Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Overpollstered, overpaid, and over here

The caricature of citizens of just about any nation when abroad is that they spend hours if not days trying to reach some exotic locale, and then once they get there, they want to know where the familiar things from home are. For the Irish, it's the Irish pub, for the English, it's the er... Irish pub, and for Americans, it's McDonalds. Or for all three, it's their compatriots.

And so it is for New York Times journalist Adam Nagourney, who has that Angleterre au Printemps gig covering the UK election for the New York Times. As if to amplify our theme of yesterday about the infestation of Democratic pollsters (/strategists), his entire article today is about their role. God forbid that there be too many British people in an article about the British election. The featured pollster is Karen Hicks, who worked for the Dean campaign in New Hampshire, and therefore like Joe Trippi was against the Iraq war before she was for it.

Our point here is that these pollsters can't have it both ways. The fact that they are working for Dems and Labour suggests that in their mind, there is a common 'liberal' thread linking their hired-gun work, but in fact the policies and environment between the Dems and Labour are quite different. Karen Hicks and Joe Trippi are in the same business as Greg Stevens (the dead dude in Princess Leia's bedroom), although one assumes that they'll have the good sense to turn down consulting jobs with Togolese dictators.

And what would an electoral consultant article be without mention of Bob Shrum?

... a senior adviser to Senator Kerry's campaign, is a friend and sometime adviser to Gordon Brown, the chancellor of the Exchequer and almost certain successor to Mr. Blair eventually.

No doubt Shrum can take advantage of his visits to England to see another client -- Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, who'll need advice on the latest rabble-rousing policy proposals to disguise the abject incompetence and cravenness of his government.

One of many ironies here is that for a while Labour was trying to stir up a controversy about the Tories' use of overseas election consultants, especially Aussie Lynton Crosby. Crosby is a lightning rod for criticism on the grounds that his techniques are polarising. Which brings us to the alleged wisdom of the American pollsters working for Labour:

Labor officials said the critical lesson learned from Americans was the need to study everything from voter history to consumer buying patterns in order to identify voters inclined to support Mr. Blair. Ms. Fitzsimons said when she first ran in 1997, her supporters knocked on every door, a practice that she soon realized was as likely to remind Labor opponents as Labor supporters of the need to turn out.

Instead, Labor workers are going only to the homes of people who might actually vote for Labor, a particularly important consideration in a campaign in which time is limited and spending restrained.

So Democratic pollsters go to Britain and advise that the best strategy is to only play to "the base." Can Karl Rove sue for patent infringement?

[For filing purposes we should have titled this post UK Election: 3 but we like our current title better. And (update May 5) Atrios sounds even less enamoured with the Democratic pollster/strategist love-in with Labour than we are.]

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