Someone is calling Democrats in Iowa and conducting a very weird "poll". One person who was polled, a prominent Democratic Party official and strong Edwards supporter, provides this account:
The caller asked for either me or my husband by name. First tip off. The poller said they were with Central Research. Asked the requiste who are you supporting? Who is your second choice?
Then why do you think Hillary Clinton is a weak candidate and gives 3 choices. A) Is a weak general election candidate. B)Is too dependent on lobbyist money. C) Won't bring change.
Then why do do think John Edwards is a weak candidate with 2 choices A) a weak general election candidate because his positions are too liberal B) He should be home with his wife who has cancer.
A lot of blog posts have been exchanged offering various theories as to which Democrat is behind this poll and why, generally tying themselves into knots to explain how it was the candidate they hate most who is responsible. I think all of this speculation is wrong.
One of the most complete accounts of the poll and of trying to track down where it came from can be found here at Taylor Marsh's blog. Today, Mark Blumenthal of pollster.com settled in to do some analysis from a pollster's perspective. Both of them arrive at roughly the same conclusion - this is a trick by the Republicans. Taylor has tracked things back to a company owned by a former Tom Delay staffer. Mark analyzes the questions themselves and says they simply don't make sense as any kind of Democratic attack because they do not map onto any of the effective approaches/attacks any have been using. Both point out that it is hard to see how any Democrat benefits from this.
Well, back to Machiavelli 101. Who benefits? Who gains power through these acts? Only the Republicans as a group. How do they gain power? By increasing what they have obviously been doing since the last Democratic debate - trying to put unbridgeable gaps between candidates and their loyalists, sow fear, uncertainty and doubt, and try to poison any kind of unity calls after the primaries are through. Further more, it is aimed at a specific candidate and his supporters.
Look at the questions. The questions about HRC are clearly aimed at eliciting the "fear" reaction that HRC won't be a liberal party loyalist. These questions may be obnoxious, but they are not unusual. However, they also aren't topical. They should be about immigration, Iraq/Iran, trade-policy, and other recent talking points. The three in the "poll" are just too general. This alone should clue us in that this is not your average negative campaign.
The questions about Edwards, though, those are of a kind we just haven't seen. Asking Democratic activists if a candidate is "too liberal"? Gimme a break. Then the revolting question about Elizabeth Edward's cancer. First of all, who the hell is that ghoulish except the political offspring of Lee Atwater?
The unasked questions are also telling. Why nothing on Obama? Why, to play up the suspicions of him as an underhanded back-stabber, something getting quite a bit of sotto vocce play in the blogs. His campaign is becoming notorious for character smears, and now there is a rumor about Joe Trippi, who works for Edwards, actually undermining his own candidate to improve Obama's position. The absence of Obama is meant to indict him.
Now, look at what just happened recently. Edwards has thrown down a gauntlet that he won't support the party if HRC gets the nomination, with the implicit threat that he will direct his supporters to withdraw their votes, which would probably be enough to throw the election to the Republican. So, what appears on the horizon? An ugly attack going after Edwards by taking a vile pot shot at him as a human being, intimating that he is ignoring an ill family member in favor of seeking personal glory.
This attack is meant to inflame. It is meant to hit hard in the gut and to get people's defense reactions cranked up high. It is meant to be the unanswerable "Who did this to John!?!" that will fuel the emotional rage sufficient to get his supporters to sit this round out. It is meant to fracture the Democrats enough in the general in enough close states to throw the election. Edwards is not going to win the nomination, but he has a big enough base to spoil the election for whomever does. And the Republicans are tying to make sure that happens.
There should be a non-stop call across the left blogosphere for exposure of who was behind this attack and get it settled definitively. Anyone with research skills and few interns at hand (TPM, hint, hint) could have a field day with this one.
Don't get Roved again.