Polls v. experts: GOP leaders predict local results will follow national trends

Ann Knef Jan. 31, 2008, 4:42am


Pollsters in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada overestimated, underestimated and generally missed the mark when it came to predicting presidential primary races.

"That track record isn't likely to improve as voters place their ballots in 23 states Tuesday," wrote June Kronholz of the Wall Street Journal.

In a report Jan. 23, Kronholz quoted pollster Peter Hart of Hart Research as saying, "My advice [to fellow pollsters] is take two aspirins and wake up Wednesday morning."

Local prognosticator, St. Clair County Republican Central Committee Chairman Bill Zychlewicz, said polls "mean nothing" to him.

"They originally started as a campaign tool," he said. "Now it's entertaintment."

He said relying on polling data is "fundamentally flawed," due to the disconnect between what a person says when polled over the phone in the comfort of their home compared to what that voter actually does in the booth.

Zychlewicz is a staunch backer of Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose under-funded, come-from-nowhere candidacy delivers a fundamental, if not populist and appealing, voice in the campaign.

"People know where I stand," he said.

Realizing that his "wishes won't make it so" for a Huckabee victory in St. Clair County, or for that matter in the state of Illinois, Zychlewicz believes voters will "fall in herd" for John McCain "for no good reason," despite the fact that most southern Illinois conservatives are aligned with Huckabee and Ron Paul pro-life, pro-gun values.

He believes maintstream media, which he says alternately "glorifies" and "villifies" leading candidates to ensure "a horse race til November," strongly influences voters, absent critical thought.

Zychlewicz was not surprised at results of the Record's most recent online poll, asking Illinois Republican voters to pick their presidential nominee. The poll showed Paul in the lead at 29%, compared to Huckabee at 27%; Romney at 23%, McCain at 18% and Rudy Giuliani at 3%.

"Ron Paul is very organized in a disorganized way," he said. "His supporters are everywhere, but you look out your door and you don't see them."

To the north, Madison County Republican Central Committee Chairman Jason Plummer, who has been behind Romney from the start, also said he was not surprised by the Record's poll showing Paul in the lead.

"(Ron Paul) has a very dedicated core group of supporters," Plummer said. "It's also very small."

"Look at ABC News, Fox News, CBS...the Record," Plummer said. "Ron Paul wins the online polls. But he doesn't win at the polling place."

Plummer predicts local outcomes will reflect national results.

"Obviously it's a two-man race between McCain and Romney," he said. "Conservatives are coalescing around Romney. Moderates are coalescing around McCain. Huckabee is staying in, but there's not a path for him. As long as the status quo remains there is not a path for him."

Plummer added that momentum is in favor of McCain since his Florida win and that he is "definitely favored by the media. That's just how it goes," he said.

He said he's glad to see GOP candidates air their views on taxes, pork and terror in debates.

"No matter who the Republicans put on the ticket we'll get behind him," he said.

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