Dick Morris: Romney is Winning!


Given that Dick Morris is almost always wrong in his predictions, it’s probably good news for Democrats that he is now jumping on the “the polls are lying, Romney is really winning” bandwagon. And he’s using an old argument that simply isn’t true:

Almost all of the published polls show Obama getting less than 50% of the vote and less than 50% job approval. A majority of the voters either support Romney or are undecided in almost every poll.

But the fact is that the undecided vote always goes against the incumbent. In 1980 (the last time an incumbent Democrat was beaten), for example, the Gallup Poll of October 27th had Carter ahead by 45-39. Their survey on November 2nd showed Reagan catching up and leading by three points. In the actual voting, the Republican won by nine. The undecided vote broke sharply — and unanimously — for the challenger.

An undecided voter has really decided not to back the incumbent. He just won’t focus on the race until later in the game.

So, when the published poll shows Obama ahead by, say, 48-45, he’s really probably losing by 52-48!

But this claim that undecided voters break for the challenger in large numbers, which has become a mantra for many, just isn’t supported by any evidence. Nate Silver, who has done more serious analysis of polls than anyone I know, debunks that claim:

It is often asserted that this is the case — that the polls move toward the “out-party” candidate rather than the incumbent. But in my view the empirical evidence — although it is somewhat ambiguous — mostly argues against this idea.

For a bit of background on this question, see my previous work on the “incumbent rule,” which is the notion espoused above that polls tend to break toward the challenging rather than incumbent candidate. My research into polls of gubernatorial, Senate and House races over the last 15 years or so suggests that this just is not true; in general, the incumbent candidate has been as likely to overperform his polling margin on Election Day as to underperform it.

And the same is true of presidential elections:

Finally, I have compared the poll averages against the actual outcome…

Perhaps more important, both candidates gain about the same amount of ground relative to the polls. On average since 1968, for instance, the incumbent-party candidate gained 3.5 points between the September polls and his actual performance on Election Day, while the challenger gained 3.9 points…

The evidence is not very convincing that polls break toward the challenger otherwise. (This seems to be true both for presidential elections and for other types of elections.)

In presidential years, the mean-reversion tendency in polls has been much clearer than any effects from incumbent status.

As with Dean Chambers, I think Dick Morris should make a wager with Nate Silver on which one is closest to predicting the actual outcome. I’d put big money on Silver myself.

Comments

  1. Michael Heath says

    WSJ comment posters are arguing that because Rasmussen and Pew were supposedly the most accurate polls just prior to the 2008 election, they should trust Rasmussen’s current polling while ignoring Pew’s current findings. Pew strongly favors Obama, Rasmussen favors Romney more than the other polls. If you find this incoherent, than you understand how conservatives are thinking on this matter.

    I realize Rasmussen purposefully favors Republicans in their results in the early and mid-season of electoral campaigns and then gradually dial-back the bias to just prior to the election. That’s in order to falsely argue they’re not really biased and their findings are representative. So I do not support the supposed conclusion Rasmussen was the most accurate 2008 presidential pollster, instead I’d argue any such findings used a fatally defective approach to determining polling outfits actual performance relative to what the voting population was thinking at the time polled, which should be judged during the entire course of the campaign season, not merely the last polls taken just prior to the election. That’s because poll results during the campaign influence both turn-out and some people’s vote.

  2. comfychair says

    You can analyze and debunk this shit to death, but what it boils down to is that they live in a universe where anyone with a D after their name is wholly illegitimate and a traitor, and the only way a D can win an election is to cheat. Therefore they feel justified in cheating too, to protect _____ (insert whatever: the nation, Freedom(tm), democracy, etc.).

    They want a one-party state, to preserve democracy… so, no, logic and facts don’t work when the other side is living in an alternate universe.

  3. Phillip IV says

    As with Dean Chambers, I think Dick Morris should make a wager with Nate Silver on which one is closest to predicting the actual outcome.

    Chambers might actually do it, but I’m pretty sure that Morris doesn’t actually believe a single word of what he’s writing. He wrote what he knew the wingnuts wanted to hear, and was richly rewarded with his column going viral among them – and the ad revenue it earned him.

    And even though he’ll turn out to have been wrong, he’ll be able to pull exactly the same trick with the next issue, because for wingnuts the want to believe is always stronger than any doubts about the track record of a pundit.

    And then, one of these days, he’ll turn out right about some issue by mere accident, and from then on that one will be on his business card: “Dick Morris, the only analyst who got xyz right.” Let’s hope it’s not this time.

  4. Michael Heath says

    I couldn’t get past the mature warning page of DaveL’s linked page using Chrome, Firefox, or Safari. I think a clickable icon above the “confirm age” text can’t be presented in those three browsers. Here’s a Youtube clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YKbYLb5GVc with what I think is the relevant portion DaveL wanted to present; it’s about 4:15-in though the whole clip is worth watching if you’ve seen and enjoyed A Fish Called Wanda.

  5. synkron says

    I hope Bill Kristol predicts an Obama win soon. Otherwise, we may suffer the consequences of a cosmic paradox.

  6. regexp says

    Dick Morris was live blogging the 2008 election and declaring McCain would be the winner right up until a few minutes before CA was called. Then he stopped blogging. The guy is a tool.

  7. says

    Just skimming the comments inevitably brings “whistling past the graveyard” to mind. There could be something that changes this race but its clear that, for now, the True Believers(TM) are denying realitity again.

  8. d cwilson says

    but I’m pretty sure that Morris doesn’t actually believe a single word of what he’s writing.

    I doubt Morris has believed anything he’s said or written for years now. There is no one sadder in politics today than Dick “toe sucker” Morris. After he got bounced from the Clinton campaign for his prostitute foot-fetish, he’s devoted his life to helping Fox create their alternate reality where democrats will always lose and republicans will always win. Unlike many at Fox, though, he’s not actually a true believer, he’s just doing it out of spite.

    I hope Bill Kristol predicts an Obama win soon. Otherwise, we may suffer the consequences of a cosmic paradox.

    No that would create a cosmic paradox since it’s a universal law that both Morris and Kristol are wrong about everything. If they make opposing predictions, the universe itself may implode in a Schoedinger-like cosmic uncertainty as the quantum probabilities struggle to resolve themselves into a state in which both of them are wrong. Or, history may be forced rearrange itself and make Ron Paul president.

  9. StevoR says

    dick-morris-romney-is-winning

    *Shakes head ruefully.*

    Really?

    Only thing Mittens could possibly be considered as winning ’bout now is the all-time record no. 1 place as Worst POTUS candidate ever.

  10. StevoR says

    @7. regexp :

    Dick Morris was live blogging the 2008 election and declaring McCain would be the winner right up until a few minutes before CA was called. Then he stopped blogging. The guy is a tool.

    Pictures Dick Morris’es face on that night, jaw agape, pale, trembling and frozen in shock, uanble to blog, unable to move. Stunned by the power of the Obama landslide.

    Likes that picture and hopes to see it repeated on United States Election Night 2012.

    (How long I wonder did it take him to get over that stunning shock and resume blogging?)

  11. StevoR says

    Um. Make that :

    .. trembling but and otherwise frozen in shock,

    ‘k?

    Is there such a thing as a grammatical oxymoron?

  12. says

    In 1980 (the last time an incumbent Democrat was beaten), for example, the Gallup Poll of October 27th had Carter ahead by 45-39.

    Morris most conveniently ignores the fact that the two candidates finally got around to debating on October 28th, and a good chunk of the electorate was looking for reassurance that Reagan wasn’t too old and too prone to firing from the hip to do the job. He succeeded by staying awake and acting reasonably presidential, calming the concerns of people who really wanted a new president. And Carter had a history of starting strong before fizzling out in national elections.
    Cherry-picking history, it is.

Leave a Reply