02/20/2009 10:37 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Dispatches: Greenberg's Response to Kristen Soltis

This guest pollster contribution from Stan Greenberg is part of's week-long series on his new book, Dispatches from the War Room. Greenberg is chairman and CEO of Greenberg Quinlan Rosner.

Kristen starts with a key piece of the role of pollster -- keeping elites and elected officials "in-touch" with people; a reality check. Lost in all the talk about politicians with their fingers to the wind is how hard it is for the voter to get heard amidst the lobbyists, experts, bureaucrats, donors and more. If there is a problem to solve, that's not a bad one to address.

I really share Kristen's frustration with the search for the "silver bullet" -- particularly a word or phrase -- when the "silver bullet" is really have a theory of the race, knowing why you are running, defining the choice in a way that really impacts people's lives. Look what happened when Obama's "change" encountered Clinton's "experience" and coalition of small groups. Clinton lost ground because Obama had the force of what was happening in society and the economy with him. Understanding your times and having a mission puts you in a more powerful electoral position.

I agree that voters not voters not grounded in the current ideological polarization. That's why it hasn't worked to label Clinton a "liberal" in 1996 or Obama in 2008. But that has led to some to say that voters aren't moved by big ideas and political political forces and alignments and they have rushed to advance a bunch of small policies. I think 2008 showed that America is a country moved by big currents and open to big ideas about how to address our problems. I think Obama and McCain debated big philosophical issues and those mattered in how people became engaged and voted.

Subscribe to the Politics email.
How will Trump’s administration impact you?