"This is probably the toughest presidential election year the pollsters have ever had," Zimmich, a national pulse-taker, told me.
"The voter doesn't know the candidates, so we can't get any accurate information for our polls. Come with me tomorrow and I'll show you what I mean."
The next morning we started ringing doorbells in Norfolk.
"Sir," Zimmich asked the person who answered a door, "do you have a preference for one of the Democratic candidates for president?"
"I like them all, especially when they're sitting around arguing with each other on television as to who is more qualified to save the country."
"You have to choose one," Zimmich said.
"You mean they are not all running in a package?"
"No, sir. They just look that way because you never see them photographed alone. Now pick a candidate."
"I like the little fellow," the man said.
"There are several short people in the race. Could you give me a name?"
"I don't know any of their names. Do you?"
"I have a list here and I'll call them out to you. Babbitt, Dukakis, Gephardt, Gore, Hart, Jackson, Simon."
"I think it's Dukakis because he tells it like it is."
"Like what is?"
"I'm not sure. I always say that when someone asks me which man I like."
"Are you saying the other candidates are not qualified?"
"How should I know? I have no idea who the hell they are."
"Thank you, sir," Zimmich said.
"Do you think Dukakis has it sewn up?" I asked Zimmich.
"We'll find out at the next house."
A man and woman came to the door. "When it comes to a Democratic president, who are you for?" Zimmich asked.
The man said, "Gary Hart. He has a fine record."
"A fine record doing what?" his wife wanted to know.
"He's broke," the husband said, "but he knows how to have a good time."
"Anybody but Hart," the wife said. "Even what's-his-name."
"I wouldn't give a nickel for what's-his-name. He's on the make," the husband said.
"For heaven's sake," Zimmich cried. "Give me a name. Any name."
"You know who I mean," the wife said. "The fellow who always crosses his legs during a TV debate."
"Yeah, that's the one. She'd vote for him before she voted for Hart because that guy looks like he never had a good time in his life," the husband said.
We retreated from the house. Zimmich was tallying up his sheet. "I have one for Hart and one for Dukakis."
"You better give one to Jackson or he'll accuse you of rigging the poll."
"Right. We have one more home to check," Zimmich said.
A lady answered and Zimmich addressed her. "I don't have much time. Are you going to vote Democratic or Republican?"
"They are all so good I haven't made up my mind. I especially like Cuomo," she said.
"He isn't a candidate."
"That's why I like him. Anyone who isn't running for president has a mind of his own."
"Would you take Cuomo over George Bush?"
"Why not?" Zimmich asked.
"Bush would get mad at me," she replied. "Senator Bob Dole said on television the other night that although Bush hasn't done anything for the country during the last seven years he has a rotten temper."