It's worth remembering that presidential polls conducted far in advance of the November election are generally meaningless. Two examples should suffice. In the summer of 1988, Michael Dukakis held a 17-point lead over Vice President George H. W. Bush; in the late spring of 1992, Bill Clinton was running third in the polls...and the guy at the top of the heap was the flavor of the season, Ross Perot.
But the fair-and-balanced pollsters at Fox News always manage to tweak my interest, regardless of the season. They have a gift for crafting ideological-loaded questions in a manner that is intended to provide them with the answers that they seek. Their current priority, it would appear, is to ask people whether they might be inclined to believe that Barack Obama is an unAmerican weirdo.
Yet sometimes even their most strenuous efforts come to naught. Sometimes the respondents just don't seem to take the hint. Consider these examples from their latest national survey, which was released on Thursday.
They asked, "Recently, there's been some discussion about presidential candidates wearing or not wearing American flag lapel pins. Do you care whether a candidate is wearing an American flag lapel pin or not?"
This phony issue has been aimed at Obama all along; it was the issue most prominently cited in the Fox poll. But the swing-voting independents – who are most likely to decide the November race - refused to play along. Sixty-five percent said no, they don't care about whether a candidate flies the flag on his clothes.
So Fox tried again, this time by piling on the ammo. The next question: "If a candidate for president wore an American flag lapel pin in the past, and then announced that he or she would no longer wear a flag pin, would that make you have some doubts about the person's patriotism or not?"
Foiled again! Fifty-six percent of the independents still said no.
A few questions later they tried again: "How much do you think Barack Obama loves America?" (Clever wording, since it plants the insinuation that perhaps he doesn't love America – sowing doubt among the voters, as it were.)
Foiled again! Sixty-eight percent of the independents said that Obama loves America, either "a great deal" (a healthy plurality chose that option), or "somewhat." Only nine percent said that Obama does not feel the love at all.
And considering that Fox's respondents seem to like Obama and John McCain equally - 58 percent view both men favorably, 32 percent view both unfavorably...foiled again! – it's clear that the Fox pollsters will have to find a way to ratchet up the questioning in order to get the right answers. Later this summer, maybe something like this will do the trick:
"If Barack Hussein Obama and his Baby Mama were to exchange terrorist fist jabs with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the Fourth of July, and then march that day as a threesome in a black liberation theology parade with Jeremiah Wright, and then arrange to have an ACLU lawyer represent Osama bin Laden at a routine appearance in traffic court, how confident would you feel that Obama, as commander-in-chief, would stand up during the Pledge of Allegiance, or not?"
But let us conclude this week with a song, touchingly rendered. Granted, there is a Tim Russert connection. But show a little faith, there's magic in the night.