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Breaking News: Pro-Clinton push poll erupts in California


Ed Coghlan was just starting to prepare his dinner in the northern San Fernando Valley the other night when the phone rang. The caller was very friendly. He identified himself as a pollster who wanted to ask registered independents like Coghlan a few questions about the presidential race and all the candidates for Super Tuesday's California primary.

Ed, who's a former news director for a local TV station, was curious. He said, "Sure, go ahead."

But a few minutes into the conversation Ed says he noticed a strange pattern developing to the questions. 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.

Also, every question about Clinton was curiously positive, Coghlan recalls. The caller said things like, if you knew that Sen. Clinton believed the country had a serious home mortgage problem and had made proposals to....

freeze mortgage rates and save families from foreclosure, would you be more likely or less likely to vote for her?

Ed said, of course, more likely.

Every question about the other candidates was negative. If Ed knew, for instance, that as a state senator Obama had voted "present" 43 times instead of taking a yes or no stand "for what he believed," would Ed be more or less likely to vote for him?

"That's when I caught on," said Coghlan. He realized then that he was being push-polled. That malicious political virus that is designed not to elicit answers but to spread positive information about one candidate and negative information about all others under the guise of an honest poll had arrived in Southern California within days of the important election.

It could become an issue in the closing hours of the campaign.

Someone who obviously favors Hillary Clinton is paying an unidentified company to spread this material phone call by phone call among independent voters, who can, according to California party rules, opt to vote in the Democratic but not the Republican primary on Feb. 5, when nearly two dozen states will choose a large chunk of the delegates to the parties' national conventions next summer.

Coghlan said he was offended by such underhanded tactics and knew he was going to get out a warning about this dirty trick, but he said he played along for the full 20-minute "poll."

"The guy was very slick, very personable," Coghlan told the Ticket. "He never fell out of character as a pollster the entire time. He seemed interested in my answers and just kept going through his list of questions as if he was noting my answers. He was very good, very smooth."

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."

Phil Singer, the spokesman for the Clinton campaign. was contacted by e-mail last night. He answered that he was there. He was asked if the Clinton campaign was behind the push-poll, knew who was behind it or had any other information on it. That was at 5:27 p.m. Pacific time Saturday. As of this item's posting time, exactly eight hours later, no reply had been received.

--Andrew Malcolm

Photo: Robyn Beck AFP/Getty Images

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i had a curious push poll, but it came in the form of a $5 survey. at first i didn't realize i was being push-polled since i was getting paid. expensive way to get votes! i'm in hillary's demographic, i should be voting for her but i'm not. i'll vote for her in the general election over any republican, but my primary vote goes to obama.

as the push-poll continued, when it said something nasty about obama, i'd say it made me more likely to vote for him. positive about clinton? less likely. so, i finish the poll, and 30 minutes later i have another email, re another poll. another $5. this time it was more aggressive. i refused to cooperate. of course, one always has to be 'more likely' or 'less likely' to vote for her, there is no 'neither more nor less' option.

these 'surveys' were a week or so ago. truly odious.

the push-poll survey that came via email was through a survey company that was obviously targeting certain zip codes. i'm in the sf bay area.

Politics. As. Usual.

Whether or not this was the doing of the Clinton-controlled Clinton machine, it will be seen as another in a growing list of dirty campaign tactics that have worked to her advantage. Of course, she will be insulated from any blame as usual ("Sometimes Bill gets carried away"). How many times, though, can she count on the voters to swallow a rehearsed denial?

Thanks for the report, as usual.

That kind of thing is very disgusting.

More shady business surrounding the Clinton camp.

Who actually thinks that she can beat McCain if she has been McCain-lite all of these years?

Article sounds legitimate to me but have you thought that if you wanted to poison the well with bad thoughts about any candidate, you could make calls of this nature in a counter-insurgency role, i.e., make you competition look bad by shading the questions.

This technique is utilized by all campaigns and this campaign is exceptionally competitive so how do you know who is calling you since they describe themselves as independent pollsters?

Just look at the way the paper and TV media is trying to make the news with regard to certain candidates rather than report the news which is what their charter would dictate - whether that media is liberal or conservative.

It's obvious the media bias here is towards Obama or at least the candidates the paper endorses. Again spinning a common practice that all the candidates use as some dirty trick of only the Hillary campaign. Why is it that the only message that is allowed to get through is the nutrionless messages of hope when what we need is help. The writer doesn't want to hear about what Hillary has done. Why not really talk about issues instead of criticizing what is a common tactic of even the LA TIMES. I've received countless calls from the LA Times subscription call center which was actually odious.

The Clintons will never change. Enough said.

It's just a poll. Obama isn't going to win. Get real. Obama supporters take everything personally, whine, and use the race card. Obama, to his credit, does not. Hillary Clinton is the best choice. If you think "push polls" are a dirty tactic, just wait until the Republicans get started during the final election.

Hillary Clinton's sunk to a new LOW. I'm very disappointed in her. Politics as usual doesn't cut it, Never did.

Fortunately Barack Obama deserves the nomination on his own merit. I hope Obama-Edwards is the ticket -- would serve America well.

Just because REPUBLICANS DO IT does not make it right.

Calling people out for wrong doing will not be dismissed as whining.

Hillary used to complain about these tactics, now she and Bill have become Rovians themselves.

I was happy to vote for whatever Dem, but after this BS this election cycle? No way. Like so many others, I'm sick of the twisted politics.

Independent Moderate

The Clintons sent out false information in every form in Iowa and New Hampshire just prior to the polls so Obama wouldn't have time to find out and defend before people voted. Iowa didn't fall for it, but she made fools out of New Hampshire women who were led to believe Obama was weak on women's rights when he has a 100% rating on pro-choice. Women rose up and voted Hillary.

If you want a President who has no honor or integrity, elect Hillary for 8 more years of hell.

Has the LA Times endorsed Obama? Because I've been following many articles on the candidates via the internet for the past three months, and ever since the December debates I think, there has been nothing but Clinton degrading articles coming from here...why is that?

First the insinuation that the Clintons are pushing racism between latinos and blacks, and then the allusion to Obama is the Real Deal while the Clintons (yes, both of them) are dirty politicians, even when Obama's campaign were the people who pushed a four page document stating that the Clinton's just might be racists, and now this. . .

The media has endorsed Barack Obama.

But the PEOPLE endorse Hillary Clinton.

First of all, the tactic is NOT utilized by all the campaigns. Neither the Edwards nor the Obama campaign has used push polling. This is now a common practice with the Clintons.

Secondly, you expect Republicans to campaign this way against Democrats. I never thought I'd see the day a Democrat used Karl Rove-style tactics against their own party members. A credible candidate doesn't need to resort to dirty tricks to win.

This just sounds like a complete bias from the LA Times which obviously supports Obama; but claims to be a honest report instead.What I read is a thinly veiled advertisement for a candidate wrapped up as news story, structured on rubbishing Clinton's character. The writer and the paper who publish this garbage would better serve its readers by reporting on the issues that effect them. Not some Push Poll Article of their own, designed to influence the reader in the same dirty tactics out lined in the story.
Voters deserve better than this, regardless who the candidtates are..... and so do the issues at hand.

Any verification of this event, other than one man's word, a man whose background would lead an objective observer to believe that he is more likely than not politically active and engaged, with possible biases himself? Do you simply poison the well without proof that the event occurred at all? If so, then I suppose that I should inform LAT that death threats are being called in to independent voters by the Obama camp. Proof of such???? Why would you need any? With the primary only two days away, and with the Obama bias of LAT apparent for nigh on a year, just go for it!! After all, it's not as if any journalistic standards yet exist which are even capable of being violated in this nation.

This is exactly why Hillary will not win in November if McCain is the nominee. People are not going to choose the bitter partisan over the perceived grandfatherly 'independent'. It's a recipe for electoral disaster.

As to the claim that the Republicans will behave 'worse'...that may well be fighting the last war. I'm not sure McCain can get away with that - he is dependent, as a Republican in an anti-Bush year -- in maintaining his image as being sincere and pure.

Hillary vs McCain sets the Republican up as being the candidate of change, and the Democrat as being the same old stuff. It would turn logic on its head, but it would happen.

If McCain is the GOP nominee, only Obama has a chance of winning for the Democrats.

Steve Wimer's post would suggest that the Clinton camp is actually trying to do Obama a service by giving him this prior taste of GOP medicine. Very decent of them, I'm sure!

I can only state that where there is continual smoke it must be coming from a fire.

Every single primary has been marred by Clinton dirty tricks.

I am a life long democrat who has finally learned why the Clintons drive the Republicans crazy.

Some people think its ok to win this way. I for one want a different kind of politics and that is OBAMA.

Hilary Clinton is old politics including having to do anything to win, Obama is a refreshing breath of air when it comes to politics.
The best ad he could run is Caroline Kennedy's endorsement!

Why do you report this and say nothing about the mailers being sent out by Obama? It's politics and they are both campaigning for the job of the President of the United States. According to the gentleman in the article, the pollster wasn't rude or tried to get him to change how he answered the questions. He asked truthful questions and waited for the answers. How does anyone know it was the Clinton campaign? Ever hear of pretend your the other guy and see how voters are thinking. Was there a call to the Obama campaign to question this story? Has everyone forgotten the sleazy ads before the Nevada caucaus.

The sad reality is----just as the Clintons are dishonest, so are their supporters with negative comments about ANY other candidate. THEIR energy is so DEPRESSING to the country. Any time negative comments are made----the country can GUARANTEE it's coming from the Clintons or a supporter. What's even MORE SAD? They're PROUD of it.

The Chicago Tribune owned LA Times has endorsed Obama so it can be expected that they would be writing non-stories such as this one. The LA Times is pimping for their owner's choice in Chicago. Remember, Obama is from the state that gave us ward politics, fixed elections for JFK and Senator Carol Mosely Braun. The standards for being a senator or politician in Illinois aren't very high.

The Clintons are notorious down-and-dirty politicians. Independents won't stand for it . How can we allow Hillary and Bill Clinton back in the WH for more years of disgraceful, divisive politics? Who are they going to sell the Lincoln bedroom to this time?

Curious as to why it seems this guy Coghlan seems to be the only one to have received a call. Did the reporter Malcolm even try and see if anyone that he doesn't know got a call. If I call the LA Times and tell them a story will they print it on my word alone? This sounds like another Daley machine mole.

(AS you can see from these comments, he wasn't the only one.)

Has anyone ever thought it could be coming from the OBAMA camp? What better way to smear your opponent than by doing a karl rove on them and make it appear obama is being hit by clinton.
The media has been doing anything they can to negate hillary. All one saw about the debate was Obama..Obama..Obama. Hardly ANY mention about him getting a slam about illegal immigration shoved back in his face. Not much said about how Hillary knocked his socks off on healthcare. Not much said about his comment about leaving strike forces in iraq but he was pulling all troops out. Now where was he going to leave these troops? In Pakistan?
As for race, the ones who began the race issue came from the Obama side..distorting what Bill and Hillary both said. If Hillary was involved with Rezco in the slightest way, it would be headlines from day one to the end.
I also read another Calif paper that stated OBAMA was the one who would give people the same healthcare Congress gets and that doesn't bode well for Hillary. WHAT GARBAGE! Hillary was the FIRST to come out with any healthcare plan and said THAT BEFORE ANYONE ELSE!
Maybe the LA Times and the rest of the media should REPORT and NOT they accuse Bill for doing. By the way, why isn't ANY of what Bill has been saying been shown? Is it because there is nothing negative to try and twist? Or is it because he is really hitting the issues and people may have to question Obama on his stances?
I was not a Hillary lover but now after seeing the smear that the media has done...I hope she wins big. I also want a Pres who will say "I pass the bill","I veto the bill"..NOT JUST SAY PRESENT!

Clintons have been playing dirty, win-at-all-cost politics all along. They did some nasty robot calls against Edwards in SC... They are willing to lie to people now, how much does anyone expect them to tell the truth if they're in office? Bush did the same thing to McCain -- look what happened. Yes, it works...and look what WE get!!!

They called my house a few days ago and my husband talked to them. He gave them all sorts of crazy answers just to mess with them.

Well, here's her "35 years of experience". Same old sleaze. Thought we might be onto something Thursday night (i.e. an uplifting campaign), but, alas, that's a no go. Hoping that all Californians reject this kind of garbage and realize who's behind it.

Senator Obama's obviously gotten their attention and they're looking desperate. Should these kind of tactics prevail then we'll get four more years of the GOP and, if it's John McCain, I may not agree, but at least I know he's honest.

NCLB="No Clinton Left Behind"

LOL!!! I always a laugh when Obama supporters come in these boards screaming "dirty tactics." That negative mailer going around in North Dakota, Idaho and Colorado from the Obama campaign is "positive change?" It has been panned, to the credit of the media, as false and misleading about Hillary's health plan.

Well when you have koolaide drinkers as your main supporters facts don't have a way of reaching their minds.

I can't believe people are even debating between Obama and Clinton. On one hand, we have a senator who voted for the authorization of force resolution which at the time EVERYONE knew meant was the authorization for war--common think back did you really think Bush was not marching to war. Realize when you defend Clinton voted for the resolution as a means to pressure Iraq, you are also defending the Bush administration. You can't have it both ways, if you thought that Bush was always going to go to war, and then you have to believe that Clinton also knew that right. Not only that, she never even read the National Intelligence Estimate, these are facts, they might be stubborn but facts nonetheless. So not only did she fail the "exam", she never opened the "book" to study for the "exam". And as if this was not enough, a couple of months back, she actually voted along with Bush on the Iran resolution. Again, she said this was to pressure Iran. So you failed once, maybe we forgive, failing twice, well that disqualifies you from consideration from being a senator let alone the presidency.

On the other hand, you have Obama who spoke out against the war when NOONE was brave enough to do so. Do you remember how EVERYONE who spoke up again the war was branded as a traitor? And keep in mind as well that he was an elected official at the time, he could have done the cravenly act and went along, but he spoke out. Hillary has tried to paint Obama as a man always driven to run for the presidency since he was in "kindergarten". So would it not have been the easy thing for Obama to go along--like Clinton did--and vote for a war that no one wanted to oppose?

Experience in failure is not what America needs; we have had 8 years of that. Additionally, ask yourself, do we really want 28 years (that’s right 28 years) of a Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton presidency? Are we not a democracy?? Let's see, a dynastic "monarchy" where families with known names keep winning the presidency. That would put us in league with: 1) Egypt (Where Hosni Mubarak is going to hand the presidency to his son) 2) Syria (where Al-assad handed off the presidency to Bashar 3) North Korea (where "dear leader" handed off the leadership to his son Kim Ill Jong 4) Cuba (where Fidel Castro is handing off his presidency to his brother Raul 5) Saudi Arabia (Where King Fahd handed off his rule to his half brother Abdulla

I can go on and on with this. The point is that we are the United States of America; there is a reason why we have the 22nd amendment which limits the terms a president can serve. That is why our greatest Presidents (George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson) never served more than 2 terms. Only FDR served more than 2 terms, and that was during WWII, an existential threat to our nation where we needed a continuity of leadership desperately. And trust me; Bill and Hillary are no FDR.

My point is that we are a better country than to vote for someone based on a last name. Do we really want to go back to the divisiveness of the 90s? Do we want to go back to the endless investigations? And how long do you think it would be before we lose both houses of congress once America gets tired of the Clintons running the country ragged. We have a chance to elect a president who inspires 18,000 young and older Americans to attend a rally in the middle of the week. We need a president that gives us a fresh start and a clean break from the Bush/Clinton/Bush/Clinton years.

We dont need to be taught the definition of the word is again! And we dont need a president that says, as Hillary said 9/13/01 that you are either with the terrorists or with us. Sounds like the other side of the Bush coin to me. WAKE UP AMERICA VOTE WITH YOUR BRAIN or stay home

I expect Sen. Clinton to deny any connection to the push poll much like Gov. Huckabee did a few weeks ago. I might believe that, but what does it say if wealthy special interests do huge political favors for a candidate? Are these the people we want to enjoy access to the next president?

Excellent article! thanks Andrew - can we get this on the front page? Clintons NEVER change.

I am a Republican and I hate most democrats because they are self righteous whiners. The problem with The USA is not Republicans its the obnoxious citizens and illegal immigrants that live here. I am one as well.I vote. I don't think I will vote for McCain because he wants to continue the stupid Iraq war. Hillary will get my vote even though her laugh is hideous to listen to. The US suffers around the world because we are know it alls that try to ram our way of life to everyone. Its not the capitalism that is the problem its the arrogant rude behavior that seems to be the way it is here in LA and most of the USA. Who can sympathize with the WGA. Americans have to blame everything on global conglomerates.How friggin naive.I think most of us get our earnings from those evil global conglomerates.The Democrats are the biggest cheerleaders for this hypocrisy. Obama has charisma, but what have the Kennedys ever done for workers. They have brainwashed Massachusetts keeping that ass Ted in office.Unfortunately my rants won't accomplish a damn thing so thats my perspective on Super Tuesday. The next prez will either be Obama or Clinton. I want to see how a woman will do in the White House. Maybe African Americans if they get Obama in, they will get over their anti white rage that has simmered for the last 400 years

I also received a push poll. I politely answered the questions, and then told the pollster at the end that I was voting for Obama and didn't appreciate his call. Then, I emailed everyone in my address book to tell them about it.

I have several Republican friends who will be voting for Obama too.

I'm sick of the Clinton's and sick of the dirty tricks.

This type of push polling and "politics as usual" from the Clinton campaign are the very reason why voters (including most independents and some Republicans) are flocking to Obama. They are sick and tired of this crap, from both parties.

Obama is more about changing the political status quo in America than he is about exercising a partisan agenda. His is a message of hope and unity for a country that has lost faith in government. This is what Clinton supporters fail to understand when they argue their candidate should win because she is "more experienced". Experienced at what?

Clinton may still win on Super Tuesday, but it will only be by the grace of her early substantial lead and the narrow timing. One more week and she'd be toast.

Hillary won the NH primary with last-minute distraction techniques (tears in the diner, "finding her voice" in late mid-life (huh?), and sending out smearing, patently untrue mailings about Obama's record on choice.

Why can't she just run on her record --- if she has as much "experience" as she suggests, shouldn't that work just fine? Why resort to poor ethics, Hill? Let's not out-Rove Karl Rove here...

Obama wins on experience (he has more total years in elected office than she), on worldliness, on judgment, and on honesty.

Elise in NH

If you are at all thinking about voting for Senator Obama, then GO OUT AND VOTE FOR HIM! Otherwise we will just get more underhanded politicking-- we all have had enough!

one remembers the lament of the American historian Henry Adams, grandson of a President: "Politics is nothing but the systematic organization of hatreds." Politics in America has been this way for decades now and is thirsty for a new path... away from Rovian style politics of spin and Socratian word play.. Hillary Clinton represents more of the same... she is not a good choice for America, not because she is woman, but because her time has passed and besides she is not the 'right' woman...

This writer feels that Barack Obama has tapped into the good of Americans he reaches and is the right person to be the next President of the United States. His opponents are even calming down and plagerizing his message! - he has that effect, even on those who don't agree with him... He is raising the level of the conversation - how great is that! He is running an inspiring campaign... Barack's website is inspirational. this is so refreshing as it lowers the level of angst in the population and instead inspires and raises them up... It stands to reason by tapping into the good in society, that society grows and flourishes...

Barack is here for a reason... He is a man for our times and have no doubt would be an inspiring and great President. It is a most difficult task he takes on, but if anyone can change the way America views itself and the world views America, it is Barack Obama.

No way of knowing who did it, but it is somethign that makes Obama look good and Clinton look bad. Everyone talks about the Clinton Machine, if it were a Clinton tactic why would they do something that would most likely benefit Obama? This type of thing has happened a few times and every time Obama has benefitted from it. Time to start digging deeper into the origination point of these tactics. People could be surprised to find out that the one that claims to be running a positive campaign is actually running the most negative. Leading up to Iowa race was not an issue, but going into SC the Obama camp effectively raised the race issue and turned votes that were for Hillary in his favor. Then there is the question how many Democrat primaries allow Republicans and independants to vote? How many of these numbers are voting for Obama so they can make him the Dem nominee only to give their vote to the Republican nominee in the general election. This type of thing would be a "Rove" tactic.

The media has endorsed Barack Obama.

But the PEOPLE endorse Hillary Clinton.

THAT says it all !!

Obama plays the same dirty political games as every other politician !!!!! Get Real ! Enough of this Obama fairy tale HOPE, CHANGE UNORIGINALITY....Those phrases are sooooo OLD ! Now poor Barack is plagiarizing Si se puede ! ...Why can't he just wanna be himself? Whoever that is.....

I became a member of the Green Party under the Bill Clinton's presidency, especially after NAFTA and the Telecommnications Act. I was a resident of New York at the time Hillary Clinton ran for senate. At that point I had lived there longer than she had, and remember thinking she defined "carpetbagger," Still, as it panned out, I voted for her rather than the conservative replacement for Guiliani after he dropped out of the race. I had become disillusioned with Democratic politicians aligning themselves with Republican policies, becoming the second wing of the same corrupt bird--talking the talk of making policy for the good of the American people but walking straight to the fundraisers and bank. For this election cycle, I had vowed to vote for the Democratic nominee for Presidency, knowing that four more years of any Republican will be the final blow for any fairness or true democracy that we are clinging to. I will break that vow if the Democrats nominate Clinton and her politics-as-usual. Edwards, Obama, Kucinich, Gravel, Biden, Richardson; all had my full support. Obama has it. Other like-minded independent progressives or Green Party members are willing to support an Obama candidacy. Very ew of us will cross party lines and vote for Clinton. There are many reasons for that. Too many to list here, and too redundant to mention again. She and her campaign strategists brought this upon themselves. I'd rather vote for my Green candidate or, dare I say, Senator McCain. When you vote for a Republican, at least you can be sure you're voting for a Republican. Democrats shouldn't be so confident they're getting a Democrat when voting for a Clinton. You would do well not to nominate her. But Ann Coulter thinks you should!

You can not assume it's coming from Clinton's Camp for sure. It could be from Obama's Camp or sponsored by Obama supporters, 'cause every smart guys like you know this kind of tactic would backfire, so they would just do so so you would instead vote for Obama? This is not uncommon in real life. Don't assume you are smarter than others.

Although I was a strong supporter of Bill Clinton's presidency and volunteered for months for his campaign in 1992, I'm no loner surprised about the level to which they will stoop. They will do ANYTHING to get elected. As David Geffen said long ago--they lie with such ease...

With things like this constantly percolating into the news, Clinton Fatigue is turning into something much worse (and potentially untreatable): CCFS -- Chronic Clinton Fatigue Syndrome. Let's hope we can stop it before we are all trapped in the malaise of CCFS.

These Hillaristas have no respect for democracy or for the people

Folks this is a blog, not an article. Different measures apply. Clinton is known for these grey area tactics, and is clearly a grade-grubber hoping for your vote. Apply your critical thinking skills to her triangulations and realize that she will move back to the right where she came from once she is in office and faces the reality of a coordinated and united GOP. Her personal life is a mess, Bendixon (a Latino strategist from her campaign who is still working there) is the one who made the black-latino antagonism comment which wasn't broken in the LAT, but on a wire service report, so I don't get the bias comments at all.

Just use your good sense and vote your conscience. At the end of the day none of these candidates know you or give two cents about you as an individual. Vote for someone with integrity, character and judgment who is free of entanglements and capable of surrounding her/nimself with other strong critical thinkers of character and STAY INVOLVED.

This isn't a news report, it's one man's claimed experience. Interesting that the LA Times went with it. Interesting in a political kind of way. Remember the good old days when reporters checked stuff out?

In other news, is so voters can make more informed choices.

Although some people believe things are humming along nicely at various judicial commissions; but such is not the case. Fortunately the public is now getting a real education as to why their vote is truly important.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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