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Dispatches: Greenberg's Response to Lombardo

Topics: Dispatches from the War Room , Stan Greenberg

This guest pollster contribution from Stan Greenberg is part of Pollster.com's week-long series on his new book, Dispatches from the War Room. Greenberg is chairman and CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

I think Steve Lombardo makes an important point.  Some elections and some periods invite big choices and political projects, while many do not.  When I raised the issue, I was not so much suggesting what is the best choice in a particular campaign.  Obviously, you will do what works and use the opportunity of the moment to win.  But I was making a self-reflective judgment about my work over a number of decades, and the parallel emergence of polling that was self-consciously tactical, some ideologically centered and some post-ideological.  There is evidence cited in the book that more recent generations of political consultants (p. 423) give greater weight to the thrill of the contest rather than partisan or ideological goals, compared to earlier generations.  I don't think that was just a consequence of diminishing issues in the late 1990s -- as many of them advanced this approach earlier -- e.g., the 1996 Clinton campaign -- and later.

I do think any campaign -- even ones in less tumultuous times and a lower place in the ticket -- will seek to pose a choice that draws on the issue and partisan environment, the candidate's goals and project, and that poses a defining choice with the opponent.  That is strategic and possibly purposeful, regardless of how small bore.  But collectively, pollsters and political consultants elevate the political discourse in the country as they are part of that process.  But where they are opportunistically jumping on tactics or "swing groups" detached from that kind of process, they may well be diminishing the quality of political discourse.

 

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