On Monday, the left-leaning Public Policy Polling group (PPP) released what they no doubt hoped would be a bombshell poll on gun control. According to PPP, and based solely on their vote against the Toomey/Manchin bill to strengthen background checks on gun purchases, three U.S. Senators — Jeff Flake (AZ-R), Lisa Murkowski (AK-I), Mark Begich (AK-D) — can expect a pretty serious voter “backlash.”
As anyone might have predicted (including PPP), this poll was perfect bait for MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, who has been shamelessly demagoguing the gun issue since Sandy Hook (terrorists will get guns!). Because his pride is wounded and he has to keep making a fool of himself to prove he isn’t making a fool of himself, Scarborough is the last gun control dead-ender in media and willing to grasp anything that might balm his humiliation. And so…
All throughout Tuesday’s “Morning Joe,” like a belligerent party drunk who won’t let something go (and with his embarrassed but awkwardly supportive wife Mika at his side), Scarborough hit this poll relentlessly throughout the three-hour broadcast. Scarborough’s guests (Jon Meacham, Willie Geist) dutifully patronized their sloppy host: Yes Joe, you’re right Joe. You’re always right, Joe. Gun control good. GOP bad.
But the patronizing surprisingly came to an end near the end of the show. And believe it or not, it was BuzzFeed’s Ben Smith and NBC’s own Chuck Todd who refused to nod dutifully as their host fingered his ball bearings and muttered something about missing strawberries:
EMBARRASSED BUT AWKWARDLY SUPPORTIVE WIFE MIKA: Chuck and Ben I’d love to get both your takes on the PPP polls that came out. Senator Flake, Lisa Murkowski, Mark Begich; all of them seeing a drop [in approval] since their “no” votes on background checks. Ben, do you think this is a real one-plus-one equals two, as we have been saying? Or are there other factors?
BEN SMITH: There are a lot of reasons to hate the U.S. Congress right now. So I hesitate to suggest it’s just that one. There’s this sense of just overwhelming dysfunction, and the sequester has been the thing everyone’s talking about. I guess I just find it hard to figure out whether you can just tease out that one issue. I’m sure it doesn’t help.
That was Ben Smith doing an admirable job of handling Embarrassed But Awkwardly Supportive Wife Mika the best he could.
Chuck Todd, however, was much more blunt. He went right after the poll’s methodology.
EMBARRASSED BUT AWKWARDLY SUPPORTIVE WIFE MIKA: Chuck, what do you make of the numbers that we’ve been showing all morning; some of them a kind of a dramatic drop in approval rating…?
CHUCK TODD: I’m always a little leery of the robo-poll polling. I know PPP does better than others in this technology, and I salute them at that and will follow their numbers a little more closely than some of these other robotic polls. But I think I’m a little concerned at how you make it a “press one” or “press two” issue with a small questionnaire.
I’ll be more interested in seeing if you get Democratic challengers in primaries, for a guy like Begich, for instance. I don’t think that’s going to happen. Will Democrats try to run against Flake on the issue of guns in Arizona? I don’t believe it.
Mika, here’s my doubt on all the polling: There has to be polling out there telling these guys something different — trust me, or they wouldn’t have done what they’re doing. I think we’re somehow missing something in the polling.
For whatever reason, Scarborough wasn’t around during this discussion. Maybe it was my imagination, but I thought I might have heard some soft weeping somewhere off-camera.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC