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Are NH Republicans "Skeptical" of Palin?

10:40 AM, Dec 9, 2009 • By MATTHEW CONTINETTI
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Former NRCC hand and Romney campaign staffer Carl Forti's Blackrock Group is sending around a poll today purporting to show that "Palin Faces Skeptical Republicans in Granite State."

The poll, according to Forti's release, was conducted by CrossTarget, a "strategic research firm based in Alexandria, VA. Using state of the art technolgy [sic] we provide innovative research strategies for our clients varying needs." The poll of 543 likely Republican primary voters living in New Hampshire's First Congressional District (which includes Manchester and is represented in Congress by Democrat Carol Shea-Porter), was conducted through IVR or "automated response polling." Says Forti in the release: "If Sarah Palin decides to run for President she has serious work to do winning over Republican primary voters in the Granite State."

True! And so does any potential Republican presidential aspirant. But what did the poll actually reveal? The robots asked two questions:

(1) "Do you think Sarah Palin should run for the Republican Nomination for president in 2012?"

(2) "Do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to serve as President of The United States?"

Forti's group highlights the fact that 42 percent of respondents said Palin shouldn't run in 2012. But 36 percent said she should -- and 22 percent had no opinion on the matter (which is a little odd, frankly, since Sarah Palin seems to be one topic on which everyone has an opinion). In other words, Palin has to bridge a six-point gap. Not impossible.

Forti doesn't mention the response to question number two, probably because it undercuts the message of his release. In response to the question of whether Palin is qualified, 47 percent of respondents told the robots yes, and 36 percent said no (17 percent had no opinion).

So, while the respondents seem to think Palin is qualified to be president, they are divided on whether she ought to run.

What's more interesting is that the poll was conducted at all. The fact that it was conducted by a private group, and its results publicized by a "strategic communications firm," suggests that its purpose is political. It is clearly meant to convey the impression that New Hampshire Republicans are leery of Palin. For what it's worth, I don't think it does a very good job of doing so. But more important: Who wants to convey such an impression?

I've sent an email request for an interview to CrossTarget, since the firm doesn't disclose the identities of its principals on its website. I'll let you know what I find. Until then, though, the message is clear. The race for the 2012 Republican nomination has already begun.