As a native Southerner, I know the stereotypes. One is that someone like me should always be a gentleman. Another is that I'm probably not all that cotton-picking bright. Certainly not smart enough to keep pace with a one-man walking brain trust out of Washington or, say, Utica, New York.
As for the first cliche, it's true. I am more or less gentlemanly in my ways.
As for the second one about limited cerebral resources south of the Mason-Dixon, it must be true, too. Exhibit one: Pollster John Zogby is a brilliant man with a very strong research organization. When canvassing polling data, I customarily consider his with grave and respectful credulity.
Except for polls in and about the South, Zogby and most other pollsters don't understand the dynamics of Southern politics. Unfortunately, that means they don't fully understand national presidential politics.
On May 11, this column took issue with the fact that Zogby had recently declared with great fanfare that John Kerry would win the presidency. For conclusive evidence, he pointed to his own poll findings. One revealed the alarmingly low percentage of prospective voters that were backing President Bush's re-election. Another found that Kerry led Bush in public support on virtually every major policy issue.
In my written rebuttal to Zogby, I pointed out that one Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida had himself easily overcome initially low "re-elect numbers" to earn a second term in 2002. I also highlighted our own InsiderAdvantage survey from April of this year. It showed that Kerry did not lead Bush on, for example, support for their respective economic proposals. The difference between our poll and Zogby's was in the phrasing of the question. We couched it in terms of the respondents' own personal economic circumstances. Even on most other issues, our poll showed no significant preference for Kerry.
In conclusion, my column said, "I believe Zogby underestimates the power of incumbency, the number of undecided or yet-to-become focused voters, and the constantly shifting nature of this titanic battle. Perhaps his opinion will [as it did in the Iowa caucuses] create a self-fulfilling prophecy. But for now, it's off base."