Doom, Gloom, and Polls

Both sides in Campaign 2012 have a very unhealthy fixation on daily tracking polls. The media is using the polls as an excuse to not cover the growing disaster in Libya and instead focus on Romney. The right is using the polls as a tool to reinforce their disgust with the media. It is getting so bad, some are even now accusing RealClearPolitics of gaming the polls for Barack Obama.This is not healthy for any side. I’ve been in politics long enough to know that the louder one side gets complaining about the polls, the more likely it is that this is the side that, in reality, actually is losing. Go back to 2004 and you will find Democrats trying to destroy the credibility of any pollster who dared show George Bush winning. Heck, go back to 2010 and look at the attacks then on Scott Rasmussen, who accurately predicted the outcome.Here’s a simple truth: the polls and polling trends are by and large accurate, but — and pay attention to the but — the polls are overestimating Democratic turnout. Those polls that presume less than a 2008 Democratic wave, which I think is most reasonable, have the race very close, though pretty much all of them have Romney still behind. The reality is that Mitt Romney is behind, but that does not mean this thing is over. It is close and Romney can very much still win this election. Finally, at long last, it also seems Romney has a message that can resonate.In the obsession on polls, people are missing the Republican voter registration advantage in a number of states, including Colorado. They are forgetting the number of Democrats who simply refused to vote for Barack Obama in the primaries in various states, including Pennsylvania. They are forgetting that Republicans are right now ahead of Democrats in early voting in some key swing states, when the Democrats were ahead in those states in 2008. See e.g. Ohio.The Democrats and the media are in a race to call this election over for Mitt Romney. The presumption the media polls are using of a high Democratic turnout helps them. But as more and more Republicans become convinced the polls are disproportionately skewed against them I think it actually fires up the GOP instead of suppressing the GOP. Republican voters and independent voters know they have to work harder.The debates start up next week. How the debates play out in pop culture will be decisive. How the situation in the Middle East continues to unfold will play a critical role in the end of this election. Ultimately, while I think Romney is behind right now, I think the consistency of polls showing him winning independent voters and solidifying himself with Republicans suggests to me that anyone counting him out would be foolish to do so.I know the Romney team knows they are behind. For a while I’ve also thought they knew they did not know how to turn it around. But over the past several days Mitt Romney has sharpened his message on the economy, focused on Barack Obama’s failed policies, and made clear he has a plan to turn the economy around. The desperation that comes with five weeks left has forced the campaign to simplify its message and outreach. They know what they need to do to turn it around now. I think we will see the polls narrow and the Republican energy, fueled in part by a sense of anger at the media, will push Romney forward.Five weeks left.



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