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In a blog post that has been endlessly recirculated today, LA Times reporter/blogger Andrew Malcolm, trumpeted the following headline:

Breaking News: Pro-Clinton push poll erupts in California

The problem? If you read his story, none of his headline is true. Great job LA Times.

Media Whore* Malcolm tells the breaking(!!!) story of a Clinton(!!!) erupting push poll(!!!).

But none of this is factual or true. As we read, we find out that Malcolm's friend, Ed, got a 20 minute call resembling a poll sometime while John Edwards was still in the race:

First of all, the "pollster" was only asking about four candidates, three Democrats -- Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards, who was still in the race at the time -- and one Republican -- John McCain.

For instance, the caller inquired, had Ed watched a recent Democratic debate? Ed said yes. And who did Ed think had won the debate? the pollster inquired.

Coghlan replied, honestly, that he thought Edwards had won because he was calmer and more reasoned didn't get involved in all the petty arguing and finger-pointing like the other two. Now, the pollster said, if Ed knew that most people believed John Edwards could not get elected in a general election, would Ed be more or less likely to vote for him?

Ed said, oh, well then, less, of course. And the caller appeared to make a note of that.

"He was not pushy at all," Coghlan said. "And at the end he thanked me for giving him my opinions."

And how many calls were there in this massive erupting, massive push poll?  Ed's. That's it. Ed got a call. There is no evidence presented that there were any more calls last week, or ever.

Now, I'm not a journalist so I don't have a copy of the AP Stylebook, but I'd wager the recognized definition a push poll is something like this (emphasis, mine):

A push poll is a political campaign technique in which an individual or organization attempts to influence or alter the view of respondents under the guise of conducting a poll. In a push poll, large numbers of respondents are contacted, and little or no effort is made to collect and analyze response data. Instead, the push poll is a form of telemarketing-based propaganda and rumor mongering, masquerading as a poll. Push polls are generally viewed as a form of negative campaigning [1]. The term is also sometimes used inaccurately to refer to legitimate polls which test political messages, some of which may be negative. Push polling has been condemned by the American Association of Political Consultants,[citation needed] and is illegal in New Hampshire.[2]

and,

True push polls tend to be very short, with only a handful of questions, so as to make as many calls as possible. Any data obtained (if used at all) is secondary in importance to negatively impacting the targeted candidate. Legitimate polls are often used by candidates to test potential messages. They frequently ask about either positive and negative statements about any or all major candidates in an election and always ask demographic information at the end.

A push poll is usually a (a) large, (b) last-minute (c) dirty trick to sway a (d) significant number of people with false or negative information. From Malcolm's post, as poorly written as it is, we know that none of these criteria were met.

Malcolm doesn't try to report on who was behind the call. Was it a GOP trickster throwing sand into the gears? Was is a false flag, targeted to an individual media figure to discredit Clinton? Was it a small, legitimate message-test by someone friendly to the Clinton Campaign?

We don't know. But it would be nice if the "journalists" at the LA Times could tell us, wouldn't it?

One final piece of guilt by association: a Clinton press operative did not return Malcolm's email. Great. Now all we need to perpetuate a fact-less smear is lack of denial. Micky Kauss blows goats you know.

* Other than Chris "Tweety Factor" Matthews, it's hard to find a "journalist" in the current campign season who has so earned the title. Well, there is Jake Tapper. And Harold Myerson. Oh, jeez, I give up.

Originally posted to Pacific John on Sun Feb 03, 2008 at 10:09 PM PST.

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