I Just Got “Push Polled” by Hillary Clinton’s Nevada Campaign
This article went viral in February 2016 and has since attracted more than 600,000 hits. It was quoted in the Daily Kos. It certainly upset many Sanders’ supporters who feared the worst about Hillary Clinton and her campaign tactics. This is one of the reasons Clinton lost the general election to Donald Trump 8 months later. Pissing off Sanders’ supporters backfired.
Mudslinging works. That’s because some mud usually sticks, no matter how filthy or detestable it is. We all say we hate “going negative.” Then, we eat it up. No one gets out of a spirited political race with a bleached white suit.
From Nixon to LBJ, from to Daley to JFK, from Bush swiftboating Kerry to Bush bullying McCain in South Carolina — history has taught us one simple and indisputable fact. Election victories often come down to doing whatever it takes to win.
The Hillary Clinton campaign now appears willing to resort to just about anything — including using underhanded campaign tactics in order to reverse the national tide turning against her in the four early primary states (and state caucuses). It’s readily apparent that her campaign has begun deploying one of the sneakiest tricks of political survey methodology. It’s called “push polling.” If you don’t understand what I’m talking about, I’ll get to that a bit later. Meanwhile, by all accounts, Bernie Sanders continues to run what’s generally been a positive campaign without attacking his opponent. I’ll eventually explain why Clinton’s troublesome practice of establishment politics, as usual, could be the difference in gaining the nomination unless more people rise up and express outrage against these disputable practices.
Here’s what prompted tonight’s essay, written in the heat of the moment and while taking notes of what transpired, which should raise serious questions. Namely, has the Hillary Clinton campaign gone over to the dark side? For those who suspect that I’m a Clinton-hater, nothing could be further from the truth. I’ve written glowingly about Sec. Clinton many times and even gone so far as to call her “the most accomplished woman in American history.” Even with these recent revelations, I’m about to disclose, I continue to stand by those words of high praise. So, this is hardly another exercise in the national sport of “Hillary bashing.” The rest, you can judge for yourselves.
At about 6 pm tonight, my home telephone rang. I was expecting an important call from a service repairman. So I picked up the call without looking at my caller ID. Turned out, it was a political pollster.
INTERVIEWER: “Hello. May I please speak with Nolan Dalla?”
ME: “Yes, that’s me.”
INTERVIEWER: “We’re polling residents here in Nevada tonight to see how they feel about important issues facing the citizens of Nevada. Mr. Dalla, do you have a few minutes to share your opinions with us?”
ME: “Sure, why not? Go ahead.”
After being asked a series of basic questions about my race, gender, income, education, and so forth — that’s when the political stuff began. At this point, I wasn’t sure if I was speaking with a national polling firm, a media outlet, one of the two political parties, or someone working directly on a campaign. It could have been any of the above. I hadn’t paid attention much at the start of the call. I’m not even sure the caller said her name or identified who she was working for. However, once the questions turned political, the real reason for my Friday evening phone call became obvious.
I was asked several questions about the two Democratic candidates. Oddly enough, not a single question was asked about Republicans. So, this call was probably coming from a polling and research firm that was hired by one of the campaigns. With only two Democrats still in the race, that meant I was likely receiving a phone call disguised as a “poll” by people who were actually working for either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. Given the establishment politics practiced by the Clinton campaign, I immediately suspected that my “pollster” was probably a paid staffer or someone with a so-called “research” firm working to change the minds of voters in support of Clinton. In fact, as a possible Sanders’ supporter, I was probably their intended target. They hoped to reach voters who were leaning to Sanders, then ask some pointed questions framed to raise doubt about the candidate, which might sway votes in the caucus — which is about two weeks away.
However, sometimes the hunter becomes the hunted. The staffer manning the telephone conducting the interview had no clue who she was talking to.
To make certain I was worthy of their time, the first series of questions dealt with my likelihood of participating in Nevada’s state caucus, coming up on Feb. 20th. My response was that I was 100 percent certain I’d attend my local caucus. Had I stated there was no chance I’d attend, the phone call probably would have abruptly ended much sooner. It also worth noting that the interviewer was clearly reading straight from a script. Trouble was, she had terrible difficulty saying one particular word, which was kind of critical to our discussion. The keyword was “CAUCUS.” She kept on saying “Cou-cous.” Just imagine a badly garbled mispronunciation of “couscous” at some restaurant called “Ali Baba.” I almost laughed a few times but was able to contain myself. I might need “ammunition” later on.
I was asked favorable and unfavorable ratings on a 1 to 5 scale for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton on a variety of different topics — things like the candidate’s experience, ability to deal with the economy, foreign policy knowledge, civil rights, immigration, etc. At first, the questions were pretty benign. Whoever devised the script did a pretty good job making things appear, at least initially, this was an unbiased telephone call with legitimate intentions to measure “public opinion.”
I gave Sanders high marks in most categories. I gave Clinton high marks on experience (I gave her a “5” and Sanders only a “4”) but much lower scores on standing up for the working class, taking on the big banks, fighting wars in the Middle East, and so forth. That’s where Clinton’s record is, at best, spotty. At worse, it should disqualify her among progressive voters.
Things were about to heat up. Big time.
INTERVIEWER: “What best describes your political affiliation — Democrat, Republican, or Independent?”
ME: “None of those describe my politics. I’m a socialist.”
INTERVIEWER: “But you have to pick one. Should I mark down that you are an independent?”
ME: “No, because I’m NOT an independent. I am completely opposed to the two-party system. I want multiple political parties. And, I’m a socialist.”
INTERVIEWER: “Hmmm, okay. So, what if I were to tell you The Washington Post said that Bernie Sanders’ campaign promises would cost more than $20 trillion and would raise everyone’s taxes — would you now be “more likely’ or ‘less likely” to vote for Sanders, or has your opinion remained unchanged?”
ME: “That’s not accurate at all. I read that editorial last week. I could tear that completely to shreds. How much time DO YOU HAVE? Let me to set the record straight and explain to you how The Post post misrepresented several of Sanders policy positions.”
INTERVIEWER: “Ummmmm. Uhhhhhhh. So, would you now be “more likely’ or ‘less likely” to vote for Sanders, or has your opinion remained unchanged?”
ME: “My position remains unchanged because the premise of the question isn’t just misleading. It’s wrong. Do you understand that?”
INTERVIEWER: “Uhhh, what if I were to tell you The New York Times expressed serious reservations about Bernie Sanders being able to work with Congress and described him as ‘divisive’ — would you now be “more likely’ or ‘less likely” to vote for Sanders, or has your opinion remained unchanged?”
ME: “You mean Sanders would be more divisive than Hillary Clinton? Huh? Seriously? Has the esteemed New York Times been paying attention to politics in this country for the past 25 years since the Clintons emerged as national political figures? Besides, I’ve been quoted in the New York Times six times, at least that I know of — and twice they misspelled my name. Now, you think I give them my credibility?”
So, this minor bickering goes on back and forth for about five more questions. I sense this is the interviewer’s call from hell. She’s going to be busting my balls in the break room in about 45 minutes, complaining about the asshole she got stuck with who knew every fiber of the shit sandwich she’s trying to peddle like a tasty Reuben. The last bastion of hope I had this call might still be fair-handed and would address some of Clinton’s hangar of political baggage as big as the United Airlines counter at O’Hare Airport evaporated when her “questions” turned to how I planned to caucus in two weeks after hearing these biased narratives about the two candidates.
INTERVIEWER: “How likely are you still to COUSCOUS for Bernie Sanders if you knew that he blocked gun control legislation five times as a U.S. Senator?”
ME: “First, let’s get one thing straight. It’s CAUCUS. Not COUSCOUS. Got that?”
INTERVIEWER: “So Sir, how likely are you still to (another mispronunciation of caucus) for Sanders if you knew that he blocked gun control legislation five times?”
ME: “Have you read why he blocked that legislation multiple times? Do you know anything about the United States Senate? I do. I used to work there, you know. Want to hear more about how bills get passed?”
INTERVIEWER: “So, are you still likely to vote for Bernie Sanders?”
ME: “Um, take a wild guess — yes.”
INTERVIEWER: (getting flustered and now trapped on a call she can’t wait to end) “How likely are you to still caucus (she gets it right — finally) for Bernie Sanders if you knew he blocked immigration reform six times as a U.S. Senator?”
ME: “What are you talking about?”
INTERVIEWER: “It says here he voted six times against immigration reform. That’s all I’m supposed to say.”
ME: “You are a disgrace to politics and to progressives. Do you see what you are doing? You are trying to frighten Latino voters and completely misrepresenting Sanders’s voting record. Do you realize that? Do you know what you are doing? Nevada has lots of Hispanics and you are push-polling a question designed to scare Latinos about Sanders. Isn’t that right? Admit it.”
INTERVIEWER: <SILENCE — SOUND OF RUMPLED PAPERWORK>
ME: “I could destroy any one of your arguments in just a couple of seconds….You aren’t a pollster. You are a fraud. You are a pretender, and I’m going to expose you. What’s your name? Tell me your name and who you work for?”
[Side Note: By the way, I almost began cursing — but decided against going that route. I wanted to keep her on the line for as long as possible, in order to learn more about what was going on.]
INTERVIEWER: “I’m just asking questions, Sir.”
ME: “No you are not. You are asking negatively slanted questions about Bernie Sanders. Go back and look at your questions again. So, who do you work for? I want names.”
INTERVIEWER: “Maybe I should have my supervisor call you back. Would that be okay, Sir? Let me take down your phone number and have my supervisor call you. That’s what we are supposed to do when we get asked questions which deviate from the question and answer part.”
ME: Yes, by all means — have your supervisor call me. I’ll be waiting. I’d love to talk to your supervisor.”
Three hours later, my phone has still not rung. But, I did manage to write up this scathing expose on WHAT’S HAPPENING NOW IN NEVADA.
Hillary Clinton’s Presidential Campaign is resorting to one of the lowest, most reviled tactics of campaigning, the sludge known as the “push poll.” It’s clearly happening in Nevada, and probably other states, too.
What makes this so reprehensible is that many voters will not be able to discern truth from fiction. They will conclude the “poll” feeling they were important enough to receive a phone call mistakenly believing they were asked fair questions and they were left with lingering doubts about the viability of Bernie Sanders as a presidential candidate.
Unfortunately, this garbage has a proven track record. “Push polling” went into the gutter in the worst kind of way 15 years ago, in South Carolina. John McCain, then known as a “maverick Republican,” posed a serious threat to George W. Bush, clearly the establishment candidate. In what became a political gauntlet for conservative Republicans and the Bush Campaign, the vile henchmen led by Karl Rove (and supposedly “independent” Super PACs) began conducting “push polling” among registered South Carolina Republicans. Hundreds of thousands of phone calls were made asking “poll questions” about McCain which amounted to a well-disguised political assassination. McCain never recovered and Bush easily won the nomination (in 2000).
From Wikipedia: “A semi-underground smear campaign (began) against McCain, delivered by push polls, faxes, e-mails, flyers, audience plants, and the like. These claimed most famously that he had fathered a black child out of wedlock (the McCains’ dark-skinned daughter Bridget was adopted from Bangladesh; this misrepresentation was thought to be an especially effective slur in a Deep South state where the race was still central, but also that his wife Cindy was a drug addict, that he was a homosexual, and that he was a “Manchurian Candidate” traitor or mentally unstable from his North Vietnam POW days.”
As I stated, “push polling” works. Gullible voters get confused and start doubting their allegiances to a candidate. Even if a small percentage switches their votes, a couple of hundreds of voters can mean a big difference in a tight political race. The Clinton-Sanders race isn’t just tight. It’s a dead heat, at least here in Nevada.
When the phone rang earlier tonight in my home and someone secretly working for the Clinton Campaign thought they were talking to someone gullible to manipulation who might ultimately change his vote. They have, in fact, do the opposite. They lit a fuse. Let this be a WARNING and a cautionary tale that these are PRECISELY the tactics Bernie Sanders is working against, and fighting against within his own so-called “party.” It’s the kind of tactics Sanders is working to end. We need to support him. We can no longer have “politics as usual.”
In the end, push polling and negative campaigning might actually end up making the difference in the Democratic race. The cynic in me remains pessimistic as to how many people out there who receive despicable phone calls like this will be equipped with the knowledge and experience to see through the bullshit. I’m hopeful that writing this essay might open a few eyes.
It’s now 1o pm. More than four hours have passed since the supervisor was supposed to get back to me. Still, the phone hasn’t rung.
Nevada voters, next time your phone rings and it’s a poll, beware. It’s probably not a poll. It’s something else. It’s old-style establishment politics of the worst kind, that were once used by one of the worst political machines.
It appears that the Hillary Clinton Campaign knows no moral nor ethical boundaries.
UPDATE: I have since asked for a public statement from the Hillary Clinton campaign either confirming or denying a connection to these tactics, which is posted HERE.
UPDATE: ABC News posted an article with an audio recording of a similar call, so it’s happening elsewhere. CLICK HERE TO READ.LISTEN.
Postscript: “Push polling” appears to be a common practice by the Clinton Campaign, as evidenced by this 2008 story in The Los Angeles Times. LINK HERE
Writer’s Note and Full Disclosure: I am working actively for Bernie Sanders’ Presidential campaign as a volunteer. I have also contributed money to Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. His campaign, at least here in Nevada, to the best of my knowledge — is NOT resorting to “push polling.”
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