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A drastic provocation calls for a drastic response. And so, I find myself impelled to make the following offer: if I can be satisfied that Probolsky’s Associates new poll on behalf of 47th Congressional district candidate Gary DeLong, which shows Delong leading his opponent Sen. Alan Lowenthal by a 53-44 margin, is truly an accurate reflection of the current state of our best estimate ofthe electorate, I will accompany Adam Probolsky to his next trip to the barbershop and I will eat his hair clippings. (That’s a serious sacrifice for me, especially because I’m a vegetarian.)
I don’t expect to have to make good on such a stomach-churning bet, though. The Probolsky Associates report, which may be found in a one-page PDF at this link, is the sort of thing that one expects to see from a campaign desperate for attention and not above a little warping of reality. They want publicity for this result? Gladly!
My first hint that I would not have to feast on Probolsky’s retreating locks came when I checked out the link I found to the story, which led to a “404 Page Not Found” error. But as you can see above, I was eventually able to find it on the unforgiving Internet.
The sample of 400 respondents was from a few days in June and July, although the data was just released on Thursday (with Wednesday’s date). That’s another warning sign. But that’s not the BIG warning sign. The big warning sign is this:
(Ready? Take a deep breath, because this is going to be good.)
As Sarah Bennett of the Long Beach Post notes, the DeLong campaign had already previously released results from this poll! And when they had previously released the results from this poll, the results were that Lowenthal was up by 3 points!
So, somehow, while the results festered for a couple of months in a petri dish in the Probolsky Associates laboratory, Gary DeLong somehow picked up twelve points on Alan Lowenthal! This is really impressive stuff. If Walter Mondale had had access to this technology in 1984 and left it with Probolsky for a few more months, he might have beaten Ronald Reagan for the Presidency!
The Lowenthal campaign came up with a response showing that Lowenthal is up by 20 points — and I’m not making any bets about that one. That sort of result why DeLong is sending up a huge flare to capture the attention of funders — ANYBODY! — who might take his effort seriously. Maybe Lowenthal’s lead is half of that; in any event, it’s probably pretty big, or else we wouldn’t see this apparent flim-flammery.
I’m not inclined to let this go, though. I would like to issue a challenge to Adam Probolsky, who can meet me, in public, with a bag of his hair in hand if he’d like. I would like him to say whether this poll and its description represents his firm’s best work, or its average quality work, or its “not something we’re proud of but we had to do something so let’s just put all of this unpleasantness behind us” level work. I ask this because at this moment, Probolsky Associates is perched on the precipice of never being taken seriously again — imagine “remember, they’re the ones who did that DeLong poll, ha-ha!” gets appended to their every report — and I would hope that sheer self-preservation would prompt them to want to clarify things a bit (and possibly announce that they have terminated the high-school intern who presumably put out this press release.)
Gary DeLong — have some pity and let them set the record straight!
Disclaimer: like Lowenthal, I’m a Democratic candidate in Orange County; our districts overlap in Cypress and Stanton. So that may reflect bias on my part — although frankly I’m probably better off if the CA-47 race is close, so that more voters are dragged out to the polls. But I’m putting aside such personal considerations this time. This is beyond normal puffery and frou-frou in polling. This should be embarrassing for them — and as both a trained survey researcher from my grad school days and a political operative since, I really want them to accept the embarrassment, even if it means having to bring attention to their silliness by threatening to eat someone’s hair.