Meaningless 2008 Presidential Polls

Anonymous Liberal advises us not to take the polls showing John McCain and Giuliani battling it out for the GOP nomination and Barack Obama closing in on Hillary Clinton on the Democratic side too seriously, correctly terming them “all but meaningless.”

He cites a Fox News poll from January 2003 on the Democratic nominees:

    Joe Lieberman……29%
    Dick Gephardt……15%
    John Kerry………..13%
    John Edwards…….8%
    Al Sharpton……….5%
    Howard Dean……..2%

In fact, throughout 2002 and much of 2003, Joe Lieberman led in virtually every poll. Did that mean that Lieberman had some deep base of support among Democratic primary voters? Of course not. All this reflected was the fact that Lieberman had the highest name recognition of anyone in the field by virtue of his status as the Vice Presidential candidate in 2000.

Most primary voters don’t really start to pay attention until much closer to the election. They don’t know who many of the candidates are, and even when they do, they often don’t know much about them.

Quite so. While Giuliani, McCain, and Clinton have all been on the political scene quite a long time and have many advantages as a result, they also have a lot of baggage that their opponents will remind us of come primary season.

Obama, while an impressive fellow, is essentially a empty suit at this stage comparable to Colin Powell at the height of his presidential draft boomlet. He’s a charismatic black man with excellent oratorical skills who has taken nary a stance on any of the polarizing public policy issues that divide the country. That means people can look at him as an anti-politician and imbue him with exactly their own public policy views. A primary campaign will force him to take positions, disappointing just about everyone.

FILED UNDER: 2008 Election, Public Opinion Polls, Race and Politics, , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. floyd says:

    Obama is not just an empty suit. He is a political marionette. You don’t have to look very closely to see the strings. If he ever tries to be a real candidate ; watch for ecessive nose growth.He’s definitely not in Kansas anymore!!In the mean time, DO pay attention to the party behind the curtain!! Now, that’s a horse of a different color!! sorry, i couldn’t resist mixing metaphors.[lol]

  2. There is a big difference between Lieberman in January 2003 and Hillary in January 2007 (assuming she still has the lead in these sorts of polls). The Gore, Kerry and Edwards positions now are likely similar to these 2003 leader positions (e.g. names with national recognition). But Hillary has money and access that no one in 2003 had.

    Look at how Bush positioned himself to take the 2000 primaries. Hillary is doing a lot of the same things. I’m not talking about issues or public policy positions, but rather money, party primaries, etc. By the time the primary started in 2000, Bush was in a commanding position that withstood some early set backs easily. I suspect Hillary will be able to duplicate this on the democratic side.

    I don’t see anyone able to do this on the GOP side for 2008.