mercoledì 4 marzo 2009

Greenberg vs. Penn: When Pollsters Attack!

Twice in his career, Democratic pollster Mark Penn has replaced Stanley Greenberg as the top pollster for a major national political campaign, first in Bill Clinton's presidential reelection effort and later during Tony Blair's bid for a third term as prime minister. Their long-standing rivalry turned ugly last week, as the Democratic polling titans traded accusations across the blogosphere following publication of Greenberg's book, "Dispatches From the War Room: In the Trenches With Five Extraordinary Leaders."

In the book, Greenberg criticizes Penn's work for Blair, calling his methods "errant" and "rigged." He adds that Penn's failure to provide "the information normally delivered by a professional research organization" betrayed his client, boxing Blair into the pursuit of a mythical "married mums" vote.

Greenberg also has choice words for Penn's recent book "Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes," intoning, "If I ever come to think about my work in such terms, then take me out and shoot me."

Asked by Mark Blumenthal of to respond, Penn didn't hold back, accusing Greenberg of one of the most embarrassing failings in Washington: "Stan didn't [have the information] because he was not in the loop." He later added that Greenberg's attack amounts to "more sour grapes than reality."

The crossfire has upended the typical public chumminess of Washington's pollerati. From across the pond, Philip Gould, who as an adviser to Blair's Labour Party worked with both men, tried to mediate, e-mailing that Greenberg and Penn "are very different pollsters ... but both have significant contributions to make."

Try telling them that.

By Jon Cohen