Payola probe to begin: Last night, the screeching started not too long after 9 o’clock. We rushed to our Analyst Viewing Chamber to see what was going on.
“She just won’t stop,” the analysts cried. We rewound the tape on the Maddow Show to see what had them upset.
Sure enough! It was just as they had described! After a moment of folderol, Rachel had started her program like this:
MADDOW (8/31/15): But we start with some legitimately new news hot off the presses. What I have in my hot little hand here is new national polling. New national—a new national poll on the presidential race.The transcript to the program is here. We can't find a link to the video.
We’ve got this exclusively tonight. You have not heard about this anywhere else. So we’re breaking this news here.
In the money-grubbing world of corporate cable news, it isn’t national news at this point if it doesn’t involve “new polling.” No matter how pointless the polling may be, recitation of the latest numbers is counted as “breaking this news.”
In this case, Rachel had a new poll on an exclusive basis! “You have not heard about this anywhere else,” she portentously said.
We tried to explain to the analysts! Rachel is only doing this because she’s paid $7 million, we thoughtfully said. She’s only feeding you this piddle to keep her ratings up.
Plainly, that was the wrong approach. You see, the analysts had already watched her first ten minutes by the time we arrived on the scene. On that basis, they were predicting a major payola probe.
As it turned out, Rachel had received her exclusive new poll from Public Policy Polling, a firm which has been trying quite hard, in recent years, to turn itself into a national name.
Public Policy Polling—PPP—had provided Rachel’s exclusive. She announced this fact right at the start of her segment—though as it turned out, she was going to pimp the agency early and very often.
Rachel announced the source of the poll. It wouldn’t be the last time:
MADDOW (continuing directly): This is a new national poll on the presidential race from Public Policy Polling. They have polled Republican voters nationwide on the race for the Republican nomination. And what they have found is a mix of good news, including some surprisingly good news for the few folks who find themselves towards the top of these poll results. But what they have also found is just some astonishingly bad news for the folks who find themselves at the bottom of the list.By then, we pretty much had it. Rachel was breaking news from a new national poll from PPP, a poll she had exclusively.
And some of the people at the very, very bottom of the list will surprise you. Some of the supposedly, you know, top tier, bold face name, national caliber politicians in the Republican field are not just polling at the bottom of the field nationally right now, they’re like below the bottom of the field like you thought you were on the ground floor and “Hey look, turns out there’s a basement!”
And this new PPP poll which, again, we have got exclusively tonight and we are breaking news of right now, it is very good news for some candidates but very bad news for others.
Why were the analysts screeching in pain? Because they’d already endured ten minutes of Rachel’s constant pimping! They swore that they’d call the FEC to demand that payola probe. And, in truth, we had to agree. Rachel was pimping the firm so hard that there did seem to be an arrangement:
MADDOW: But this new national poll from PPP tonight, it also has Donald Trump in first place, winning by a mile. He’s at 29 percent. Ben Carson in second place in this new national poll, Ben Carson at 15 percent, which means Donald Trump is almost doubling Ben Carson’s level of support.All right! All right! We get it by now, the analysts lustily cried. But Rachel had a name to sell, and she was selling it hard:
Still, though, those are the only two people in double digits. Those are the two guys coming in first and second. This new national poll from PPP, obviously very good news for both Donald Trump and Ben Carson. This new national PPP poll actually means that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are the number one and number two choices of Republicans nationwide in three of the last four national polls.
MADDOW (continuing directly): So that top tier is really getting to be very clear. Donald Trump and Ben Carson, pretty clearly sitting on top of the Republican presidential field as we head toward Labor Day and this new PPP poll just underscoring their dominance.“Sure, but who conducted this national poll,” we wisecracked at this point. The analysts only cried harder.
This poll also has some relatively good news, though, for Jeb Bush. Jeb Bush, he does only place third in this new PPP poll, and he can’t get out of single digits. But still, 9 percent and coming in third constitutes really good news for Jeb Bush right now the way things have been going for him recently. He’s not only been sliding nationally but in the early states.
So Jeb Bush coming in third tonight in this new national poll that constitutes probably reason for celebration in Kennebunkport or Miami or Houston. I don’t know. Where do the Bushes summer these days? I don’t know.
The other person who truly does have reason to celebrate in this new national PPP poll is the candidate who comes in only one point behind Jeb Bush for a strong fourth place finish, and that candidate is Carly Fiorina. Carly Fiorina polling at 8 percent nationwide. That is good for fourth place. That is good for her.
But that is not a fluke. She’s been polling very well over the last few weeks. In this new national PPP poll, look at it, Carly Fiorina polls better than Rand Paul and Chris Christie and Mike Huckabee and Ted Cruz and John Kasich, and Marco Rubio and Scott Walker. She beats all of them.
Maddow offered her pointless polling news for seventeen straight minutes. Along the way, she kept reinforcing the basics:
MADDOW: For those candidates, though, who are being just roundly and now consistently rejected by Republican voters this year, I will say one little happy thing. This new PPP poll that we are breaking news out there tonight, it does have one ray of sunshine for the losers—maybe not a ray of sunshine. More like a reason to laugh mirthlessly into your beer as you ponder how low you’ve sunk.As noted, this payola-redolent PPP-pimping went on for seventeen minutes. At that point, Rachel introduced her guest. You can probably guess who it was:
But it is from another part of the same PPP poll which we’ve got exclusively tonight. In addition to asking who these Republican voters wanted to be the nominee for president, it also asked Republican voters nationwide some of their other views and I can’t help but think this has to be a comfort to some of the people who believed the hype, right? Who believed their own press. Some of the people who really thought they would be real contenders for the presidency but can`t get any traction with real Republican voters.
I have to think that the answers to these polling questions tonight have got to be a comfort to guys like Chris Christie, guys like Bobby Jindal, guys like Rick Perry, people who just can’t get anywhere. This question was asked of all the Republican voters in the PPP poll.
MADDOW: Joining us now is Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling.As noted, PPP has been trying for years to increase its national profile. As she closed her short, pointless interview session with Jensen, Rachel helped out again:
Mr. Jensen, thank you for being here. Thank you for giving us access to this new national poll.
TOM JENSEN, PUBLIC POLICY POLLING DIRECTOR: It’s great to be with you, Rachel.
MADDOW: Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling, thanks for being here. Thanks for sharing this new national poll. It’s great to be able to break this news. Thanks.Had she mentioned that she was breaking this “news” thanks to a PPP poll?
JENSEN: Thank you so much, Rachel.
MADDOW: Again, the top line here will always be who is at the top of the polls. Donald Trump at 29 percent in the new PPP national poll.
Rachel wasted twenty-one minutes at the start of the show on this new national poll, which she was reporting exclusively. Aside from the payola-redolent PPP-peddling, we were struck by the sheer inanity of her “analyses,” and by her rolling self-contradictions.
Her self-contradictions? For one example, limn this:
About ten minutes into this mess, Rachel mounted her favorite hobby-horse. She blasted CNN for planning to limit the next GOP debate to just ten participants.
Minutes later, she was ridiculing the lower-ranking candidates, talking trash about their standing in the new poll from PPP, which she was reporting exclusively:
MADDOW: Rick Perry is over. He is at 1 percent in the polls. Jim Gilmore, I’m sure, is delighted to have 1 percent. Most people have no idea who Jim Gilmore is, let alone that he’s running for president, or that he has run for president before.Minutes earlier, Maddow had been trashing CNN because it won’t include all seventeen candidates in the next debate. Minutes later, she was mocking most of the folks who will be excluded, describing them as “irrelevant, rounding-error candidates that are undeniably ignorable.”
But Rand Paul is tied with those guys at 1 percent. Which does mean he’s sitting pretty compared to Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, and Bobby Jindal, all of whom are polling at zero, which is a number by which you cannot divide so sometimes it’s just easier to say they scratched.
And maybe we expect that now. Maybe we expect Bobby Jindal and Lindsey Graham to scratch, right, to poll at zero percent...But who expected Chris Christie to be tied with Rick Santorum and Rand Paul to be tied with Jim Gilmore, right? At 2 percent and 1 percent respectively.
This is just disastrous news for them. And this new PPP poll that we’ve got exclusively tonight, that we are breaking news about right here tonight, this is a—this is a national poll. But the bad news part of these findings especially for the candidates who are supposed to be contenders, supposed to be top tier guys, the bad news part of these findings from PPP and their national poll tonight, those bad news findings really are replicated in the early-state polls that are out today and yesterday, as well.
Indelibly, it looks like now guys like Chris Christie and Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal, but particularly guys who are supposed to be real contenders, guys like Christie and Rand Paul, they’re also really not moving anymore.
And it’s one thing to survive a brief plunge in the polls, right? To rocket down to the small single digs because you’re having a low spot here and there. It’s another thing to become a permanent part of this distant third tier of candidates that regularly polls at 2 percent or less, right? These irrelevant, rounding-error candidates that are undeniably ignorable.
If you want to be seen and treated as a viable presidential contender, it is one thing to visit that tier occasionally. But when you start to live there, it starts to be over for you.
“Rick Perry is over,” she daringly said. So, it seemed, are the others.
Question: If they’re “irrelevant, rounding-error candidates that are undeniably ignorable,” why would anyone want them in a presidential debate? The thought didn’t seem to cross Rachel’s mind as she diddled along.
Maddow doesn’t even seem to be trying to make sense at this point. For months, she derided Fox for the way it organized the first debate, insisting that national polls don’t really matter as a measure of the primary race.
Last night, she was suddenly praising herself for “breaking the news” in the new national poll, the one from PPP, which she was reporting exclusively. After trashing CNN for culling the field, she mockingly culled it herself.
When a cable star like Maddow spends twenty-one minutes frisking a poll, that’s twenty-one minutes she won’t be able to spend on something important. Examples:
You never hear about low-income kids on this show because Maddow is busy justifying her own gigantic salary in these embarrassing, audience-fluffing ways. Beyond that, she pretended to discuss the Clinton emails last night. But it was purely pretense.
We don’t think we’ve ever seen a cable star devolve in quite the way Maddow has. Wealth and fame are very destructive. Mixed with Trump-like self-adoration, wealth and fame really do kill.