The Washington Post

Polls and impressions: How to tell who’s on the upswing?

In the wake of the Las Vegas debate, there are several state polls. We are told that Herman Cain is up three points in South Carolina and trails Mitt Romney by one point in Florida, according to the NBC/Marist poll. But wait. That poll covered the period Oct. 11 to 13 . Much has happened since then, including a rock-’em, sock-’em debate in which Cain performed poorly. Indeed, five or seven days in a media environment that moves as quickly as this one is an eternity. So is Cain on Romney’s heels or slightly ahead today in those states? Very likely not.

Moreover, Florida and South Carolina voters will follow Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada voters. How the latter states perceive events and eventually cast their votes will tremendously impact other states. Rudy Giuliani’s Florida polling numbers in October became meaningless after he failed to place in the money in New Hampshire, Iowa or South Carolina.

So what do they think in Iowa? I asked a key player in GOP politics how the debate was perceived there. He told me that Cain did not hold his own. So maybe those Iowa polls are also out of date. As for the rest, “Perry hangs on to his supporters, doesn’t send them running for the doors as they’ve been doing in previous debates. Romney holds steady ,and Newt continues to impress. Santorum finally got more time but used it very poorly.” That’s likely a better barometer of where polling is at the moment in that state than the most recent surveys.

It’s simple, really. Polls are not merely “just a snapshot of the race.” They are an old photo from a bygone era (a week ago) that tells you more about where we have been than where the race is heading.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.


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