Saturday, November 10, 2012

Obviously I was Wrong about Romney

There have been multiple postmortems on the Romney campaign and all reveal significant flaws. The campaign had virtually no get out the vote machine, they became over confident about their position in key swing states and they spent a lot of precious time in PA instead of VA, FL, OH or CO. It was a lower turnout election with Romney receiving fewer votes than McCain in 2008 and the President winning far fewer votes than he did in 2008. And then there was Hurricane Sandy.

If you look to the Real Clear Politics polling data for the two/three weeks prior to the hurricane Romney had established a consistent lead. But more important than the Romney lead, the President had a poll ceiling of 47% and most polls had him at 45, 46 or 47% - this is deadly for an incumbent. Then Sandy hit and the numbers shifted quite clearly in the President's favor. His 46 and 47% poll numbers jumped to 49 and 50%. His approval rating increased as well. It certainly gave him a boost on election day.  Of course any discussion of the hurricane impacting the race is immediately dismissed by the Left as they try to magnify the significance of what was a rather poor 50%-48% re-election margin for the President. And the Right is trying to avoid facing the facts that they are losing racial and ethnic minority voters and are too reliant on the votes of a shrinking white electorate. I don't much care what the Left or the Right have to say - but to deny that Sandy had a positive impact on Obama's bid and a negative impact on Romney is to deny common sense. Much as would any attempt to deny the Romney campaign's serious failings.

A review of pollster accuracy by Nate Silver reveals something pretty amazing - nearly every pollster overstated GOP strength. This is an historic anomaly, polls tend to understate GOP strength. The systemic bias in favor of the GOP suggests just how impressive the Obama campaign's turn-out machine was. Turn-out overall was done by several million voters, but based on exit polls youth, African-American, and Hispanic voters turned-out at the same numbers as they did in 2008 (the Hispanic numbers were actually up a bit), but they accounted for a greater share of the electorate because so many white voters simply failed to show up. The GOP needs white voters to win and when millions stay home, the GOP loses (Of course, if the GOP had not succeeded in turning away Hispanic voters in recent years then all of those white voters would not have mattered. Had Romney won the same share of Hispanics as McCain in 2008 he would have likely eked out a win. Had he received the same share as Bush in 2004 he would have won comfortably.).

On election day the Obama folks found and turned-out their voters and the GOP did not. There have been reports the Romney campaign's turn-out program - code named Orca - was based on a proprietary software program designed to identify likely GOP voters who not yet voted. The program was top secret and in an effort to keep it that way the Romney folks barely tested it and did minimal training. Worse, it crashed on election day. So field workers, ready to turn-out voters, were left twisting in the wind as their voters stayed home. It was a colossal failure. In a lower turn-out election, the team with the better ground game will win, and in this case they did.

As with any election, winners win and losers lose for a multitude of reasons. Blaming any one reasons is pretty much folly. The losers will look to find any excuses so as to avoid a painful period of self-reflection. The winners will look to ignore any factors that serve to diminish the significance of their victory. As New Republic's Timothy Noah recently wrote there appears to be no clear reason for Obama's win or Romney's loss. Exit polls reveal no clear endorsement of Obama's agenda or a rejection of Romney's. Rather the election results point to a status quo election in which the voters sent to no clear message to anyone. Regardless of the voters' lack of a message, the loss makes quite clear which side is better able to win when no national wave is carrying either party to the finish.

Perhaps ABC's Political Director Amy Walter wrote it best: "In 2006, 2008 and 2010 voters punished the party it saw as too consumed with its own agenda and unfocused on the concerns of average Americans. But each "wave election" only served to convince the winning party that they had a mandate for their ideological agenda. Ironically, it took a "status quo" election to finally convince the two sides to hear what voters have been telling them along: stop the posturing and work together to get something done to fix the many problems this country is facing."

We can only hope she is correct.