Anti-Madia push-polling reported

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Two residents of Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District have given the Minnesota Independent details about calls they got Tuesday evening that they say started as political surveys but ended as push polls against DFL congressional candidate Ashwin Madia.

Bill Newman and Nancy Cooley were named in an e-mail that the Madia campaign says it sent to supporters today. Both say they contacted the campaign after hanging up on pollsters whose questioning turned sharply anti-Madia after what Newman called a “vague, broad” opening to the conversations.

Cooley said her caller — a man with an accent that she judged not to be American — asked her to take a political survey, which she was happy to do because she had never been surveyed and always wondered who gets called. Initial questions concerning the presidential and U.S. Senate races seemed of the sort she might expect.

“But when he got down to Congress, he said very negative things about Ashwin, and very positive things about his opponent,” Cooley said. “It was not a survey. He was very pushy. It made me angry.”

Newman likewise said he was lulled by early softballs about general topics such as the direction the country is going. After hitting the major races, his caller — whose generically pleasant voice seemed to belong to a white, Midwestern female, with low background noise suggesting a call center — asked Newman to choose a top concern from a list of a dozen or so issues, such as getting out of Iraq and balancing the budget.

When Newman then named Madia as his preference in the 3rd District race, the caller asked a series of questions that began, “Would you be more likely or less likely to support Madia if you knew that… ” What followed was a string of statements, clearly slanted against Madia, along the lines of “Madia will raise your taxes?” or “Madia didn’t support FISA, which keeps us safe from terrorists?”

She only got through three before Newman, offended, hung up. He figures the call, untraceable even with Caller ID, came in around 8:30 p.m. Twenty minutes later he’d fired off an angry tirade (along with a large donation) to the Madia campaign.

“There was no mistaking it. It was definitely a push poll. And it was definitely targeting Madia,” said Newman, who plans to vote for Madia but says he wouldn’t characterize himself as an activist. He’s received political calls over the years, he said — maybe even push polls, but if so they were much more subtle.

“It’s out there. It’s real,” Newman said of the blatant kinds of push-polling. “I just hate this s—, and I would even if I was a Republican.”