February 5, 2016

Poll Schmoll

Poll Schmoll

It seems that every time I write something political I get into trouble. But what the heck – here’s another attempt at political commentary anyway, hopefully without the trouble part.

The people of Iowa have caucused, and the results are in. On the Democratic side, although Hillary Clinton was the declared winner, not to anyone’s surprise – particularly pollsters – the race was a virtual dead heat between Mrs. Clinton and Bernie Sanders. Perhaps with such a small field (down to two now that Martin O’Malley has dropped out), polling can be more reliable. But on the Republican side, it was a completely different story. Up until last weekend, most polls had Donald Trump leading by 5 points (with a margin of error of less than 4 points) over Ted Cruz, with Marco Rubio a distant third. Man, do I want to be a pollster. I don’t know how much political campaigns and media outlets pay for polls, but it seems that pollsters have become the new weathermen of this generation. The Republican outcome in Iowa had no relation to the forecasts at all. The results for the top three candidates turned out completely different than predicted by virtually every pollster. Cruz won by 5 points over Trump, a 10-point swing if my math is correct. And Trump barely beat out Rubio for second place, putting Rubio way ahead of the expected showing. Go figure.

Pollsters will get another opportunity this coming Tuesday when the people of New Hampshire have their say, and we’ll see if they do any better. As of yesterday, on the Republican side Trump was leading with 36% of the vote, Rubio at 15% and Cruz at 14%. On the Democratic side, polling is showing Sanders, as expected, 58% over Clinton at 36%. We’ll see just how reliable all this polling turns out to be.

On Monday when I started to think about what to write about this week, I was in our Long Island office and had just finished interviewing a potential partner candidate hoping to join Marcum. It was a good interview, focusing on the candidate’s experience and qualifications for the job. Religion, marital status, guns, right to life, taxes, healthcare, etc. were not discussed, nor could they be. As a matter of fact, it would be illegal to even ask or consider any of that in a job interview situation. I finished the interview, went down to our cafeteria, and sat and had lunch with a few of my partners (who most likely should have been out having lunch with a client or prospect, but that’s another story for another day). And quickly the conversation turned to the Iowa caucuses and politics. It suddenly became apparent to me that in the race for President, qualifications are the last thing people seem to be focusing on. Experience and credentials just don’t seem to be what voters are looking for. By all appearances, qualifications seem to be the least important part of the equation for what is arguably the most important job in the free world.

Those of us who own or manage businesses see things differently. For us, experience and qualifications are what matter most. But to be the leader of the free world, it appears that charisma, personal beliefs and ideals trump (no pun intended) experience every time. Hopefully, idealism will give way to common sense in time for Election Day.


Speaking of leaders, it’s Super Bowl Sunday weekend. And sadly, it looks like this is going be Peyton Manning’s last. Eighteen years in the NFL, several neck surgeries, a spinal fusion, and now a hip that has to be replaced. That’s the price of glory, but after all, even heroes have their limits. Let’s hope the big game lets Peyton go out in style.

News about another leader stepping down also made headlines this week. Sumner Redstone passed the chairman’s baton at CBS to Les Moonves, and as I write this a similar change is taking place at Viacom, the other crown jewel of Mr. Redstone’s National Amusements empire. At the age of 92, Sumner Redstone is one of the most storied and iconic chief executives in American corporate history. Wouldn’t it be great if we all could live to 92 and achieve that kind of legacy? Good for him. But as for me, if I’m lucky enough to make it that far, I expect I will be long retired from Marcum and on to new adventures. Hopefully involving family, friends and the hard-won fruits of my labor.