Even though Fox News will rely on political polls to decide which GOP presidential candidates are invited onto the big-stage debate next week, polls right now don't mean very much.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took aim at early polling this week after one poll showed his support in the Republican presidential nomination sweepstakes at a minuscule 4 percent. He said the poll showed only 14 percent of GOP voters were undecided. "I think it is more likely that 14 percent are decided," he said.
While early polling is mostly useful as a private guide for political contributors, this year's polling has burst into headlines because of the crowded candidate field and more recently the surprising emergence of Donald Trump as the frontrunner.
Trump's brashness has been credited for his sudden rise in the polls, which has inspired – or reduced – other candidates into similar incendiary campaign antics, such as Mike Huckabee comparing the Iran nuclear deal to the Holocaust or Rand Paul torching the federal tax code.
The criteria for the first GOP presidential debate also has underscored political polling, especially the collective underperformance of most of the should-be-frontrunner candidates and the tight grouping of second-level candidates.
If the political polls tell any story, it may be that shouting louder is the winning strategy for gaining media coverage and pushing up poll numbers. But the story can be hugely incomplete. Trump, for example, may look good now, but will his tactics become tiresome and result in higher negative ratings? Will someone further back in the pack strike a nerve, whether on the debate stage or not? Will the muddle of a primary prompt GOP leaders to urge Mitt Romney to enter the race as the Republican white knight?
Political polls for the moment are mostly good for summer-time conversation on the back deck. The results will soon fade as the leaves turn colors and the snow starts falling. Enjoy the fun while it lasts.