Last week, I posed the question of what might happen when people start believing their own lies. This was prompted by the fact that the Republican party and the Romney campaign and their supporters seemed to be willing to reject any information that went against what they wanted to believe. This election at least partially supplied an answer to my question and that is that you end up looking like a fool because at some point reality slaps you upside the head.
In particular, I was struck by the message that was being pushed that Romney would win easily, which was the one outcome that had no empirical basis whatsoever. The polls and poll aggregators had consistently shown a close race in the national vote and a comfortable victory for Obama in the electoral college, with a very small chance of Romney pulling it off. Their track record in past elections had been excellent and the 2012 results were another vindication for the ‘quants’, as they have come to be known,
I thought that the Romney campaign bigwigs, the Republican party leaders, and their pundit supporters were well aware that there was no basis for their exuberant optimism and were cynically promoting this false view out of some vague theory of psychology that this would fire up Romney voters with enthusiasm and increase their chances of going to the polls and, conversely, depressing Obama supporters to make them more likely to not vote. I felt that they did not really believe all that stuff about Romney’s momentum and last minute huge surge of enthusiasm and that this was just a story they fed the rubes in the hopes of squeaking out a narrow victory. How could they not know about the actual data that was out there that was pretty well known to even complete outsiders like me?
But the one thing that has emerged quite clearly is that they actually believed their own words. Report after report has emerged that Romney was shellshocked by his loss. The campaign had even planned victory fireworks on election night.
Could they have really been that deluded? According to other reports, they indeed were.
Romney supporters point to a series of brash statements made by advisers that seem out of touch with reality in retrospect. Inside the Beltway, Republicans trained their fire on senior Romney advisers like Ed Gillespie and political director Rich Beeson for appearances on last weekend’s Sunday shows. Gillespie said the electoral map was expanding, and Beeson predicted a 300 electoral vote win for Romney.
“There were a lot of Republicans who were on calls that the campaign was having led to believe we had shots in Pennsylvania and Minnesota,” one Republican operative supporting Romney said. “I think Republicans are split right now between confused and shocked, and also I think they are wondering did the Romney campaign have numbers we didn’t have.”
Inside tight-knit Romneyworld — where many of the GOP nominee’s senior aides have worked together since Romney’s time as Massachusetts governor — there was a sense Tuesday that the White House was within reach. Over the last few weeks, especially after Romney’s strong Denver debate performance, some staffers were openly speculation about jobs they might nab in a Romney administration and discussed what the shape of the transition effort.
After getting some sleep, a senior campaign official praised the skill of his opponents in Chicago, saying Obama’s team ran a “technically proficient campaign.”
“People really did think we were going to win,” he said. “I thought going into yesterday that we could and would win. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit: They changed the electorate.”
Romney bundlers and mega donors were optimistic Tuesday afternoon as they mingled in the Westin Boston Waterfront hotel lobby, picking up their donor packets and prepping for a private party before what they believed would be a Romney victory.
Some of the pundits who got it badly wrong are not stupid people. They are paid, handsomely, to keep up with the news. And yet, George Will predicted 321 votes for Romney. Perhaps nowhere was the shock of the outcome more palpable than on Fox News on election night. Anchor Megyn Kelly seemed stunned.
I find this truly incredible. If I, as an outsider, could have read the writing on the wall so long ago, how could these people, insiders all and professional news people, have missed it?
This is what happens when you start believing your own lies and hype and move away from reality. While there are many things that one can criticize about the policies of the Obama administration, one thing seems clear, that they do have at least one foot firmly planted on the ground. And their campaign reflected that. The Obama camp is clearly reality-based while the Republicans are not
You cannot fight reality. You either come to terms with it and try to find ways to use it to your advantage or you will be at the receiving end of one shock after another. That way lies madness.