Rand Paul And The Fringe Birther Media Have The Same Pollster

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has again dipped into the fringes of the conservative media for support. The Washington Post reported that Paul is building a national network to potentially support a 2016 presidential run, and is using Fritz Wenzel as his pollster.

Wenzel is a birther who has called President Obama an “imposter,” and teamed up with conspiracy site WND to push dubious polling about the president's birth certificate. In addition to promoting conspiracy theories, Wenzel is also an objectively poor pollster. He has a long history of offering wild electoral predictions, prompting Slate reporter Dave Weigel to dub him the “pollster that's always wrong.”

Wenzel's WND polling isn't limited to birtherism. WND articles about his polls carry headlines like, "AMERICANS WANT 'GAY' LESSONS BANISHED"; "POLL: SEEDS OF TYRANNY PRESENT IN AMERICA"; "ANSWER TO BENGHAZI OBFUSCATION? IMPEACHMENT";  and "POLL: PALIN WOULD STIR UP EVEN DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY" (a poll that claimed Palin would be competitive against Obama in a Democratic primary).

Wenzel's problematic history means the media should treat his polling and analysis skeptically as Paul ramps up his presidential efforts.

The website of Wenzel Strategies touts an endorsement from Paul, who states: “Fritz Wenzel and Wenzel Strategies played a crucial role in my [Senate] election victory ... He is smart, swift, great to work with, and provides top-quality work. I would recommend him to any political campaign.” Wenzel was also the pollster for Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign.

Paul's birther pollster is his latest connection to fringe conservative media. Last year Jack Hunter resigned from Paul's Senate office after his “neo-Confederate” and “pro-secessionist” punditry (including defenses of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth) surfaced. Hunter co-wrote Paul's 2011 book, and also appeared in The Daily Caller and on Fox Business. Paul has also repeatedly appeared on the program of leading 9/11 conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. Paul used Jones' program as a publicity and fundraising platform during his U.S. Senate campaign, and Jones was an enthusiastic and active supporter of his candidacy.

Wenzel Is The Birther Movement's Pollster

As WND's “exclusive” pollster, Wenzel has been a key player in the campaign to prove President Obama is a foreigner without a valid birth certificate. 

Articles touting Wenzel's polling on Obama's birth certificate carry headlines like, "Stunning numbers want Congress to probe Obama's eligibility"; "Shocker! Most Americans know of Obama eligibility questions"; "Just 51% of Americans believe Obama eligible"; and "POLL SHOCKER! MAJORITY WANTS OBAMA RECORDS; Maintain president should be chased from office if he doesn't come clean."

As Media Matters' Terry Krepel noted, Wenzel has asked such poll questions as: “President Obama has still not produced a long-form birth certificate that proves he was born inside the United States. Knowing this, do you consider him to be a legitimate President?” and “Thinking about his performance in office and his agenda for the country, and knowing about the on-going questions about his birth certificate, are you more or less likely to believe in his legitimacy as President?”

Reporter Alex Koppelman wrote that Wenzel's birther polling lacks transparency, exaggerates its own findings, and uses “a little sleight of hand” to get the results it wants.

Wenzel has regularly been quoted in WND spouting outlandish claims related to Obama and his presidential eligibility.

A March 18, 2012, WND article about a “CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS ON OBAMA” reported that “Wenzel suggested that the [birth certificate] issue needs to be in the news” and “said Americans so far mostly have been content to 'sit idly by while an apparent imposter raids their national treasury and runs their once-great nation into the ground.'”

Wenzel has also:

  • claimed “if Americans came to realize just how many of their neighbors harbor the same skepticism about Obama's eligibility that they share, the political and societal ramifications could bring dramatic change to this nation.”
  • defended fringe birthers, stating that “Obama's supporters in the mainstream media do not want this topic discussed, and there has been a concerted effort to marginalize those who raise questions about this issue.”
  • predicted Obama's reelection campaign would be difficult “as long as this question about the authenticity of his birth certificate remains unanswered.”
  • opined that “the birth certificate that Obama released may have made worse his standing with the American people, and that will certainly be the case if a congressional inquiry discovers it has been tampered with or forged.”

The “Pollster That's Always Wrong.”

Slate's Dave Weigel called Wenzel “always wrong,” noting his polling on Senate races in Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania

Wenzel unsurprisingly erred in polling the 2012 presidential election. Huffington Post senior polling editor Mark Blumenthal, who previously worked for The National Journal and Democratic campaigns, told Media Matters in an email that Wenzel Strategies polls disclose “very little detail beyond topline numbers.” However, his public polls were “among the most extreme in showing a 'house effect' in Romney's favor, a difference from other pollsters that turned out to be very much in error ... By the end of the campaign, Rasmussen's house effect was -1.5 (meaning that Obama's share of the two-part vote was typically 1.5 percentage points lower on their polls than the industry average). Robopollster Gravis marketing also earned a -1.5, Gallup's score was -1.8.  Wenzel's score was -2.3."