Internal numbers from Romney campaign reveal only symptoms

New Republic has a fascinating look at Romney’s internal polling numbers, or rather how wrong they were. For example, the internal polls showed Romney tied in Iowa and ahead by several points in Colorado and New Hampshire. Romney ended up losing all three states by a little over five points. Almost ten points off for CO and NH, that’s a huge miss.

The numbers include internal polls conducted on Saturday, November 3, and Sunday, November 4, for Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Iowa, Colorado, and New Hampshire. According to Newhouse, the campaign polled daily, then combined the results into two-day averages. The numbers for each day along with the averages are displayed in the chart below, followed by the actual result in each state. (See image above — DS)

Clearly Romney’s pollsters made false assumptions about the make up of the electorate that turned out. But what was the cause? What the hell went so wrong here?

When big things happen, whether it’s in nature or culture, there’s often more than one factor involved. We’ll probably never know for sure, but seeing as how Nate Silver did get it right using data from non partisan public polls, we can make some inferences and take a few guesses. Hurricane Sandy may have sobered up the electorate about the role of government, GOP pols pontificating on rape didn’t help, Romney’s 47% comment was poison. There’s no doubt that more young people turned out than Team Romney predicted. Same for minorities and women and voters concerned with marriage equality. It’s clear that Team Obama was hugely successful in turning their voters out. But that still doesn’t explain why almost everyone but a few GOP pollsters –internal pollsters who you would think want to get it right — were so off.

I can also think of less honorable reasons why the GOP screwed up. They might have tried to factor in expected voter suppression, or they may have misjudged the effect of bullying and lying about the President for the last four years on the preogressive base. On the latter, I can tell you that every time the right dog-whistled “nigger,” or lied about Obama’s birth place or religion or what have you, it pissed me and a whole bunch of people like me off in a visceral way.

As long as we’re guessing, here’s my wildest guess: there’s an enormous number of grifters preying on wingnuts these days. It’s a huge industry. They operate openly for the most part because, in most rightwing circles, any quasi-legal scheme to shameless enrich one’s self by exploiting anyone else, even the wingnut base, isn’t frowned upon, it is applauded. Maybe here and there Romney’s pollsters figured to themselves, ‘fuck it, let’s take this rich SOB for everything he’s got while the gettin’s good, let’s just tell him what he wants to hear and make bank.’

That’s pure, wild speculation on my part, no way to ever know, but a boy can dream.


  1. dean says

    I wonder whether his continual lying about even trivial things didn’t bite him in the end. Look at his doubling down, then tripling down, on the “omfg jeep is moving its production to China” crap. He didn’t back down even when the CEO called him on it. In the last few weeks he was running ads in some states saying he was falsely accused of wanting to repeal Roe vs Wade and at the same time had ads in other states saying he would work hard to do so. If he was willing to to tell lies which are so easily found to be lies, about things like those, what big things, more difficult to fact check, was he lying about?

    I know one person who reacted to those things: the jeep thing was the proverbial straw for one of my coworkers. He decided he couldn’t vote for Romney because of it. (He didn’t vote for the President, he just didn’t vote).

    It sounds like the dumbassery was strong with his campaign folks. One of his advisors said today (maybe yesterday) that he was satisfied because Romney “won all the people that mattered”. As long as the definition is “the people who voted for us are the ones that matter” he may be right.

  2. cottonnero says

    I wonder how much the right believes its own bullshit. Maybe this is the harvest for working so hard to prop up creationism, global warming denialism, supply side economics, etc. Maybe anybody who could reason logically was either kicked out of the party or sat this round out, until there wasn’t anybody with self-awareness left to answer the hard questions. I am pretty sure, though, that a slightly smarter GOP can win elections in this country still. Running a caricature of a plutocrat for president, a Randian medicare destroyer for VP, and a bunch of rape apologists for Senators, and the GOP still managed 47% of the vote.

  3. dmcclean says

    @2 and 3,
    That is true and it is chilling.

    But the flip side is that it happened during a point in the business cycle when the incumbents are at a huge disadvantage rhetorically through no necessary fault of their own.

    And, to discuss the proverbial elephant, it happened when the candidate of the not-batshit-crazy party was black.

  4. Trebuchet says

    I see it as classic yes-man-itis. It’s a huge, and vastly underrecognized, problem in the corporate world. You won’t get fired for telling the boss what he wants to hear. You won’t get promoted if you’re the bearer of bad news, even if it’s true. Especially if it’s true, if the boss is responsible for the problem.

  5. says

    I think these were consultants who said what Romney wanted to hear so that they could collect handsome fees.

    If Romney won, they had credibility and Romney’s money. If Romney lost, they had Romney’s money, and no one would remember that they cooked up numbers that it would disqualify them from being consultants again. They will easily blame someone else, like Tagg, for unskewing numbers against their expert advice.

    Is Karl Rove out of a job?


  6. howardpeirce says

    Hopefully, between the MSM and bloggers, every single Republican candidate in the 2014 midterms will have to go on the record with their views on rape.

    I mean, I would hope that rape would be a non-controversial issue, but every single pro-rape (I can’t believe I’m writing that) Republican who went on the record lost their race. Make every mid-term Republican candidate go on the record about rape. Non-violent rape. “Date rape.” Rape within marriage. Statutory rape. Non-penetrative rape. Rape, rape, rape. Hit those fuckers over the head with it. Let the Republicans go the way of the Whigs and the No-Nothings.

    Let the Democrats become the new center-right party, and let the left take care of itself.

  7. anubisprime says

    cottonnero @ 2

    Running a caricature of a plutocrat for president, a Randian medicare destroyer for VP, and a bunch of rape apologists for Senators, and the GOP still managed 47% of the vote.

    Absolutely chilling!
    It will only encourage the right wing nuttery after they pompously declare a re-think, such support will not go unrealized they will re-emerge with a thin veneer of ‘we learnt some vague lesson’ maybe tone down the rape nonsense publicly, but a scrape of the surface will reveal the same deep seated hatreds, misogyny, ignorance and bigotry, nothing is so sure and nothing so very dangerous!
    The hatred will be even more intense if anything.

    The churches must wonder if Yahweh was on vacation or a autumn break before he comes back to smite their enemies.
    They certainly prayed hard enough according to their boasts…seems no one was listening as the final outcome demonstrates!

    Next time they will be even less shy of political gerrymandering and agitation of the sheeples!…this time it was blatant next time it will be endemic!

  8. slc1 says

    One has to laugh at the clowns in the Romney campaign and in the lamestream media. They spent much of the last week bad mouthing Nate Silver. Well, Silver called 50 out of 51 states correctly and the only one he missed was Florida, which he gave Rmoney only a 50.3% chance of winning. That’s in the noise level so it wasn’t much of a miss.

  9. jamessweet says

    cottennero has it right I think: The GOP’s habitual reality distortion is becoming so pervasive within the party that it is impairing their ability to discern the truth even when it is necessary to help them win elections.

    A lot of the other possible explanation I see bandied about here are missing the point: We can point to reasons why Romney underperformed, but that’s separate from why he underperformed relative to internal polling. e.g. if it was the 47% comment, the internal polls should have reflected that. Sandy is not completely crazy, because it happened so late that the internal polls might not have reflected it — but the best data suggests that Sandy provided only a moderate boost for Obama in affected states, and anyway, I don’t think much of anyone in Iowa voted differently because of Sandy.

  10. says

    I figured it was grifters myself. $400 million dollars is a lot of money and there are only so many commercial hours in a day. If I was an unethical person, I’d hang a shingle on my door that read “GOP Strategist” in an election year.

  11. says

    I still think it’s simple.

    I think all the GOP pollsters weighted by party affiliation, and overweighted “independents”, both of which are reasonable things to do – especially if you’re taking a small sample and want to correct for small sample errors.

    They expected to see about X% of likely respondents calling themselves Republicans and Y% calling themselves Independents, because that’s what the electorate was like in 2006-2008-2010. And they kept seeing about X-5% saying they were Republican, and Y+5% saying Independent. (That 5% also heavily favored Romney.)

    Now what had really happened was that about 5% of the electorate, reliable Republican voters, had stopped calling themselves “Republican”, either because they consider the Tea Party to be a separate entity or because all their friends would mock them as pro-rape climate-change-denying racist creationists when they said they were Republicans.

    But the upshot was that the polls kept saying X-5% of respondents were “Republican”. So they figured they kept systematically missing Republicans, and so they overweighted the Republican responses they did get. And in addition, the people who called themselves “Independent” were much more pro-GOP than “independents” would normally be in an election where raw numbers were favoring Democrats, so they unskewed their numbers in favor of Romney because independents seemed to favor him.

    Why only GOP polls? I’m guessing they were being paid to give Romney numbers – yesmanism was certainly a factor. Somebody said “we can’t give him those numbers; we’ll get fired” and somebody else said “these numbers have to be wrong because if they were right it would be bad” – remember, the GOP is made of climate deniers – and they changed their weighting using “tried and true” sampling-correction methods. And systematically got the wrong answer, and honestly belived it.

  12. roggg says

    I always figured it was about projecting an aura of confidence, and maintaining credibility for Romney as a candidate. Once it’s apparent that the ship is sinking, the rats are likely to jump.


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