October 21, 2007 - October 27, 2007


No Joy in Mudville Leftovers

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

Jay Cost ponders the history of national presidential primary polls and concludes they "are too volatile" to reach the conclusion that Hillary Clinton is inevitable.

Ezra Klein and Brenden Nyhan debate whether Hillary Clinton is "the most polarizing candidate."

Ed Kilgore has a nicer review of Mark Penn's Microtrends.

Jennifer Agiesta uses Quinnipiac University survey data on general presidential election match-ups in New York State to check the potential "home-court edge" for Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani.

Kathy Frankovic shares worthy thoughts about survey disclosure and "what we need to know about a poll" (which reminds me, I'll have a Disclosure Project update on Monday).

The L.A. Times' Deborah Netburn gets reactions to a recent Rasmussen Reports survey showing Stephen Colbert reaching double digits as an independent.

Marc Ambinder ponders how Rasmussen's polls are perceived (and used) by the press, campaigns and their pollsters.

David Hill thinks Mike Huckabee needs to "rethink his bid" given his showing in national polls.

Katherine Seelye considers why John McCain appears to run stronger against Hillary Clinton than Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney.

Watch this space (or use your National Journal subscription) to read Charlie Cook's forthcoming analysis of Hillary Clinton's showing in national general election match-ups.

And oh, yes, my off-topic obsession of the last few weeks: Alas, no joy in Mudville means my home town retains its title as "most tortured of the tortured." But wait 'till next year.

Dante Scala: New NH Television Buy Stats

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

Slightly off topic, but nonetheless important to those of us watching the poll trends: University of New Hampshire Professor Dante Scala has some useful information posted on his Graniteprof blog on the size of various candidate advertising buys on New Hampshire's WMUR.

The most helpful fact: John McCain's buy for next week is $72,700 for 99 spots. Mitt Romney's buy over the same period is $158,825 for 140 spots (his "highest to date for 2007"). McCain's buy, he adds, "includes McCain's ‘Woodstock' ad, although I am not sure how many times that particular spot will run in the next week."

If we assume that the McCain campaign has shifted their entire buy to the Woodstock ad, it tends to confirm the report from The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder:

A McCain adviser insists that this ad buy is real -- in other words, it's not a video press release (from a campaign with... not much money) designed to convince us naive press folks into running it for free. The buy, the adviser said, is "substantial" and statewide.

It is worth noting that Manchester's WMUR (an ABC affiliate) is New Hampshire's only commercial network affiliate. As such, it is the most efficient and affordable part of a candidate's New Hampshire media buy. A complete New Hampshire buy also includes much more expensive time on the Boston stations that reach most New Hampshire households.

Scala also provided similar data on the Democrats two weeks ago showing weekly buys of $203,825 and $117,970 for Obama and Clinton respectively, with nothing on WMUR in October from Richardson, Dodd or Biden (as of two weeks ago, all three aired spots earlier in the year).

Correction: the original version of this post had the wrong affiliation for Prof. Scala.

They Know Less Than You Think

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

Two new survey findings -- from Gallup and Fox News -- remind us of a lesson that always bears repeating. Those of us that write and obsess about politics typically over-estimate the degree to which ordinary Americans follow the day-to-day workings of government and politics. It is what Gallup's Frank Newport calls "insider parochialism" in his latest installment of Gallup Guru: "The tendency for those of us who are following the presidential election closely to assume that everyone else is too."

Newport provides an example of how one such controversy -- Rudy Giuliani's stands on "key social and value issues" like gay marriage -- is not yet on the radar screens of most Americans even though political junkies like us examine "every word the former New York City mayor utters" for evidence that "he is ignoring, sticking to, or modifying his historical positions on abortion and same-sex marriage." Newport's central point:

[O]ur polling data show that much of this is sailing right over the heads of the average Republican voter out there across the land. Most startlingly - at least to me - the latest USA Today/Gallup poll indicates that 74% of Republicans say they are unsure where Rudy Giuliani stands on the issue of legal same sex unions. That's little changed from January when we first asked this question.

Republicans are a little more knowledgeable about the fact that Giuliani is pro-choice on abortion. Still, more than half of the Republicans we recently interviewed said that they were unsure about where he stands on this issue -- which has received a great deal of intense pundit and commentator scrutiny [link added].

I agree with Newport's main point. Most Americans are not political junkies and do not follow politics obsessively.  Still, it is probably worth considering in this instance that headlines like the one Newport cites ("Giuliani Does a 180 on Marriage Issue?") probably leave some well informed Americans feeling genuinely "unsure" of his position.

Nonetheless one need not stop here for evidence that Americans do not make the same connections between issues as what Newport calls "the political class." Consider the widely held assumption that Congressional job approval numbers are down because Congressional Democrats have not been willing or able to cut off funding for war in Iraq. A few days ago, Chris Matthews made this point on MSNBC's Hardball during an interview with Democratic Caucus Chair Rahm Emmanuel:

[The reason] you have single or double-digit support right now is because Republicans don't like Democrats and Democrats want this war over with. That's why the combination of those negative votes hurt you in job approval.

Yet today's new survey from Fox News/Opinion Dynamics included some intriguing results that show it may not be that simple. They used open-ended questions to ask voters to explain in their own words why they approve or disapprove of both President Bush and Congress. When asked to explain why they disapprove of Bush, nearly half of Democrats (47%) named the war in Iraq. However, when they asked the same question of those who disapprove of the job Congress is doing, only 12% of Democrats mentioned the war in Iraq. Another 9% complained that Congress does not oppose or "stand up to" to President Bush enough. Far more could not volunteer anything to explain their disapproval (30%), answered in general terms (17% are coded as "not doing anything/bad job") or mentioned other issues.

Matthews is certainly right to say that "Democrats want this war over." A September poll by CBS News showed 91% of Democrats wanting to remove most U.S. troops from Iraq within two years (70% want most troops out within a year). But the fine points of the debate in Washington, the nitty-gritty details of what Congress does (and does not do) that get debated every day on shows like Hardball, remain remote and unclear for most Americans. The continuing Congressional stalemate over Iraq policy certainly contributes to the low ratings of "Congress" among Democrats, but it would be far too simple to say that Iraq explains it all.

For further reading: Back in April, the Pew Research Center updated their classic study of "What Americans Know" about politics and government. These studies track not only "how much Americans know about national and international affairs" in surveys conducted since 1989, but also look at how knowledge corresponds to the news sources that Americans say they turn to.

POLL: Field CA Dem Primary

Additional results from the recent Field Poll statewide survey of 434 likely Democratic primary voters in California (conducted 10/11 through 10/21) finds:

Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (45% to 20%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 11%. With former V.P. Al Gore included, Clinton runs at 35%, Gore at 22%, Obama at 16%, and Edwards at 8%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.

POLL: Rasmussen GOP New Hampshire Primary

A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of likely primary voters in New Hampshire (conducted 10/23) finds:

Among 733 Republicans, former Gov. Mitt Romney leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (28% to 19%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 16%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 10%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 6%.

POLL: CBS Democratic Primary

Additional results from the most recent CBS News national survey (story, results) of 456 likely Democratic primary voters (conducted 10/12 through 10/16) finds:

  • When asked to choose between three candidates, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (51% to 23%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 13%.
  • 54% say Clinton has "more honesty and integrity than most people in public life;" 6% say less. 56% say Obama has more; 4% say less. 50% say Edwards has more; 8% say less.

POLL: Research 2000 Kentucky Governor

A new Research 2000 statewide survey of 600 likely voters in Kentucky (conducted 10/22 through 10/24) finds Democratic challenger Steve Beshear leading Republican Gov. Ernie Fletcher (55% to 40%) in a statewide general election match-up for Governor.

POLL: Fox National Survey

A new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics national survey (Bush story, Clinton story, results) of 900 registered voters (conducted 10/23 through 10/24) finds:

  • 35% approve of the job George Bush is doing as president; 55% disapprove.
  • Among 329 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (42% to 25%) in a national primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 13%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
  • Among 303 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (31% to 17%) in a national primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 12%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 7%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 5%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.

New Hampshire Trends

Topics: 2008 , Slate Scorecard , The 2008 Race

Now that our trend estimates are appearing in the Slate Election Scorecard, with the daily twitches of our trend lines getting extra attention, I will try to provide some running commentary here on how the addition of new polls changes the trends from day to day.

One intriguing example comes from the new poll in New Hampshire out today from St. Anselm College.

This New Hampshire poll is the second in a row showing Hillary Clinton receiving 43% of the vote, above our trend line but consistent with its increasing upward slope. The new poll, and the addition of nearly two weeks to the trend since the last New Hampshire poll, helps push her score on our estimate up to 40.5%, a 1.2 point increase since the last update.

The continuing Clinton upward trend aside, however, the results also indicate some potentially good news for Obama. On the last four New Hampshire polls - all conducted since late September - Obama's share of the vote has been above our trend line: 22%, 21%, 23% and 22%. The five polls before that - all conducted in the prior month - were slightly lower: 17%, 16%, 18%, 17% and 19%. Remember, Professor Franklin set the sensitivity of these trend lines to minimize the impact of just one poll.


So the current Obama trend line (above) reflects the slight decline in Obama's New Hampshire support from earlier in the year. Still, the addition of the most recent result flattens that downward slope just slightly and, as such, increases our current estimate of his support slightly (from 19.4% to 19.5%) since the last update.

What makes this intriguing is that Obama started buying New Hampshire television campaign ads in earnest roughly four weeks ago. So this is a trend worth watching very carefully.

Re: Mellman on the IA Electability Myth

Topics: Iowa

I ran out of time yesterday, but want to amplify one more point from Mark Mellman's column about Iowa Caucus myths. Mellman writes:

Myth 2: Iowa is all about organization. The theory here is simple but misleading: turnout is small, the demands on caucus-goers great and therefore organization is king. In truth, while organization is vitally important, it is not sufficient; message matters as much in Iowa's caucuses as it does in New Hampshire's primary.

Mellman goes on to cite two examples -- Dick Gephardt in 1988 and his client John Kerry in 2004 -- that succeeded largely because of a persuasive message communicated largely though late television advertising campaigns. To that let me add a third, from personal experience: The surprise second place finish by Gary Hart in 1984.

In 1984, as a 20-year-old college student, I spent three glorious weeks in Iowa as the sole full time organizer assigned to rural Grundy County. At that point, as far as we knew, Hart was mired in the single digits in the few Iowa polls available, competing for a second or third place finish against Senators John Glenn, Alan Cranston and former Senator George McGovern. However, things were starting to look up. Hart had been credited with a strong debate performance in late January. More important, the Hart campaign had decided to roll the dice on a late media buy, cutting off all money for field organizing and other expenses.

When I arrived at our Waterloo office, I remember feeling deflated by the lack of funds and the tools necessary for organizing (cirica 1984): cars, phones and campaign literature. The Hart field organization was a lean, mean operation that depended mostly on the enthusiasm of inexperienced young volunteers like me.

My task for the three weeks was essentially to try to contact, by phone, the 700 or so registered Democrats in Grundy County, identify and personally visit those who seemed to be leaning to Hart in an attempt to designate a caucus leader in Grundy's 18 precincts. I also tried to identify those who seemed to be undecided. The "literature" was a photocopied news clipping of Hart's stop in the town of Grundy Center, a one page summary of his farm policy (the glossy phamplets were long gone), both accompanies by a handwritten note stuffed in a hand-addressed envelope. Though I plugged away for 20 days, by caucus night I had identified less than a dozen Hart supporters in the entire county.

The journal I kept records my experiences at the caucus site in Grundy Center, a school cafeteria that would host six precinct caucuses in one room. Four years before, 78 registered Democrats had participated in caucuses in these six precincts, but going into the room, my "hard count" of known Hart supporters stood at just 7. As such, I had good reason to fear not reaching the "viability" level (at least 15% in each precinct) necessary to win delegates to the county convention. But turnout was down that year, and only 50 registered voters showed up. More importantly, another 8 Grundy voters walked in ready to vote for Hart - people I had certainly not identified. We not only easily made viability but picked up additional support on the "second round" of voting and walked away with 11 of 31 county delegates.

I cannot locate the totals for Grundy County for 1984 (if anyone reading this has them, please email me), but my recollection is that Gary Hart received in excess of 30% of the delegates there, nearly double his statewide total and one of his strongest performances in the state.

How did this happen? Hart's performance in Grundy had a lot less to do with my organizational skills than the message delivered by his television advertising and a "free media" story that had Hart the "hot" candidate among the second tier competitors to Mondale. John Glenn, who just weeks before had been the first choice of many rural voters, like those in Grundy County, had received increasingly negative coverage of his sputtering campaign. So in the final weeks, a lot of Glenn's rural supporters simply shifted to Hart. I am sure my own efforts played some role. The mere presence of a field organizer in Grundy, and all of my handwritten notes and personal visits, helped provide first hand reinforcement of the notion that Hart was "hot" and "doing better" - in other words, that he was a viable candidate worthy of support. But the decisive factor in Hart's Iowa surge was message, not organization.

PS: Just yesterday, Carrie Dann of NBC/National Journal interviewed with Gary Hart on his perspective on the 2008 race.

Typos corrected

POLL: Saint Anselm College New Hampshire Primary

A new Saint Anselm College statewide survey of 1,514 registered voters in New Hampshire (conducted 10/15 through 10/21) finds:

  • Among 498 likely Republican primary voters, former Gov. Mitt Romney leads former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (32% to 22%) in a statewide primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 15%, Rep. Ron Paul at 7%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 6%, former Sen. Fred Thompson at 5%.
  • Among 613 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (43% to 22%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 14%, Gov. Bill Richardson at 6%.
  • All other candidates receive less than five percent each.

Full results.

POLL: Field CA GOP Primary

A new Field Poll statewide survey of 315 likely Republican primary voters in California (conducted 10/11 through 10/21) finds former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 25%) leading former Gov. Mitt Romney (13%), Sen. John McCain (12%), and former Sen. Fred Thompson (12%) in a statewide primary. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.

In August, Giuliani led Romney 35% to 14%.

POLL: Quinnipiac Florida Primary/GE

A new Quinnipiac University statewide survey of 1,025 registered voters in Florida (conducted 10/17 through 10/22) finds:

  • Among 416 Democrats, Sen. Hillary Clinton leads Sen. Barack Obama (43% to 18%) in a statewide primary; former Sen. John Edwards trails at 12%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
  • Among 394 Republicans, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (at 30%) leads Sen. John McCain and former Sen. Fred Thompson (both at 14%) in a statewide primary; former Gov. Mitt Romney trails at 12%, former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 8%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
  • General election match-ups:

    Giuliani 46%, Clinton 43%
    Giuliani 47%, Obama 40%
    Clinton 47%, Romney 39%
    Obama 44%, Romney 37%

Full results.

Mellman on the IA Electability Myth

Topics: Iowa

Democratic pollster Mark Mellman has another must read in The Hill out this morning. Today's column reviews "three myths" regarding the Iowa caucuses. As the pollster for John Kerry's surprising, come-from-behind Iowa victory in 2004, ought to know (Mellman is not aligned with a campaign in 2008).

His first myth:

Iowans vote electability. Almost everyone says it, but if this myth were a reality, Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani would be knocking 'em dead in Des Moines and across the state. In the latest Iowa Poll, 42 percent of Democrats thought Clinton the most electable, compared to 23 percent for Edwards and 14 percent for Obama. Yet, Clinton garners just 29 percent of the vote with Edwards and Obama close behind at 23 and 22 percent respectively. Clinton under-polls her electability quotient by 13 points, while Obama over-polls his by 8.

I have had the opportunity to talk to a lot of reporters over the last month or so, and this topic comes up often. I agree with Mellman here, only I would take it further: The whole concept of "electability" means something different to ordinary voters than it does to those of us who follow politics obsessively. To the political-junkie-elite, voting on "electability" describes the impulse to pass on a candidate that one prefers for their qualifications or ideology, choosing a more "electable" candidate instead.

However, ask ordinary voters which candidate is most "electable" or stands the best chance of beating the Republican in the general election (something I did often in focus groups for clients), and they typically choose the candidate with the most political experience or the one that seems to be leading or "doing well" in campaign coverage. Thus, Clinton's current standing as the most electable candidate, both in Iowa and nationally, comes as little surprise.

Actually, the Des Moines Register/Selzer poll included even better evidence that proves Mellman's point. At the end of their survey, they asked this question separately of both likely Democratic and likely Republican caucus goers:

Sometimes people decide to support the candidate they think is most electable, even if they think there is another candidate who would make a better president. If you were assured that your party would win the November 2008 election, no matter who the candidate was - so that you were free to vote for the person you truly thought would be the best president - for whom would you vote?

If Iowans preferred an "electable" candidate rather than the one "who would make a better president," we would expect to see a big difference between their current vote preference and the candidate named on this follow-up question. But for the Democrats (as the table below shows), the results are virtually identical. The only candidate who seems to suffer "electability" defections is Dennis Kucinich, who gets only 1% of the vote despite convincing 4% of Iowa Democrats that he would be the best president.


The results are even more counterintuitive for the Republicans. As Mellman noted, nearly a third of likely Republican caucus goers (32%) consider Giuliani most "electable." Yet the percentage that supports Giuliani (11%) is actually lower than the percentage that says he would make the best president (14%). Mitt Romney is the current choice of 29% of Iowa Republicans, yet only 20% consider Romney the best potential president. If anything these results suggest that Romney may still be more vulnerable in Iowa than the current standings would have you believe.

Mellman's observations about two other myths are - that Iowa is all about organization and that turnout is everything - are interesting. Go read it all.

POLL: Rasmussen Colbert as an Independent

A new Rasmussen Reports automated survey of 1,200 likely voters (conducted 10/19 through 10/21) finds:

  • General Election Match-ups:
    Clinton 45%, Giuliani 35%, Colbert 13%
    Clinton 46%, Thompson 34%, Colbert 12%
  • An earlier Rasmussen survey (conducted 10/8 through 10/9) found:
    Clinton 48%, Giuliani 41%
    Clinton 52%, Thompson 37%
  • An even earlier Rasmussen survey (conducted 4/2 through 4/3) found:
    Clinton 46%, Giuliani 37%, Bloomberg 8%

POLL: Pew News Index 08 Candidates

A new Pew Research Center News Interest Index national survey (story, results) of 1,011 adults (conducted 10/12 though 10/15) finds:

  • 78% can name Hillary Clinton when prompted to "tell me the names of any candidates who are running for the Democratic nomination for President;" 62% can name Barack Obama, 28% can name John Edwards.
  • When prompted for Republican candidates, 45% can name Rudy Giuliani, 30% can name Mitt Romney, 27% can name Fred Thompson, and 24% can name John McCain.

Full results available here.

POLL: Times/Bloomberg National Survey

A new Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg national survey (story, results) of 1,039 registered voters (conducted 10/19 through 10/22) finds:

  • Among 469 likely Democratic primary voters, Sen. Hillary Clinton (at 48%) leads Sen. Barack Obama (17%) and former Sen. John Edwards (13%) in a national primary. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
  • Among 364 likely Republican primary voters, former Mayor Rudy Giuliani leads former Sen. Fred Thompson (32% to 15%) in a national primary; Sen. John McCain trails at 13%, former Gov. Mitt Romney at 11%, and former Gov. Mike Huckabee at 7%. All other candidates receive less than five percent each.
  • General election match-ups:

    Clinton 48%, McCain 38%
    Obama 44%, McCain 36%
    Clinton 49%, Romney 34%
    Obama 42%, Romney 32%
    Clinton 47%, Giuliani 41%
    Obama 43%, Giuliani 40%
    Clinton 49%, Thompson 38%
    Obama 46%, Thompson 31%

POLL: Cook/RT Clinton vs Giuliani, Clinton vs Romney

A new Cook Political Report/RT Strategies national survey of 855 registered voters nationwide (conducted 10/18 through 10/21) finds Sen. Hillary Clinton edging out former Mayor Rudy Giuliani (43% to 39%) and leading former Gov. Mitt Romney (46% to 37%) in national general election match-ups.

We will add a link once it is available.

POLL: SurveyUSA Kentucky Gubernatorial GE

A new SurveyUSA automated survey of 572 likely voters in Kentucky (conducted 10/19 through 10/21) finds Democratic challenger Steve Beshear leading Gov. Ernie Fletcher (58% to 38%) in a general election match-up for Governor.

Why Does a Weaker Result Move the Trend Up?

Topics: 2008 , Pollster.com , Slate Scorecard , The 2008 Race

As many of you know, our partnership with the online journal Slate resumed last week, as they kicked off their new Election Scorecard feature, which is once again powered and provided by Pollster.com. For now, the Slate feature displays our most recent trend estimate for each candidate in the early primary states as well as handy Flash graphic. The display of trend updates has both the writers at Slate and yours truly watching the daily twitches in the numbers more carefully. Today's movement in the national numbers for the Democratic primary reveals an idiosyncrasy in the way our trend estimates behave that I want to explain.

Some background: The trend lines we plot in our charts are different from the rolling averages we plotted for the races for Senate, Governor and U.S. House in 2006, and from the "polling averages" you see on other web sites. A polling average makes use of data from just the most recent polls included in the average (be it 5 polls or some other number). Our approach - developed by our partner, Professor Charles Franklin - has been to plot line based on a "local regression" that takes into account all available data for the current estimate, not just the most recent 4 or 5 or 8 polls.

The key difference between trend estimates and rolling averages is that an average produces a new estimate for each combination of polls included in the average at any point in time. The regression line produces a trend line - a line, rather than a point - with a particular slope that is either moving up, down or staying level at any point in time.

Another key issue is the level of sensitivity that Professor Franklin built into the regression model that produces the trend line. I'll let him explain:

I've chosen an estimation method and designed the approach we take so that the trend estimator should be resistant to bias due to a single organization or a single poll. While it can be fooled under the right circumstances, those should be both rare and short lived, rather than common and long term.

Franklin explains the mechanics of the estimator in more detail in posts here, here and here.

This brings me to the most recent odd twitch in the national averages for the Democratic presidential trial heat. Late last week, our last update of the national Democratic numbers had Hillary Clinton at 43.2%. Yesterday, we updated the charts with a new national poll conducted and released by the Republican firm, Public Opinion Strategies, that gave Clinton 40% of the Democratic vote. Yet despite showing a result for Clinton that was below her latest trend estimate, the addition of the new poll moved her estimate up higher by nearly a full percentage point (from 43.2% to 44.1%).


Why? It is all about the what the regression estimate tells us about the trend evident in the last 10 or so polls. The chart makes clear that our most recent estimate of the trend is sharply up for Clinton. As per Franklin's design, the addition of just one new poll did not significantly lessen that upward slope. However, since the end date of the new poll comes a full week since the last poll, the line has moved forward in the upward direction for another week, thus producing a nearly one point increase.

The point is, we're not just adding one new poll and dropping one old poll from a last-five or last-six poll average. We are gradually updating a trend line based on all the data available.

Polling BS

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

As it seems to be a day for not taking ourselves too seriously, here is another item from the incomparable Onion (via an alert reader and Andrew Sullivan). A warning, this video clip includes strong language NOT suitable for young children or offices:

The First Colbert Poll

Topics: 2008 , The 2008 Race

I suppose it was inevitable. Just about everyone who follows politics knows by now about late night comic Stephen Colbert's one state run for president, launched last week. Well today, the inevitable, as reported by The Washington Post's Chris Cillizza:

Public Opinion Strategies, a Republican polling firm, recently completed a national poll of 1,000 likely 2008 voters that included Colbert's name in both the GOP and Democratic primaries. (He has announced his plans to run in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.) In the field from Oct. 18-21, the survey has a 5 percent margin of error.

In the Democratic primary, Colbert takes 2.3 percent of the vote -- good for fifth place behind Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (40 percent), Sen. Barack Obama (19 percent), former Sen. John Edwards (12 percent) and Sen. Joe Biden (2.7 percent. Colbert finished ahead of Gov. Bill Richardson (2.1 percent), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (2.1 percent) and former Sen. Mike Gravel (less than 1 percent).

He was less lucky in the Republican field, where he took less than 1 percent of the vote behind even longshot candidates like Reps. Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani led the Republican field with 29 percent, followed by former Gov. Mitt Romney at 12 percent, former Sen. Fred Thompson (11 percent) and Sen. John McCain (10 percent).

See the Cillizza item for a quote from POS partner Neil Newhouse and decide for yourself if Newhouse is any more serious about the Colbert candidacy than Colbert.

After struggling to find some meaningful lesson in all of this, I simply give you Colbert's estimable mentor Jon Stewart, who made the following observation about Vice President Dick Cheney's 18% job approval rating last year:

The 18 percent thing is you really have to think of this in -- let's look at this just purely statistically. Four out of five dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gum for their patients who chew gum. So, there is one out of five dentists who say "You chew gum? Ah, why not put sugar in it?"

These are not the best dentists, OK that's 20 percent. He's not even getting all the dentists who recommend sugared gum. That's low. I think Dracula has a higher Q rating right now than the vice president.

So there you have it. Or something.

POLL: American Research Group Bush Approval

A new American Research Group national survey of 1,100 adults (conducted 10/18 through 10/21) finds:

  • 25% approve of the way George W. Bush is handling his job as president -- down from 34% in September; 67% disapprove.
  • 23% approve of the way Bush is handling the economy; 67% disapprove.