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Political commentary from Andrew Malcolm

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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

Comments () | Archives (257)

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Actually, the Clinton campaign is also the same group making race-comments as well as comparing mailers from Obama like "nazis marching through Skokie".

These people are over the top to begin with - a "push poll" seems almost beneath them.

But it's one of the many reasons I don't have a landline. Noone can find me unless I want them too - most people my age (35) and younger are the same way. The politicians and pollsters don't even know we exist....

I said these Hillaristas have no respect for democracy

Someone said:
"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 media don't "rubbish" the Clintons' character, they simply report facts...the facts we all know, or should remember, from the "bimbo eruptions" of 1992 to the pardons of 2001(and most everything in-between, public or private) to the 2008 campaign tactics long before any push-poll allegation, say all we need to know about the Clintons' character. Hey Bubba, I have a mine in Kazakhstan your buddy might be interested's your library foundation going? And for SHrillary, when are you releasing your White House papers?

La Times is pro Obama, this paper is unfair to Hillary. Latinos will vote for HILLARY CLINTON AND SHE WILL PREVAIL AND WIN ON FEB 5

Clintons are a part of the past politics of Government, ..great or not so great...Obama is for those going forward!

Speaking of Dirt... Hillary Clinton said at the Los Angeles debate "...It Took A Clinton To Clean-Up After A Bush."

If Hillary's statement is true, then it is reasonable to assume that its corollary is equally truthful: It Took A Bush (GeorgeW), to clean up after a Clinton (Bill).

Bill Clinton soiled the dressing which cloaked the prestige of the US Presidency. At least George W had no equivalent dangerous liaisons in the oval office.

One can only wonder what stains another Clinton Presidency would leave upon the US Presidency.

Hillary's ridicule of the dynasty question at the Los Angeles debate should elevated this topic to serious discussion.

Speaking of Tricks... If this dynasty issue is not fully vetted for the sake of our Democracy we could see the Dynasty continue with Clinton in '08, Jeb Bush in '16, then Chelsea in '24 at age 39 or so.

Dirty politics always confuses the electorate and allows them to be tricked. The Clintons are masters at Dirt and Tricks.

In a state of high emotion, people tend to generalize and see all issues in black and white. When all issues, including the campaign tactics of all the candidates -- remember Obama allegedly broke his promise not to campaign in Florida and Clinton honored her pledge -- the net result is that Hillary Clinton is the best candidate. And, Senator Ted Kennedy raised an important issue - had Lincoln, FDR, Truman and JFK -- not to mention many other of our great presidents -- had Hillary Clinton's unique set of experiences, which no one is the history of the country has ever had -- would they have been better presidents, made better decisions and avoided the mistakes they made? The answer has to be a resounding YES! And, I believe she will be a better president than all of them. She has vision, passion, integrity, compassion, experience and connections. Without all of those characteristics, the president cannot solve the problems of the nation and the world.

What is truly odious is the way the media has tried to skew in favor of one politician over the other, especially broacast media. I was watching a repeat of the CNN democratic debates and Hillary always got the last word before they went to a commercial break, and during the Republican debates, Ron Paul was always cut off by Anderson Cooper when Paul wanted to make a point, yet the others got to go off on their rants.

It really gets to you when Wolf Blitzer tried to bait Hillary, and really truly sad that a "news" source such as CNN would try to get away from the issues by baiting the candidates in such a way.

And another, thing, why was it so important for the LA Times to make presidential endorsements during this election when it hasn't made a presidential endorsement since the 1970s? Why is it so important this election cycle to break the silence on presidential endorsements? What is at stake for the LA TIMES in this case?

La Times is pro Obama, this paper is unfair to Hillary. Latinos will vote for HILLARY CLINTON AND SHE WILL PREVAIL AND WIN ON FEB 5

Push polls are the invention of Karl Rove. "Nuf said.

This story lacks credibility
The LA Times endorsed Obama.
Of course they are going to be bias with respect to Hillary

We know the Clintons and they are good for America.

(I know conspiracy theories are really powerful and fun and all. I've probably participated too in my day. and I know you won't believe me. But nobody tells us what to write. It's up to us to use our own judgment after many years in the news business and observing and participating in politics. If you were a regular reader and not just items on your candidate, you would know that we are an equal opportunity offender. But since you like Hillary, you need some explanation for the one item you've read here and conspiracy works great cause you don't need any evidence. That's fine. The Editorial Board endorsed Obama and McCain. There really is no connection with this blog. But thanks for reading anyway.)

Grow up and smell the coffee, HILLARY WILL WIN

Obama is playing is own dirty tricks too, but the LA Times will not report it.

Why does Hillary need to use these lieing tactics to win? Didn't she do something similar in NH - sending out false fliers the day before the election

For all of you that are negative towards OBAMA.I respect your opinoin but,you can't stop whats happening ,no nay sayer is going to defy the NEW GENERATION.Just because all of your "canidates" are old and used up don't get upset.Barack will be an advocate for you too when he is President!!!!

This type of polling obscures facts, undermines the election process and does not accurately reflect the real issues in a campaign. The candidate, whoever it is, who uses push polls should be identified and explained so Americans can make informed voter decisions.

LA TIMES, shame on you. Why cant a national newspaper be a credible source of IMPARTIAL information? Give me a break..

For God's sake people - wake and smell the politics. This type of poling has been going on since Kennedy and "polling" where first being thought of as "change." You can find this in every election. As for the news director being caught off - gaud - well we know what that shows - a sad state of the media to create news not report on it. This is bad reporting to suggest its a new approach. Do some research for once.

Sounds just like Clinton business as usual. It makes no sense to subvert democracy in the name of politics. I hope America is smart enough not to fall for it. I, for one, am certainly ready for change. Obama '08.

The same campaign that brought race to the for front in S. Carolina wouldn't push poll would they?

Another democrat here that would rather vote for McCain than reward this type of behavior so that the ego driven Clintons can call the White House home again.

It's ironic that Hillary was on the board of Walmart, and the only demographic she's been winning with is Walmart Dems.

As someone who has never voted Republican in a Presidential election and a former professor of Political Science at California State University at Los Angeles, I would vote for John McCain over Hillary Clinton because, despite disagreeing with McCain on many issues. I'm 99.9% sure of what I'd get with him -- a principled, honest individual of great integrity and political courage. With Hillary, it would be a 50-50 thing. Maybe she'd withdraw from the disastrous Iraq war but just as likely she'd get us into a war against Iran. She has the same mindset that got us into Iraq and Vietnam. For sure, she would perpetuate the gridlock and petty partisanship of Washington. Most likely she'd be the focal point of scandals real and imagined by Republicans. Can American really afford another 4-8 years of ignoring our grave problems? But Hillary would guarantee that the Democrats will get 49% or less of the Presidential vote in November.

Does anyone have proof of this? Who is this Ed guy? Come on people. The media is so biased against Hillary. When I was still undecided, the fact that the media has bombarded her, been biased against her and done just about anything to make her look bad makes me question why are they so afraid of her? Because she will be a great leader and get our country back on track.
Go Hillary!

Word to Julie B.

I find it hilarious how many comments are of the "does the LA times endorse Obama?!?!" nature. Can they not report something that happened, just because it shows your beloved business-as-usual candidate for what she is?

Hilary has been a (for all intents and purposes) republican senator. Now she apparently is campaigning like a republican. And yet you expect her to be a liberal president?

To everyone who supports Hilary: it is people like you that worry me even more than the terrorpublicans.

"The people" don't support her! As a group, the Democrats don't even support her. If she wins the primary, it will UNDOUBTEDLY be john kerry all over again.

Sadly that seems to be what most democrats want - either to fail, or to elect an pathetically unprincipled and ineffectual candidate. Or, as in the case of the last 2 elections, both.

This tuesday i'm voting for Barack Obama. This November i'm voting for Ralph Nader. Not because I believe either one will be our all-purpose savior, like so many wish to believe about hilary, ron paul, etc etc ad nauseum. Just because I do not want to see another republican administration, whether it calls itself one or not.

The actual article was of only MILD interest and of absolutely no utility in choosing a leader.....And, to call such "interview" tactics "dirty tricks" is itself juvenile. Period. The End. Now, to be illuminating then read today's LATimes article about the nuclear industry's contamination of Obama and to a less extent Clinton. Read that if you believe a candidate's actions count more than some minor underling's innocuous school boy ploy.

The Clintons are ruthless. Their scorched earth tactics and dirty tricks didn't bother many Democrats when they were being used against Republicans. But now that they are using these kinds of Machiavellian tactics against one of their own, and indeed, one of the most significant Democratic political figures to come along in decades, many of the people and many of the party elders have decided that they have had just about enough of the Clintons.

These tactics are working for them with a minority of voters, but they are backfiring among more experienced voters, and have been instrumental in getting senior party members such as John Kerry and Ted Kennedy to break neutrality during the primaries and ask voters to turn the page on the politics of the past. The Clintons are their own worst enemies.

Why seemingly intelligent people want to vote for someone who has not proven himself to take on the immense problems of the country and the world because he talks pretty is incomprehensible. Obama may make a great president someday but not now. If you really looked at his record he's not ready and his record is uninspired. His campaign has engaged in severe tactics and truth bending as well. As far as truthfulness goes,look at Rezco, Exelon and the "vote" for the Iraq war.Everyone knows what that vote was about, it was to give the president the clout to get the inspectors back into Iraq. Obama knows that too but it doesn't stop him from using it against her. The man has a couple years in the senate as his resume, as far as I'm concerned the LA Times has lost its credibility with this endorsement.

So? What's the big deal? I've been push-polled in local elections, propositions, and products. I thought it was standard stuff.

Very unlikely that the Clinton's would do this. They have never been caught nor have they done any dirty tricks that would take down crucial reforms. However, Obama has numerous times and he's still green. Let's take the old Karl Rove tactic here...

or take the memo that Obama's camp was caught red handed with trying to find ways to make the Clintons seem racist.

This man is ambitious and is obviously willing to take down universal health care to win. I have a six year old daughter who spent nearly a year in the hospital. We cannot afford to vote for Mr. Obama because my daughter is uninsurable. As far as I'm concerned, Mr. Obama staking his ambition on my daughter's life and numerous other families in our predicament. It is unforgivable.

Between Hillary, Bill and their campaign staff of well-known mudslingers & stuntmen, her campaign has really gotten out of hand. Denial is their response and we know this is an untruth. Bill has been calling in his political debts for political repayment. We cannot support this, as it will only blossom as all these people move into the White House.

more whining from the obama camp.... blah blah blah tbhe obamites are a bunch of cry babies.

This looks like a fake call - there is no way any campaign could afford a phone bank at 20 min/call.

Remember, yesterday, Harold Myerson, also associated with the LAT, took the bait on a similar, but cruder call.

Obama is not slick and full of dirty tricks accusing the clintons of hating blacks so he could corner all the black votes. Once she wins I hope she tells them to get lost and take the old goat ted kennedy with them then they can get together with Marion barry and do crack cocaine for old times sake. And they can asl OOpraagh to join the party. Makes me want to throw up.

This conversation is just a wee bit silly. Every national candidate in every election uses this technique, and it has almost nothing to with whether your name is Clinton or not. (I do not condone it, though.)

Obama supporters should relish the opportunity for him to have this new experience, because this is NOTHING compared to what is to come in the general election.

Probably the most interesting fact about this story is learning what an insightful opportunist Ed Coghlan is. Nice job, Ed!

The 35 years of experience may not give you the foresight of detecting the most disastrous adventure of our lifetime - Iraq, but it has for sure given the Clintons how to play dirty and demonize their oponents. So far, we gave them a pass because they were playing it against the Republicans who were also replying in kind making it difficult for us to sort their role in this divisive game of politics their cherish.

Now their dirty games are bare for all to see. I never imagined Bill Clinton would denigrate a decisive win by a rising star black politician by linking it to another win by other black politician that did not end in nomination - and blame him back for bringing race issues. So, if the Clintons are matched against the Republicans and engage in their usual dirty game, how many Democrats are going to believe them when they cry wolf this time around? Do we want even to witness that?

No surprise. This is exactly what so many are sick and tired of. Go Obama!

Hillary is just more of the same old ways of Washington.

This isn't exactly news. The Clinton's have always been integrity-challenged. I wouldn't have expected anything different.

The Clintons assume that they can outwit everyone with dirty tricks. It used to work but Americans are tired of being played as suckers. I'm almost beginning to enjoy seeing what trashy new scams they can come up with next.

In this election, we all believe that we need to repair our image in the hearts and minds of the world population as beacon's of democracy, human rights, freedom of speech, etc.

How does Bill Clintons pay check of $30 million for praising Kazhaks dictator figure in our goal? Check the NYTimes, January 31 article. All this exposure in just a primary! From a guy who trumpetes as a fighter for the poor in the open, but appeaser of dictators across the globe - Kazakhstan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda behind the scene. He has already caused headache around the world and created the sentiment that Americans talk democracy, but support dictators. Bush did it as part of fighting terrorists, but the Clintons did it for money! We need leaders that will bring us respect with the world population, not the Clintons who will make us enemies by hugging and legitimizing dictators that opress their population - for money! BTW in the usual Clinton fashion, they tried to deny it until they were confronted by facts.

I thought it was one thing to lie about promiscuity and supported the Clintons against 'the right wing conspiracy', but another concerning national security. Fool me one time, ....

We desperately need a fresh and dignified person to represent us in November election and who will automatically bring us a clean slate with world population. I think we all know who he is!

Why is it assumed that it's the Clinton campaign behind this push-poll.? There's no evidence to support that.
It could be anybody who doesn't want to see a Clinton win PLANTING a story in the media. Obama, McCain, Swiftboat types or any campaign that would be advantaged by another negative story about Clinton tactics could be behind the poll.
Reporters should did a little deeper, please.

Think again! The Republicans dirty tricks..or Obama's troops, he has so many hyped up young people and 527's that will do anything to "help" ..They are the more likely people doing this..


Feb 3, 11:40 AM EST

Clinton health plan may mean tapping pay

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday she might be willing to garnish the wages of workers who refuse to buy health insurance to achieve coverage for all Americans.

The New York senator has criticized presidential rival Barack Obama for pushing a health plan that would not require universal coverage. Clinton has not always specified the enforcement measures she would embrace, but when pressed on ABC's "This Week," she said: "I think there are a number of mechanisms" that are possible, including "going after people's wages ..."


In all fairness, last week my household received a phone call asking if I'm voting for Obama. Then yesterday my husband opened our Los Altos door and was asked by two young people if we are voting for Obama. I find political activism a positive and am happy America is waking up.

So then, could we call this piece a "push article?" Just curious...

LA Times is using the ugly dirty news media tacktick for the political figure they endorsed. There is no credibility in LA Times on the campaigne of 2008. Who is Andrew Malcolm? He is the one like those people in the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth who actually spread lies and smear the truth. Pity on LA Times.

I am sorry that this could or may have happened. Hillary would not condone this nor would Obama. But I am asking for California voters to please vote for Hillary. If Obama wins the battle, we lose the war. We do not need another Republican in office. Please vote for Hillary. Thanks.

This is not dirty tricks. It is a dirty world and politics is a dirty sport. If you don't want to play, then don't vote.


The choice is whether we want the general election to be about the potential of this century or the bickering of the last.

If Clinton(s) is(are) nominated, the discussion will be about Marc Rich's pardon and the $500K it netted the Clintons (,8599,99302,00.html), the Lewinsky scandal, closed-door meetings about health care, etc. Clinton will be labeled a "flip-flopper" (as Kerry was very successfully) for voting for the war and then opposing it.

If Obama gets the nomination, we will hear some more sniping about his experience (apparently being a community organizer is unimportant, while serving on the board of Walmart is). Outside of that, we could actually hear the issues being debated - Iraq, health care, etc. And the Democrats will win on the issues.

I am a lifelong Dem who wouldn't vote for Hillary Clinton if she were the last Democratic candidate on the planet. I can't believe that I ever supported her husband, but those rose-colored glasses are finally gone. I have wanted to see a woman elected as president all my life, but her "politics as usual" campaign tactics are setting back the cause by decades. Here's to an Obama/Edwards ticket in the fall.

The Clinton campaign (just as Bill Clinton did during his time in office) will do or say anything to obtain or maintain power. If the Clinton time in office was so wonderful, how did George Bush become President. You can blame the R's and the Supreme Court at the time but Bill Clinton's behavior had so thoroughly disgusted the electorate that Bush's close "win" was made possible.

The only legacy created by Bill Clinton and his wife (who claims she benefits from her eight years in his White House) was George Bush.

They've always lied, triangulated, and parsed to sweet talk their supporters and this incident of push-polling is more of the same. How can anyone seriously consider electing these creeps to another term as President?

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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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