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The Biggest Losers on Tuesday Were the Pollsters

Campaign 2016 Featured Post Memo Pad Politics Top News

The Biggest Losers on Tuesday Were the Pollsters

Democratic U.S. presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters on the night of the Michigan, Mississippi and other primaries at a Sanders campaign rally in Miami

When the dust settled after Tuesday’s Democratic primaries, Hillary Clinton expanded her commanding lead over Bernie Sanders by 18 delegates. This was the political bottom line, but it wasn’t THE story, was it?

The story was that by confounding pollster expectations that Clinton would handily take Michigan, Bernie scored a huge upset. Thus, Clinton’s loss in Michigan was “shocking” and Bernie’s win “stunning,” according to The Washington Post.

Actually, the two split Michigan pretty much evenly. Bernie’s 49.8 percent victory in Michigan was no more spectacular than Hillary’s 49.9 percent win in Iowa.

We are assuming it’s the vote that matters, as opposed to the story. Bernie’s great triumph came from upending the predictions of pollsters who, obviously, weren’t doing a very good job of polling. It’s all part of a pundit-pollster complex in which the analyzers play the man behind the curtain and the voters are munchkins who serve to validate their confidently delivered predictions.

Bernie did run a strong campaign in Michigan. He wisely showed up in the smaller cities, such as Traverse City and Kalamazoo. And he profited from his simple, if simple-minded, message that trade agreements single-handedly killed thousands of factory jobs in the Rust Belt.

One can understand the anger of a worker whose employer packed up and moved to Mexico. And the North American Free Trade Agreement provides a handy explanation of why that happened.

It’s a lot harder to examine the complex dynamics of trade. Reputable economists who have studied NAFTA, including some of its critics, have concluded that the accord modestly helped the American economy on the whole.

How many of the jobs that did leave for Mexico would have otherwise gone to even-lower-wage China? And how has rising demand for U.S. products from Mexico’s growing middle class helped U.S. manufacturing?

Back to the pundits.

The herd has stampeded to the importance of “angry white working-class men,” a group with which Bernie did quite well in Michigan. And they are important. (Many Democrats have long erred in cultivating racial and ethnic identity politics at the expense of white blokes.)

At the same time, THE story could have lingered longer on Clinton’s decisive win in Mississippi, where 90 percent of that state’s large African-American electorate chose Hillary over Bernie. Black votes matter just as much as white votes, do they not?

My Bernie friends have been cross with me of late. They accuse me of being blindly in love with Hillary.

Not true. I don’t love Hillary. She exasperates me on a number of counts. Bernie is more lovable, but he bothers me more. I am suspicious of radical promises from one who couldn’t get a single senator to co-sponsor his single-payer plan. And Bernie’s scheme for funding his proposals was so off-the-wall unrealistic it left even liberal economists gasping.

I do share with my Bernie friends a fear of the Republican candidates, except (in my case) John Kasich. My Bernie people will persist in sending me polls “showing” that he could more easily defeat any of the leading Republicans in a general election than could Hillary.

What those polls really show is how well Bernie would do if he were the nominee and Republicans let his politics, writings and personal history skate into November without comment. Hillary has already been copiously dumped upon.

Really, how much stock are you going to put in an eight-months-hence prediction from the same fellows who couldn’t get Michigan right the night before? The biggest losers on Tuesday were the pollsters, for sure.

Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at fharrop@gmail.com. To find out more about Froma Harrop and read features by other Creators writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Web page at www.creators.com.


Photo: Bernie Sanders thrusts his fists in the air as he speaks to supporters on the night of the Michigan, Mississippi and other primaries at his campaign rally in Miami, Florida March 8, 2016.    REUTERS/Carlo Allegri    

Froma Harrop

Froma Harrop’s nationally syndicated column appears in over 150 newspapers. Media Matters ranks her column 20th nationally in total readership and 14th in large newspaper concentration. Harrop has been a guest on PBS, MSNBC, Fox News and the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and is a frequent voice on NPR and talk radio stations in every time zone as well.

A Loeb Award finalist for economic commentary in 2004 and again in 2011, Harrop was also a Scripps Howard Award finalist for commentary in 2010. She has been honored by the National Society of Newspaper Columnists and the New England Associated Press News Executives Association has given her five awards.

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  1. Dominick Vila March 10, 2016

    The real story for me is the way Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders have changed the status quo, and forced other candidates in both parties to shift political positions to the right and left.
    Trump’s liberal social values, his far right positions on foreign policy, and his denunciations of the Republican establishment and traditional conservative values, represent a major challenge for his party, and a major change in paradigm that many conservatives are not prepared to accept.
    Sanders’ far left views have damaged Hillary Clinton’s image, and have forced her to move to a more centrist position than she would have preferred on some issues. The effect of Bernie’s attacks, coupled with the relentless attacks and a robust disinformation campaign by the opposition, have introduced a level of vulnerability that makes the outcome of the 2016 election difficult to predict.
    Both parties have an organic political problem that is likely to result in major ideological shifts in months and years to come, regardless of who wins in November. That legacy of Donald Trump’s and Bernie Sanders’ candidacies would increase exponentially if either of them becomes the next President of the United States.

    1. Theodora30 March 10, 2016

      You forgot to mention attacks from the mainstream media on Hillary. Today the Times is going after her for attacking Bernie. No concern about him repeatedly implying she has been corrupted by Wall Street and is merely their tool. And the media is constantly saying Republicans waited too long to attack Trump but Hillary is expected to fight with one hand tied behind her back.
      Apparently it is OK for the boys to trash people but not vice versa.


      If Bernie is the nominee expect to see ads showing him celebrating the 7th anniversary of the Sandinista takeover in Nicaraugua. Republican operatives are salivating at the thought because they know average Americans will be freaked out by that.

      1. Dominick Vila March 10, 2016

        The attacks directed at Hillary are far from being unprecedented. Similar attacks, although not as vicious, were directed at Geraldine Ferraro, Sarah Palin, and against every woman who had the audacity to pursue the presidency of the USA. Every time this happened, the excuse used was “we don’t mind a female President, but not this one”. I guess we may have to recruit an extra terrestrial to satisfy their expectations.
        Yes, the far right would have a field day if Bernie is our GOP. I don’t have a problem with most of what he says, except for the fact that most of his proposals would never be accepted by Congress, but I am afraid there are still too many relics of the McCarthy commie days around to guarantee defeat in November.

        1. FireBaron March 10, 2016

          I remember the attacks against Geraldine Ferraro. They continuously attacked her for everything, including her husband’s tenuous connections to organized crime families by benefit of being second cousin to some upper level members.
          As for Sarah, it’s kind of hard to attack someone’s abilities to lead, especially when she has squandered every opportunity she ever had to prove her capabilities. We also have “Sister Sarah” to thank for the unrelenting attacks against President Obama for the past 7-1/2 years! Without her, there would be no semi-organization to the Tea Party.

      2. FireBaron March 10, 2016

        Remember, folks, the press has been attacking Hillary since the 92 elections. One of the greatest ironies of this election cycle to me is the repeated attacks by OpEd writers in the New York Times, yet that same newspaper has endorsed her candidacy for President!

      3. @HawaiianTater March 10, 2016

        Hillary is not merely a tool of Wall Street. You forgot war hawk. Don’t undersell her.

        1. dtgraham March 10, 2016

          Now that’s funny.

    2. mike March 10, 2016

      What? “Bernie has forced Hillary to move to a more centrist position.” What a load of ?. If anything he has pulled her more to the left and if she is the candidate in the general election she will have a hard time moving back to that centrist position you claim she is in now.

      1. Dominick Vila March 10, 2016

        Hillary has always been a centrist, or center-left on social issues; and center-right on foreign policy and economic/fiscal issues. Bernie’s line of attack, including giving speeches to Wall Street bankers, and accepting donations from Wall Street, have forced her to move to the center on the latter.

        1. mike March 10, 2016

          Your pants are full again.
          The Hillary has always been left center but has been pulled further left by Bernie, from Wall Street reform to SS expansion to trade. Her positions now are ambitious liberal deals. From Synder in Michigan resigning, that Bernie has advocated for month, and is now Hilliary’s position this week.
          Bernie said she has “found religion” on the issues of free trade and America’s declining manufacturing sector.

          Sanders has chanpioned relentlessly from the beginning income inequality and reining in Wall Street which has forced her to say “No bank is too big to fail, and no individual is too powerful to jail.”
          Because of Bernie, Hillary has been forced to voice a more populist position on economics.
          She was behind Bernie on condemning KeystoneXL, She was for the TCC before she was against it, putting her in line with the progressive wing.
          College affordability she was forced to be more aggressive than in 2008.
          She is proposing more significant tax increase than 2008 all because to keep in touch the progressives.
          The only place that Bernie and Hillary has some distance is healthcare.
          Bernie has forced her to make adjustments to focus more on the progressive ideas to capitalize on the liberal enthusiasm of Bernie.
          Bernie has moved hillary way to the left and telling her she better not even think about going back to the right.

          1. Dominick Vila March 10, 2016

            The perceptions or opinions the far right has of Hillary are inconsistent with what most Democrat opine. Read the posts made by most Bernie supporters and you will realize that, for them, she is to the right of Ted Cruz on economic and fiscal matters, and a hawk on foreign policy.
            Since we are talking about the primaries, the opinion of Democrats is what really matters when it comes to the nomination process.

          2. mike March 10, 2016

            What the world knows is that Bernie has pulled Hillary from left leaning to left. She is far more progressive than she planned at start of campaign and Bernie will hold her feet to the fire if she even tries to deviate.
            I could care less what Bernice’s people think, they are all delusional if they think any of his positions ever get anywhere.
            Problem is for Hillary to get the nomination she has to stay far to the left and trying to get back to leaning left for the general will be very difficult.

  2. FireBaron March 10, 2016

    Hey, based on “polls” THE DONALD should be winning every Republican primary with 70 to 80 percent of the votes!

    1. Dominick Vila March 10, 2016

      Remember, these are the same polls that predicted a Romney landslide in 2012. Those predictions were so convincing that Republicans spent much of their time in the weeks preceding the election booking ballrooms to celebrate his victory.

  3. dtgraham March 10, 2016

    ~ Actually the two didn’t “split Michigan pretty much evenly.” It was 49.8-48.2. Iowa was 49.9-49.7. The difference in Michigan was about 20,000 votes. Froma only gives Bernie’s winning percentage number in Michigan and Hillary’s winning percentage number in Iowa, trying to create some child-like illusion that Hillary did better….somehow. I guess. You see how Hillary’s number is bigger?

    ~ CNN called the upset a shocker. Everybody had a word like that for the result. Some called it the biggest primary upset win since 2000 (don’t know about that). No, it wasn’t just the Washington Post although that’s the impression here.

    ~ “We are assuming it’s the vote that matters as opposed to the story.” No, it’s the story that matters because in this case the vote was the story. Hillary was far ahead in every external poll in Michigan for a long time, including being 11 percentage points ahead just the day before. That she didn’t win, and lost by almost 20,000 votes is a story—and a big one.

    ~ Bernie’s “simple minded message.” More cheap shots from the NM writers even after Michigan. They can’t help themselves.

    ~ Plenty of “reputable economists” have argued that NAFTA hurt more than it helped. Lowered U.S. wages and higher drug prices paid by Mexican consumers among other things. No, they haven’t ALL agreed that NAFTA has been a net positive. Don’t let facts get in the way of your anti-Sanders screed though.

    ~ No, THE story couldn’t possibly have been Mississippi. Hillary was supposed to win huge there for a long time, and did precisely that. How would that be THE story from Tuesday? Don’t let common sense get in the way of your anti-Sanders rap either.

    ~ Bernie “bothers me more” (than Hillary) for reasons that Froma wants to go into in great detail. She’s going to tell you exactly why. In a weak attempt to show some phony balance, Froma merely says that Hillary exasperates her. We don’t know why though. Froma is suddenly tongue tied on that.

    ~ Bernie has “radical” proposals because Republican don’t agree with them and won’t work with him. Yeah, I’m sure they’re more likely to cooperate with Hillary’s non-radical proposals that they also don’t agree with. You know, like they have with Obama’s. Congress won’t stonewall her. Sure they won’t Froma. Well, they may not if she comes around to their way of thinking, the way Bill did on some things.

    ~ Bernie’s excellent cross-party polling numbers are not applicable, according to Froma, because Republicans haven’t trashed them yet:
    A) the conservative media have already trashed his policies plenty since his candidacy has taken on more seriousness and legitimacy.
    B) how does she know that Americans will buy into what the Republicans will be selling about Bernie?

    Even when the National Memo is forced to finally run a story highlighting some electoral success from Sanders, it has to be framed in a way that propagandizes Hillary, minimizes her failures, changes the narrative, and denigrates her primary opponent. Why? Because that’s just what they do here.


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