Man Without Qualities

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Well, Surprise! Surprise! Surprise! II: Another Dead White Male Is Said To Slime The President From The Grave!

The Man Without Qualities has a particular curiosity about the Democratic penchant for slimy campaign accusations purportedly emitted by the long dead - someone did not speak up in the many years preceding death, but now slimes from the grave! The Rathergate/Memogate slur - based on forged documents purporting to be authored by Mr. Bush's long-dead National Guard superior - was a particularly juicy specimen.

Now, just in time for Holloween, through a link thoughtfully provided by Kausfiles, we have more dead White male words from the beyond! Yes, here's an overripe, seasonal treat from Knight Ridder Newspapers, with juices fairly dripping from its bones:

President Bush often has cited his work in 1973 with a now-defunct inner-city program for troubled teens ... P.U.L.L., the Professional United Leadership League, whose executive director, John White, had played tight end for the Houston Oilers in the early 1960s. But former associates of White, who died in 1988, have disputed in recent interviews much of Bush's version of his time at the program.

"I was working full time for an inner-city poverty program known as Project P.U.L.L.," Bush said in his 1999 autobiography, "A Charge to Keep." "My friend John White ... asked me to come help him run the program. ... I was intrigued by John's offer. ... Now I had a chance to help people."

But White's administrative assistant and others associated with P.U.L.L., speaking on the record for the first time, say Bush was not helping to run the program and White had not asked Bush to come aboard. ... "We didn't know what kind of trouble he'd been in, only that he'd done something that required him to put in the time," said Althia Turner, White's administrative assistant.

"John said he was doing a favor for George's father because an arrangement had to be made for the son to be there," said Willie Frazier, also a former player for the Houston Oilers and a P.U.L.L. summer volunteer in 1973. .... "He didn't help run the program. I was in charge of him and I wouldn't say I helped run the program, either," said David Anderson, a recreational director at P.U.L.L.

A White House spokesman, told about the interviews, denied Bush had been in any trouble or Bush's father, who was ambassador to the United Nations at the time, had arranged the job at P.U.L.L.

I particularly like the article's passing reference to "a book published in 2000, largely discredited," its description of one of the current slimers as having "said she has avoided reporters for years, [and] agreed to be interviewed only after phoning her pastor for advice" and the hilarious suggestion that Mr. Bush could not have obtained a place in an unpaid inner city charity project without his father's intervention. Those are nice, garish, cheeky touches - all so appropriate for this time of the year! BOO!

Of course, it goes without saying that the Knight Ridder reporter doesn't say anything about the slimerss current and past political activities and affiliations. Could those be Democratic in nature? Well, does the reader think those activities and affiliations would have been mentioned if they were (are) Republican activities and affiliations? You bet they would have been mentioned. And how many people working in inner city projects like this tend to be Republicans?

Hey, it could happen. They got one Republican to work at P.U.L.L., didn't they! At least that isn't disputed.
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The Man Without Qualities believes that pollster John Zogby often manipulates his results for media effect, and it's no surprise that Mr. Zogby now has a comfortable relationship with Reuters, the "news" service. In addition, John Zogby's brother, James Zogby, is founder and president of the Arab American Institute, which bills itself as "the policy and political research arm of the Arab American Community" but whose activities are often rather partisan. The two brothers are on very good terms. That fraternal relationship was hardly worth a mention in 2000.

For all that, Mr. Zogby is a very intelligent and talented man who has lots of information at his command. So it's worth reading what he has to say, even though what he has to say should be viewed with more than one's customary level of skepticism. Here's some of what he's saying today:

Bush led Kerry 47-45 percent in the latest three-day tracking poll, a statistical dead heat that was within the poll's margin of error. Bush had an identical 47-45 percent lead the previous day.

About 6 percent of likely voters are still undecided between the president and the Massachusetts senator 10 days before the Nov. 2 election, and neither candidate has been able to break 50 percent since the poll began on Oct. 7.

Pollster John Zogby said the tense White House battle evoked memories of the disputed 2000 election narrowly won by Bush over Democrat Al Gore. At this stage of the 2000 race, Bush had a one-point lead over Gore in the tracking poll.

Zogby said Bush was performing slightly better this year in the states he won in 2000 -- the so-called "red states" named for the color used by television networks to identify them -- than Kerry was in the states won by Gore.

"Bush leads in the 'red states' 51 percent to 42 percent, while Kerry leads in the 'blue states' by only 47 percent to 43 percent," Zogby said.

So according to John Zogby, Mr. Bush is now doing better in the states he won in 2000 than he did in that campaign. Senator Kerry is doing worse in the states that Mr. Gore won. Mr. Gore took some states in 2000 by only a handful of votes, and, because of redistricting, the states Mr. Bush won in 2000 count for more in the Electoral College in 2004 than they did in 2000, and the states Mr. Gore won count for less than then did in 2004.

When do the undecideds start to break for the challenger?

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Thursday, October 21, 2004

Well, Surprise! Surprise! Surprise!

Be honest with yourself. Won't you be surprised if Kerry-Edwards doesn't come up with some "surprise" revelation about President Bush a few days before the upcoming election? - perhaps through a conduit, an "independent" operative? A revelation striving to emulate the DUI story of 2000? Of course you would be surprised! Surprised and a litle disappointed. Already there are unfounded Kerry-Edwards claims that the Bush administration has current plans to restore the military draft and privatize social security and some "blood for oil" blather - not to mention the CBS News-Kerry/Edwards telephone calls in the Rathergate/Memogate doings. Surely all that's just a warm up for what's coming. The real question is what form it might take.

Here's an entertaining possibility from Roland Patrick:

[W]ell-placed sources indicate we should expect desperate Democrat operatives to leak--to whichever network anchor has any credibility left--late next week, a new outrage over Lt Geo. W. Bush's Texas ANG career. Details are sketchy, but reports of highly amusing questions have been floated, out of the Pacific Northwest, to some former pilot colleagues of the President. Betting is heavy for Friday, October 29th.

Dear me, another National Guard slur? Hard on the heels of the Rathergate/Memogate mess? Good grief!
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Learning From Florida

Recently there has been a good deal of fussing - mostly by Democrats - about partisan "disenfranchisement" and "intimidation" of voters in the 2000 election, especially, it is alleged, in Florida. The Democratic whining is clearly grossly exaggerated. But it is worth recalling that a good many thousands of Florida voters were apparently induced not to vote by the national television networks - and most of those voters were Republicans, as John Fund cogently summarized after the debacle:

The ... Networks ... declared the polls were closed in Florida when some 5% of the state, in the Central time zone, was still voting. Since those areas voted 2-to-1 for George W. Bush, the GOP nominee probably lost several thousand votes because citizens thought they couldn't cast ballots. ...

It's now well known that all five TV networks and the Associated Press declared Florida for Al Gore at 7:50 p.m. Eastern time, 10 minutes before the polls closed in the panhandle counties. That could not have dissuaded many voters from casting ballots. But far more serious was the announcement by all five networks at 7 p.m. Eastern time that the polls in Florida had closed. As Brill's Content reported: "At 7 p.m., ET, every network was talking about the poll closings in nine states. And every network was wrong: the polls were closing in only eight states. . . . The polls in that heavily Republican [panhandle of Florida] wouldn't close for another hour--8 p.m. ET." The networks, with the exception of Fox News Channel, continued to repeat this misinformation throughout that hour.

Affidavits from 42 poll workers or inspectors ... all indicated that they saw a decline in the number of voters beginning at 6 p.m. CST, when ordinarily the voting traffic increases. ...

An independent report commissioned by CNN accused all the networks of "an abuse of power" by confusing the public and interfering with democracy. ... But the networks have not specifically addressed why they all misreported that the Florida polls had closed. CBS, for example, explicitly stated that the polls had closed in Florida 13 times during the hour while the panhandle counties were open, along with 15 additional implied statements to that effect and frequent visual references to a map showing Florida's polls had closed. All of the networks except Fox News Channel repeated the contention that Florida's polls were closed throughout the hour that the panhandle precincts remained open.

There is growing evidence that the network poll-closing announcement did lower voter turnout. A survey by pollster John McLaughlin estimated that the early calls by the networks discouraged more than 4% more Republicans than Democrats to go to the polls. Another study, by John Lott of the Yale Law School, estimated the drop-off at 3%. That's a range of 7,500 to 10,000 Republican voters for the two studies.

The Committee for Honest Politics, a GOP-founded watchdog group, estimated that at each of the 361 panhandle polling places, the networks' false information dissuaded 54 people from voting. That would represent a total of 19,133 Floridians who didn't vote. If these voters would have gone 2-to-1 for Mr. Bush, as actual voters in the panhandle did, that means a loss of 6,377 Bush votes--nearly 12 times his official margin of victory.

There's no way of knowing how accurate these estimates are, but the testimony of poll workers and inspectors indicates that something certainly happened after the networks declared Florida's polls closed.....

On Oct. 30, a week before the election, Florida's Secretary of State Katherine Harris issued a statement to the media pointing out that the polls in the Central time zone would be open until 8 p.m. EST.

Since Mr. Fund wrote those words, much evidence of liberal network news willingness to work (and distort) in the service of the Democratic cause has surfaced, including the Rathergate/Memogate scandal that has ripped through CBS News and the grotesque memo of ABCNEWS Political Director Mark Halperin admonishing ABC staff not to "reflexively and artificially" hold John Kerry to as high a standard of "accountability" as George Bush.

It is, indeed, important to learn from what certain political actors did in Florida in 2000. But the people who bear the most watching include those who staff and manage the liberal network news divisions. It does not follow that more government regulation would make things better. But the blogosphere and media outlets themselves should be prepared to identify network news abuses before it is too late and the election is again plunged into litigation.
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Undecided Voters Break Towards The Challenger? II: The Voice From The Thermos

[Kausfiles readers try this post.]

The Man Without Qualities is not the only, or the first, or the smartest person to suspect that too many pundits and pollsters and pundit/pollsters take too many of their political temperature readings in a vacuum, or a bubble, or both - in a political thermos*, if you will. As election day approaches, the increasingly involuted thermos contingent begins to look a lot like stock market "chartists" - technical analysts who believe recurrent trading patterns can assist them in forecasting future price movements. There may be a bit of truth in such analyses. But just as financial "chartism" runs against all forms of the Efficient Market Hypothesis (which is a lot sturdier than its critics allow) political poll "chartism," which seeks to predict results based on the relationship between past elections and past polls (on the one hand) and upcoming elections and current polls (on the other hand) is a very tough way to make a living, politically, intellectually or financially. Of course, the most basic tenet of political chartism, that election returns look like poll results taken soon before the election, has a lot of truth in it - but things get very dodgy after that. What Kausfiles calls the venerable "Incumbent Rule" (in the campaign's last hours, we tend to see "undecided" voters "break" for the challenger), that darling of Conventional Wisdom mongers everywhere, is a form of political "chartism." The Man Without Qualities remains skeptical of all such chartism, even versions enhanced by complicated epicycles - because they seem too much the products of political professionals impressed by a basso profundo that is little more than the sound of their own voices echoing from the depths of an empty thermos.

For example, it is sometimes said by the voice from the thermos that empirical support for the Incumbent Rule is provided by a 1989 study by Nick Panagakis, president of Market Shares Corporation (the firm that polls for the Chicago Tribune), which analyzed results from 155 surveys, most from the late 1980s, all conducted during the last week before an election. In a "famous" article in The Polling Report, Panagakis found that in 82% of the cases, the undecideds "broke" mostly to the challenger.

That's all very nice for Mr. Panagakis. I hope he made a bundle. But his "cases" weren't all taken from presidential elections - there haven't been that many. So he performed a triage on his data to decide what cases to include. But it's very unlikely that any of his cases were similar to a presidential election in which the best economic model for the election gave a prediction of 57.48 percent of the two-party vote for the incumbent - in this case President Bush (odd the way Yale keeps popping up this year). Are we supposed to believe that late deciders are going to vote as if they really don't care about the economy that much, after all? Instead, they're going to discover they're all really, really angry about Iraq? - even though John Kerry is the Democratic nominee exactly because even Democrats weren't angry enough to choose Howard Dean in the primaries? [UPDATE: Polls, of course, are stationary snapshots - not, in themselves, intended to be predicative at all. Pollsters are still-photographers. Prediction is the job of pundits and public markets - and the public markets in Bush v. Kerry futures very much favor Mr. Bush at this moment.]

For those who just can't break the chartism habit, Michael Barone, with the help of Steven Den Beste, turned the whole chartist enterprise on its head:

Blogger Steven Den Beste has prepared an interesting chart. ... Eliminating some of the peaks and valleys of the Bush and Kerry percentages in's average of recent polls, Den Beste shows that Bush's percentages have tended to rise over time while Kerry's have risen much less if at all.

He draws the Bush long-term trend line from a low point around 43 percent in May, when the media were full of stories about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, to higher numbers around 45 percent in July and August, then up to the 49 percent level he has reached today. His long-term Kerry trend line runs through the 44 to 45 percent level in the spring to the 45 to 46 percent level in August, after the Democratic National Convention, to the same 45 to 46 percent level of today.

It seems curious that the percentages of the incumbent should rise while the percentages of the challenger have not risen much if at all. As a general proposition, you expect an incumbent's standing to change less, because voters already know much more about him than about his opponent. But that hasn't happened this time.

My tentative explanation is this. Bush's most effective opposition this year has come not from Kerry and the Democrats but from Old Media, the New York Times and the news pages of the Washington Post, along with the broadcast networks ABC, CBS, and NBC. Old Media gave very heavy coverage to stories that tended to hurt Bush?violence in Iraq, Abu Ghraib, the false charges of Richard Clarke and Joseph Wilson, etc. And during the first eight months of the year Bush did a poor job of making his case.

Then, suddenly, that case was made with maximum effectiveness at the Republican National Convention in New York - by John McCain and Rudolph Giuliani, by Zell Miller and Arnold Schwarzenegger, by Laura Bush and Dick Cheney and George W. Bush himself. Bush was able to get his message out unmediated by Old Media. (Fox News Channel had more viewers during the Republican National Convention than any of the old-line broadcast networks.) The message was simple: We need this president to protect the nation. Bush muffed the chance to deliver that message effectively in the first debate. But he made up for it in the second and third debates.

I agree with the significance Mr. Barone assigns to the Republican post-Convention "bounce" and the skewed-but-saturated mainstream media coverage in this race. And I haven't seen anything from the conventional chartists that even begins to answer this kind of argument or the economic models.


* I know, I know ... it's a registered trademark.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Hail to The Bulldogs

The official site for Yale athletics reports:

For the first time since the U.S. Presidential election process came down to Republicans vs. Democrats, candidates from the same undergraduate institution oppose each other. Since a Yale man (graduate school included) will occupy the White House for the fifth straight term - and both of the current candidates were athletes - we surveyed the largest Bulldog team to see who was getting the most support. The 2004 Yale Football team leans to the right with 62 players voting for George Bush '68 (baseball). John Kerry '66 (lacrosse, hockey, soccer), who shared the Yale campus with his opposition for two years as an undergraduate, got 27 votes while 11 players said they were undecided.
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Undecided Voters Break Towards The Challenger?

Around this time of the election cycle one often hears that last minute undecided voters "break towards the challenger" in the actual election. That is supposedly because the public knows more about the incumbent and follows a voting decision procedure that first asks whether the incumbent deserves re-election. One often hears (usually from Dick Morris) that an incumbent who has not "broken" the 50% barrier in the polls by this point is supposed to be in trouble. Is that pattern likely to be followed in this election?

It seems unlikely that the "break towards the challenger" pattern will be nearly as strong in this election as in the past. For one thing, the same factors that favor the challenger in the general election are also supposed to be reasons why the challenger gets a bigger "post convention bounce" than the incumbent. In this election President Bush's post-Convention bounce was clearly much larger than Senator Kerry's bounce. The mainstream media has been saturating the public with their view of the race for a very long time. It is hard to imagine that the public has much new, positive material to absorb about Kerry-Edwards between now and the election.

In addition, the "break towards the challenger" pattern was very weak in 2002. An MSNBC/Zogby Poll conducted of 500 likely Florida voters over Oct. 8-10, 2002 (about as far out from election day as we are now) in the course of the Florida statewide race for governor of that state revealed a statistical dead heat: Incumbent Jeb Bush (Republican) had 48% of likely voters behind him, Bill McBride (Democrat) pulled 45% and 7% of likely voters said they were "Not Sure." The actual election wasn't even close. Gov. Jeb Bush trounced lawyer Bill McBride, 56% to 43%. Of course, Florida wasn't the only example of a late swing towards Republicans and incumbents in the 2002 election - a swing that went essentially undetected by almost all pollsters.

Sometimes the last minute 2002 swing was towards a Democratic incumbent. On the very eve of her 2002 re-election polls showed Democratic Louisiana Senator Landrieu in a dead heat with her challenger Terrell - with Senator Landrieu not having broken 50% in the polls in any consistent manner. In fact, Senator Landrieu won re-election with 624,214 votes, or 52%, and Terrell had 587,423, or 48%. The remaining "undecideds" did not break against the better-known incumbent in that case, either - even though she had not broken the supposedly magic 50% barrier in the polls.

MORE: More reasons to question whether the "break towards the challenger" effect has much to it.

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Being Ralph Nader: How Much Does The Ballot Matter?

Ralph Nader has been excluded from the ballot of many states, including critical Ohio. The Democratic Party and its allies have been the main movers in the effort to displace Mr. Nader.

Does it really matter that much?

I have serious doubts. Yes, removing Mr. Nader's name will likely reduce his share of the vote a bit. But wanting to vote for Nader-Camejo is not like wanting to for the Democrats or the Republicans. Being a Nader-Camejo supporter requires a much higher level of personal focus and alienation from the general political system the printed ballot literally represents. The great majority of prospective Nader-Camejo voters will likely be well aware that the Nader-Camejo ticket has been excluded from the printed ballot, and will be determined to vote for that ticket anyway. Absentee voters (consider Oregon) will have plenty of time to realize that their printed mail-in ballot does not include the Nader-Camejo names they wish to choose - and lots of time to resolve any resulting confusion.

In other words, one's being a Nader-Camejo supporter very likely means being willing to write in their names on the ballot, and understanding long before one's vote is cast that one will have to write in Nader-Camejo.

A suggestive example may be found in the last presidential election. In the 2000 election Mr. Nader drew 2.8 million votes nationwide -- 2.7 percent of the popular vote. Mr. Nader's name was excluded from the Wyoming ballot in 2000. How much did that matter? Consider this:

Wyoming reported that 221,685 ballots were cast and 213,726 votes for president were counted, but apparently only for candidates appearing on the ballot. That left 3.6 percent of the ballots not showing a vote for president _ 7,959 ballots.

"What didn't get reported was Ralph Nader," who ran on the Green Party ticket, Meyer said. "He wasn't on the ballot here so he waged an aggressive write-in campaign. If we had tied in the number who voted for Nader, then I think the undervote would be way, way less."

State officials had counted the write-in for Nader but failed to report it publicly. After receiving information from Scripps Howard, Meyer looked up the figures and found that Nader had received 4,625 votes. That would account for most of the ballots that didn't show a vote for president in Wyoming.

In other words, without his name appearing on the ballot in that state, Mr. Nader received 4,625 write-in votes in Wyoming in 2000 out of a total of 221,685 ballots cast, or about 2% of the total vote in Wyoming compared to the 2.7% he won nationally. Did one expect Mr. Nader to do as well in very-conservative Wyoming compared to his performance in the country as a whole even if his name had been on the ballot in 2000? Does all of that suggest that the Democrats have accomplished a great deal by excluding Mr. Nader from the ballot of various states this year?
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There’s Nothing Wrong With A Little Indecision...

... as long as your job doesn’t involve any responsibility.

Link thanks to Henry Hanks.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2004

The Case For Waiver?

It is no secret that since 2000 some Democrats have overtly argued, and some senior Democrats have implied, that President Bush is somehow an "illegitimate" President because he received a smaller share of the popular vote than did Al Gore. Mr. Gore's popular vote harvest has also been used as the basis of serious arguments that members of the Electoral College should have voted for him notwithstanding the state-by-state numbers (although Mr. Gore personally repudiated that particular argument). Other Gore partisans argued or suggested that a candidate garnering a smaller share of the popular vote is morally - if not legally - "illegitimate."

Now the Washington Post reports that in 2004, in the view of its analyst, there is a substantial chance that John Kerry may receive a majority of the Electoral College vote but a smaller share of the popular vote than George Bush:

The Post tracking poll shows Bush leading Kerry 50 to 47 percent. Independent Ralph Nader continues to barely register nationally, getting 2 percent of the hypothetical vote. But the survey suggests that Kerry continues to claim a large lead in key battleground states. In these 13 states, Kerry held a 53 percent to 43 percent advantage among likely voters.

Last night, former White House Counsel Jack Quinn appeared on Fox News advancing the same argument and possibility. This possibility raises a question:

Is Senator Kerry going to declare that if he loses the popular vote but wins an Electoral College majority, that he will waive his right to assume the presidency in favor of Mr. Bush?

Isn't such a declaration and result a simple corollary of the past four years of Democratic whining? If Senator Kerry won't make such a declaration, shouldn't all the Democrats who have done the whining insist that he do so?

Don't hold your breath.
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Asking The Wrong Question, Again?

Blogging has been light recently, mostly because the Man Without Qualities is in the process of buying an additional house not far from the current abode, which abode is also subject to ongoing construction. All of which takes up a lot of time and personal energy.

But, in addition, I have to some extent been waiting for additional wisdom from the Mystery Pollster about cell phone usage and polling - especially regarding "five factor households." Perhaps I'm slow on the uptake, but I don't think discussing - as the Mystery Pollster has done - whether households with land lines and cell phone often or seldom or almost never answer their land line sheds much light. Of course many people with land lines and cell phones often answer their land lines - but they often only answer calls to their land lines if the caller ID on that land line identifies the caller as known and desirable. Indeed, just one minute ago I declined to answer a call on the land line not two feet from this key pad because my call ID revealed the caller to be "Out of Area," but 10 minutes ago I accepted a call on the same line from my mortgage broker. Such people - including the Man Without Qualities - are functionally equivalent to "cellular-only" households as far as pollsters are concerned. No matter how many times the pollster calls that land line, the target will not answer. I therefore see no good reason to fold the "five factor households" problem into the general issue of poll "response rate" while breaking out "cellular only" households for special attention.

With respect to "cellular-only" households, The Mystery Pollster suggests (quite reasonably, in my view):

My point was that the available demographic estimates of the mobile-only population suggest a Democratic orientation, but the same demographic pattern also suggests they are historically low turnout voters. Even if we assume comparable turnout and a plausible pro-Kerry margin, their relatively small size still implies a very small effect. Of course, this inference is a matter of opinion. Yours may differ.

The analogous question for "five-factor households" is then: Is there anything that suggests that five-factor households have a partisan orientation?

There is at least a plausible (but by no means definitive) argument that "five factor households" tend to be upper income, and therefore possibly Republican-leaning in most areas (places such as West Los Angeles and the Upper West Side of New York would be exceptions). Of course, a "five factor household" needs enough money to afford both cell phone and land line service - so that already give the group a bit of a nudge up the economic scale. Perhaps more significantly, prior to the dawn of the national "do not call" registry, many people screened their land line calls with caller ID to avoid telemarketers. Such households were probably disproportionately relatively upper-income - because that's the demographic telemarketers mostly target. For example, it seems reasonable that more telemarketing calls went into prosperous La Canada-Flintridge on a per capita basis than into more modest Pico Rivera, located a few miles away. The establishment of the "do-not-call" registry means that a good reason for wanting (or needing) to screen one's calls was reduced. But that registry only went into effect recently, after many households had already established their screening procedures - procedures that they continue to maintain. Moreover, charitable (I do answer when the LA Opera and Philharmonic calls) and political organizations (including political pollsters and, much more often and annoyingly, consumer preference survey takers who seem to call only when my 5-year-old is near the phone to answer it!) and commercial outfits that have somehow obtained permission to call, still call in unacceptable numbers and at bad times - thereby prompting the desire to screen incoming calls with caller ID. A lot of these residual callers (including the consumer preference surveyors, but not the political pollsters) seem, not irrationally, to target upper-income households - although, again, this is anecdotal.

I, personally, know perhaps one true "cellular only" household with American citizenship (there appear to be more of them among the large number of illegal immigrants I know who buy prepaid service - are these included in Arianna's Democratic rescue-squad?). But I know dozens of "five factor households" who have citizenship and will vote.

How will they vote? Who knows? I haven't asked them all, but of those I have asked, I haven't found a single one who has answered a call from a political pollster this year.

Of course, that's not science.

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