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Wishful thinking on Republican wishful thinking

Wishful thinking on Republican wishful thinking

There is no conventional wisdom pushed as hard by the anti-Republican media than the notion that Republicans were in a self-contained media and punditry bubble and refused to believe — or worse yet, deliberately distorted — contrary polling.   Beware this conventional wisdom.

I have examined how that conventional wisdom is wrong because it extrapolates from error in judgment to some level of dishonesty.

In the case of Dick Morris, among the most reviled because of his optimism, I have shown that the meme pushed by Politico, Political Wire, and others that Morris admitted he didn’t believe his numbers relies on a dishonest truncation of his words. Morris and many other Republican pundits were wrong because their models predicted a return to the norm on turnout, viewing 2008 as an outlier.  Wrong? Yes.  Dishonest? No evidence.

An article at The New Republic, The Internal Polls That Made Mitt Romney Think He’d Win, examines how Romney’s internal pollsters got it wrong on turnout modeling as well.  These were people who did not get paid for Fox News appearances, which is the supposed reason offered by the anti-Republican media for Morris and others getting it wrong. 

Newhouse and some of his colleagues have said that the biggest flaw in their polling was the failure to predict the demographic composition of the electorate. Broadly speaking, the people who showed up to vote on November 6 were younger and less white than Team Romney anticipated, and far more Democratic as a result. “The Colorado Latino vote was extraordinarily challenging,” Newhouse told me. “As it was in Florida.”

This point can be overstated. For example, New Hampshire and Iowa are both predominantly white states, and Obama won both whites and older voters in each of them. Likewise, whatever the challenges of polling Latinos, they were only 14 percent of the electorate in Colorado. It would be a stretch to say they explain most of the error in a Romney poll that was off by 8 percentage points overall in the state.

Still, the data I obtained did reveal symptoms of the “compositional” problem Newhouse cites.

But beware the meme of deliberate disregard, as was pushed by Buzzfeed in response to the New Republic article, The Republicans’ Other Internal Numbers Predicted Defeat.  The actual article does not support the headline:

This narrative of Republican surprise serves elements of the post-election agenda of Romney’s circle — it underscores their argument that they weren’t deceiving the press and donors — but it leaves out an important fact: A longtime Romney adviser was circulating a second, rival set of numbers that showed President Obama winning with “over 300” electoral votes, one person who saw them told BuzzFeed.

Alex Gage, the Republican targeting expert who compiled the projections, was not working directly for the campaign.  But he was hardly an outsider: Gage began advising Romney in 2002, and his wife, Katie Packer Gage, was Romney’s deputy campaign manager in 2012. Prominent Republicans close to the campaign circulated his numbers, though a top aide denied having seen them.

And on the afternoon of Election Day, Gage e-mailed a “best case” scenario map that had Romney winning by just two electoral votes— but losing Colorado, Iowa, and a slew of other battleground states, many of which the Romney team swore to the bitter end that they were going to win.

The Buzzfeed article presents no evidence this contrary indication was presented to the campaign, and the only data was that supposedly circulated the afternoon of the election itself.  In any event, if the campaign had faith in its internal polling in the face of contrary public polling, it’s hard to see how the Gage data would have changed the mix.

We may never fully understand what went wrong with the Republican internal polling, but errors in modeling judgment seem to be the emerging issue.  Don’t jump to extrapolate that into dishonesty unless you have the evidence to prove it.

An internal war among Republican circles may be warranted, but it should be based on fact, not memes pushed by the anti-Republican media.


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It’s interesting to note that Democrats investigated fraudulent voting in the early 21st century. They claimed that Republicans were manipulating the outcomes. Since that time, we have learned that Democrats on several occasions have employed dead, fictitious, schizophrenic, and illegal voters for their benefit. Is it unreasonable to believe that they also manipulate votes covertly or behind the scenes? In fact, there is evidence that was done at least on a limited basis in both 2008 and 2012. Perhaps not sufficient to prove systemic corruption, but enough to justify an investigation.

    n.n in reply to n.n. | November 30, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    In addition to preventing or at least controlling disenfranchisement, it would be advisable to review the reasons why many people simply did not vote.

    janitor in reply to n.n. | November 30, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    Precincts going 100% for Obama is evidence. Broken tabulating machine in a certain Republican precinct in Florida, with votes stuffed into a bag to be entered “later” is evidence. Busloads of people from a home for the retarded coming to vote in Palm Beach is evidence. Project Veritas voter fraud videos is evidence. Numerous people including military not getting their absentee ballots is evidence. That places without voter ID requirements went Democrat is evidence.

    In a race this close, and with so much specious inundation of conflicting information and spin (where people just don’t know what to believe), little things — including people who were unsure defaulting to the Democrat for narrow reasons, such as abortion rights or their belief that Republicans would destroy Medicare, or their need for free stuff, certainly all add up.

    But fraud put it over the top. If we don’t crack down on that, all the Monday morning ruminating will be pointless.

      I agree, it is a comprehensive problem, which can be summarized as: individuals incapable of self-moderating behavior are ineligible to enjoy liberty. In the extreme, a functional society incarcerates individuals who commit acts of involuntary or fraudulent exploitation.

      I believe fraud is a proven problem, but the available evidence is insufficient to establish systemic (e.g. national) corruption, which makes Democrat challenges to mitigate disenfranchisement so risible.

      Elective abortion is the premeditated murder of a developing human life when it exclusively lacks the means to defend itself. Not only is it a human rights violation, but it is also unconstitutional.

      We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

      The Declaration (i.e. the establishment document) identifies rights from creation. This may be considered from biological conception, but it may also be considered from emergence or expression of consciousness (a distinction upheld by the Torah).

      nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law

      The Fourteenth Amendment grants power to the Federal government to preserve the life of the citizens it serves, including the rights of “all men” as defined in the establishment document.

      Elective abortion can not be tolerated and can certainly not be normalized. It is also illegal under our law without due process of law, which I would surmise means that the defendant must be permitted representation.

      As for Medicare and Social Security, neither Republicans nor Conservatives want to end these entitlement programs. They are contributory and, properly structured, they can behave as universal insurance programs. The issue with both is controlling the progressive inflation in our economy, which is causing both programs to become infeasible. However, unlike non-contributory or net-negative contributory welfare programs, the participants in the entitlement programs are stakeholders and for that reason it is possible to control progressive corruption. The welfare programs should be replaced with rehabilitation programs, in order to quickly return individuals to be productive members of society.

      As for the “free stuff”: Though shall not steal! Not in person and not through an agent (e.g. government). Our Constitution limits involuntary redistribution to fund the state and “promote the general Welfare”. Both involuntary and fraudulent exploitation are deplorable. There are very few individuals who suffer from a physical and mental deficit which prevents them from working. People need to reject dreams of instant gratification, which can not be generally fulfilled without consequences. The priority should be given to voluntary exploitation, including: economic exchange and charitable works.

      The two operative principles people need to remember are:
      1. respect individual dignity
      2. recognize an intrinsic value of human life

      The only other concern is the natural order, which through principles of evolution circumscribes functional behaviors, and through finite accessibility denies instant and universal gratification.

      Medicare properly structured is an insurance program. Social Security is a trust fund, since there is a guaranteed distribution of its funds.

No polling can off-set virulent, organized and many cases, overt, media, election tabulation/machine/etc. AND voter fraud. The election was stolen from both sides and the middle.

I don’t remember a time when Dick Morris was ever right.

The Romney campaign managers were clueless in their ability to win an election, and were just as arrogant.

Let us be clear: the full frontal assault is on, and it is going to get heavier. Battling the Democrat government/media/education complex – fascistic in its mission – is like battling a nation as large as China in a ground war. The GOP leadership is as clueless as the Romney campaign was, and equally arrogant. There is only one way forward in winning the battle for our futures, and it requires replacing the GOP leadership. If Boehner is the head of the House, and Reise Prius (or whatever his name is) remains GOP chair, do not have any delusions about our prevailing.

Our battle is not with the Democrat government/media/education complex right now. It is for the heart and soul of the GOP. Prius (or whatever his name is) and Boehner have to get the boot – and get it fast.

We may never fully understand what went wrong with the Republican internal polling, but errors in modeling judgment seem to be the emerging issue.

Bingo, it was a huge point of debate whose model of the electorate was more accurate. Obviously Axelrod’s was correct but this was by no means accepted as truth before election day. Glenn Thrush linked the Battleground Watch post debunking Axelrod’s model, in late October on twitter. Plenty of doubt was expressed about Axelrod’s model since Major Garrett reported on it September 1, 2012.

Bottom line, polls cross the line from science to art when predicting the likely electorate. HuffPo’s MysteryPollster wrote wrote an entire series explaining the challenges of likely voter models to explain mass failures of predictive models like Princeton Professor Sam Wang’s after the 2004 election.

Let’s not forget polls showing a pretty clear Bush win in 2004 took a back seat when early exit polls gave the media hope Kerry might send W packing. Bob Shrum took exit poll info and ran with the famous “Let me be the first to call you Mr. President” line to John Kerry. Only Republican strategists are delusional or liars, however, when the votes don’t come in the way they envision.

I believe the decisive factor was early voting and same day registration. That allowed the Democrats to pound the pavement for new voters, carry them to the polls for early voting, register them then and there, and tell them how to vote.. The Democratic turnout would not have been anywhere near what it was if they had to do all that on election day or had to register the voters prior to election day.

There is one poll that is regularly ignored when this “inside-the-bubble” analysis takes place. Remember the University of Colorado forecasting study? It had predicted the results of every presidential race since 1996, even the 2000 anomaly. Retroactively it predicted the results going back to 1980. Back in May and October they predicted the race would be won by Romney:

According to their updated analysis, Romney is projected to receive 330 of the total 538 Electoral College votes. President Barack Obama is expected to receive 208 votes — down five votes from their initial prediction — and short of the 270 needed to win.

“We continue to show that the economic conditions favor Romney even though many polls show the president in the lead,” Bickers said. “Other published models point to the same result, but they looked at the national popular vote, while we stress state-level economic data.

While many election forecast models were based on the popular vote, the model developed by Bickers and Berry is based on the Electoral College and is the only one of its type to include more than one state-level measure of economic conditions. They included economic data from all 50 states and the District of Columbia. They focused on economic indicators that were hitherto accurate. They didn’t have an ax to grind, either–they are “non-partisan,” i.e., they lean slightly to the left. In any case, their research can’t be dismissed as the mere product of those “inside the conservative bubble.” Bickers and Berry are non-partisan researchers who got things wrong, too. It’s not like there was no respectable, neutral evidence for our position. We were wrong, but our pre-election hopes weren’t simply based on wishful thinking.

They were, however, based on some erroneous assumptions. Could we not conclude that people don’t base their vote on the economic data that used to hold sway in voters’ decision-making? Maybe it’s NOT “the economy, stupid” anymore. I think at this point we have to conclude, “It’s the culture, stupid.”

Let me amplify that. There’s a whole cohort of voters in the U.S. that no longer has the country “in its hips,” as Wilmoore Kendall put it (he was a pupil of Leo Straus and a mentor of William F. Buckley at Yale.) Kendall meant that most Americans are not ideological; their convictions and values are more “felt” than “thought-through.” They were instinctual rather than purely rational (This fact is true of most democratic electorates by the way, so I don’t say that as a criticism of American voters in particular. It’s just the way of things is a democratic regime). WFB (and I imagine most conservative spokespersons) thought they were defending the citizenry that had the right instincts, but couldn’t articulate them effectively. Those who had the country “in their hips” needed a champion; the post-WW II conservative movement consciously acted as that champion (WFB preeminently, along with many more).

What has happened, it seems to me, is that a loarge cohort of Americans (the young in particular) now have “in their hips” a markedly different package of values and assumptions about the world than previous generations did. And I don’t mean here the subtle differences in attitude and judgment that characterize every new generation. I am talking about a sea-change in fundamental attitudes and values.

Did anyone of us think that appeals like those of Sandra Fluke could be anything but fodder for satire? And yet they moved younger women to support Obama. Did anyone think that the foul-mouthed senior citizen ad (“burn this mother-f*****r down!”) could be anything but a sign of desperation? But it didn’t disqualify Obama in the eyes of the young; it recommended him. Did any of us think that calling Romney a murderer in an ad could be persuasive to serious people? Of course not. Nevertheless, it worked with 1-2% of the electorate in the middle. The campaign that Obama ran should not have flown; but behold, it did.

And since I’m emoting here, could I get something else off my chest? I regularly hear the opinion that in the long run we can counteract this cultural shift by outbreeding the left. Conservatives have more kids, the argument goes, so we will eventually overwhelm the libs with superior numbers. It is assumed that the left either aborts its children or can’t breed them naturally (i.e., homosexuals). May I point out that conservatism is NOT genetic? It is not enough to “outbreed” the left; we have to “outraise” them!

An example: there is a story out on the net about a Republican party county chairwoman in Ohio. She is not a party hack, but an actual conservative. She is married and has FIVE kids. All were raised in a conservative environment, all go to church (not sure which denomination), some were schooled at home. Each child received the “conservative catechism,” as it were with their mother’s milk. This stalwart woman was practically a baby-machine for the republican party and the conservative movement. She walked the walk. She put her money where her mouth was. She was a true believer. She was the kind of woman that liberal women absolutely love to HATE.

Guess how many of her brood voted for Obama in 2008? …. If you guessed ALL FIVE, you get an ‘A’ for today’s lesson. So, to repeat, it’s not enough to OUTBREED the libs; we’ve got to OUTRAISE them. So, could we stop this empty headed meme about how we’re going to outbreed the libs? They don’t need to breed biologically. The libs propagate their values in the tone-setting institutions of our culture. Until this problem is acknowledged, we’re fighting half-blind.

And it is not helpful to just play the vote-fraud card (“Those dirty-such-and-suches, they done stole the election!”). Fraud exists, and it’s extensive, but it doesn’t explain the slippage between our pre-election model of the electorate, and the electorate that actually showed up to vote.

OK, rant off!

I agree that it appears to be poor modelling based upon wishful thinking, rather than a desire to outright deceive. However, the Romney campaign was not completely truthful before the election regarding its internal poll numbers. For example, it was widely reported on November 5 that Romney’s internal numbers had him up by one in OH, two in IA, three in NH, and tied in PA and WI ( Now we learn that with the exception of New Hampshire, this was simply untrue of their internal polls.

NC Mountain Girl | December 1, 2012 at 10:13 am

Among the young voting is now more an expression of short term lifestyle considerations rather than a calculation of their long term economic prospects.

This shift was not even contemplated by Romney’s strategy of focusing on a few fairly high information independent voters in swing states.