating whether to take the spouse and the kids to Washington, their consultants have jetted off to toast their successes or drown their sorrows.

Political operatives in Washington, since the time of the Whiskey Rebellion, only need the barest of reasons to drink. They also need the barest of reasons to dump on each other. When they lose, it’s like watching a riot in a leper colony and when they win, it’s like the last decadent days of the French Monarchy, as they do battle over tribute and court favors.

They also engage in an inordinate amount of gossip and dropping dimes, especially inside their own political party, against their own species. It’s said in Washington you know your friends because they’re the ones who stab you in the chest.

Washington political operatives make eating one’s young look like a respectable society dinner party. To understand the world of campaign consultants, think of rabid animals caged up in close quarters, each armed with battery acid, a switch blade and an American Express card.

Such is the recent experience of conservative pollsters, John and Jim McLaughlin. They are grinning right now from ear to ear, having been vindicated over the errant polling by many of their colleagues and the fact that so many of their clients won on November 4th, but a couple of months ago they were badly smarting, mostly thanks to attacks launched by those same colleagues.

John and Jim McLaughlin–longtime conservatives, longtime Reaganites, have been in business for a long time because they are very good at what they do. Also, unlike other many GOP operatives, they happen to be ethical and honest men. They were unfairly tarred when their client, Eric Cantor was unexpectedly defeated in a primary earlier this year by Tea Party favorite, David Bratt.

Some insiders of the GOP did what they do best when Cantor lost; they courageously went on background with reporters and viciously blamed the McLaughlins. The insider gossip mongers–it seems an insult to the word to call them journalists–were only too happy to help pin the blame not on the candidate, but on a couple of hapless scapegoats.

As it turns out, the McLaughlins’ polling was simply anomalous (as was much of the 2014 polling), but nowhere near the egregious misreadings of the electorate back in 2012. How telling that this past election had all the pollsters on both sides showing the outcome much closer than it turned out.

Character speaks volumes. John and Mary McLaughlin have been happily married for 35 years, have five children and two grandchildren. Jim has been married nearly as long. They are utterly devoted in their faith, active in their communities, and give generously to the poor. They have reputations for honesty, fairness and integrity, qualities in short supply within today’s political class. Even after all the years, they remain by choice, outsiders to a system increasing in love with itself.

After the election Politico identified the ten worst predictions of 2014 and the McLaughlins weren’t even on the list. The McLaughlins successfully projected their client Nathan Deal would avoid a runoff in Georgia when everybody else said he couldn’t possibly get fifty percent of the vote on election day.

Typically, they contributed to many conservative victories this year–as did other Republican pollsters–but they win more often than most and with more grace and less profile. Northern Virginia’s Barbara Comstock was a client and she won by a bigger margin than others assumed; their clients won AG races, House races and Senate races and in each case attributed much of their success to the accuray of their polls and the advice that came with them.

They are stand up guys in an era when stand up guys are becoming a vanishing breed.

Craig Shirley is a Reagan biographer, a New York Times bestselling author and the chairman of Shirley & Banister.

Gore Attempted Theft of Election in Desperate Act

Gore Attempted Theft of Election in Desperate Act

Shirley, Craig, Insight on the News | December 11, 2001

Democrats like to steal elections. In fact, they’re very good at it. Whether it was the presidential election of 1960, the Indiana “Bloody Eighth” House race of 1984 or the Maryland gubernatorial race in 1994, they have proved time and again to be very adept at thwarting the will of the voters.

Fortuitously for Vice President Al Gore, heading his campaign and the assault on Florida is Bill Daley, the son of the greatest vote-stealer in American history, Chicago’s former mayor Richard J. Daley. While running Chicago in 1960, Bill Daley’s father famously called then-senator John F. Kennedy on election night and assured him that he would make sure that Illinois went Democrat.

First, the Democratic attack team must demonize the Florida election process. Charges already have been flying about confusing ballots, missing election boxes, disenfranchised voters and the like. Never mind that none of these allegations have been substantiated; the mere fact that they have been made creates news for the networks and doubt in the minds of the American people.

Also at work now is the denigration of the Electoral College. The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne wrote that the entire approach needs to be scrapped and replaced with a direct system. In fact, the Electoral College worked on Nov. 7 exactly as the Founders intended — making sure that the will of the few populous states, such as New York and California, did not overwhelm the wishes of smaller states.

The legal component of the Florida invasion now has fully engaged. Greg Craig, former attorney for Fidel Castro, John Hinckley and Bill Clinton, is adding his considerable legal talents to the fray. No doubt, Craig’s experience in persuading Americans that it is fine to send a 6-year-old boy back to a communist dictatorship or that lying to a grand jury doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment will be of immense help in destroying the electoral process in Florida. Moreover, Attorney General Janet Reno, a veteran of Florida Democratic politics, may get the Justice Department to reinforce the partisan legal effort.

Democratic lackeys also have begun their several-front war. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Rev. Jesse Jackson have brought out the race card. Democratic seniors have come forward to claim discrimination. Time magazine’s Margaret Carlson, the noted “military expert,” smeared military men and women three days before Veterans Day as “tax dodgers” for being registered to vote in Florida absentee where there is no state income tax.

All of this will be shoveled to TV producers looking to fill the hours of breathless coverage now fueling cable television. Concerned with making good television (Electoral College, boring; voter fraud, sexy) and not with the real story, they will continue to fuel the fire.

Media outlets gleefully report that recent immigrants to American and people in other countries are deriding our election process. Actually, should we really care what the whiny French think of our country (since they are on their Fifth Republic while we’re still on our first)? 

With everything in place (the lawyer, the pollsters, the disinformation campaign, the sycophantic media and the war-room vets), Gore took the high road while Bill Daley takes the low road to “reinventing” the election process in Florida.

Sadly, some conservatives think the facts will save them. Syndicated columnist George F. Will recently wrote that sides should avoid being partisan. That’s a nice naive sentiment, but guess what: The liberals already have started the war and Republicans must fight back.

First, they must realize the Democrats are about anything but fairness in this election; they are about power, pure and simple. Democrats must destroy the election process and anyone who gets in their way regardless of party. The stakes are too high to be concerned with individual reputations or careers.

Secondly, bipartisan forces in Florida must reassure the nation that this is a modern state run by competent people, not the swampy Third World backwater that some in Washington or Nashville will try to portray it as.

Thirdly, responsible people must explain why the Electoral College exists. Just a few weeks ago, Gore was defending the current process when it looked like he might lose the popular vote and win the electoral tally. Nothing has changed except the circumstances should never change principle.

Finally, the Bush forces must not allow the Democratic assault to drag out this process. Every day that this soap opera drags on, the more it gets traction with the American public.

Democrats believe fighting this will serve Gore well, whether he wins or loses. The pundits say he’ll be damaged in the eyes of the American voters, but their attention span is short. They believed that if he loses, he’s the wronged party in a new “corrupt bargain” and the front-runner for a 2004 rematch. And if he wins, he’s president on January 20, 2001. 

Republicans better realize once and for all what Democrats do. Politics is not a game to them; it is warfare.

Craig Shirley is a Republican consultant in Alexandria, Va.