Romney’s Reliance on Internal Polling Led to Massive Miscalculation, Fear, Loathing, Not to Mention

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Noam Scheiber at TNR relates the sad but true story of how Mitt and his advisers relied on the results of flawed internal polling almost exclusively in the waning days of the campaign to confidently predict that Romney would win by a comfortable margin.

Scheiber charts out the predicted outcomes in swing states from the internal polls, which were composed of 2 day averages taken over the weekend before the election, compared to the actual results in those states.  The contrast is head shaking.  The polls underestimated Obama’s vote totals from 2 points to as many as 7 points in these states, all of which were won by Obama and not, as the campaign expected, by Romney.

It really begs the question of whether they ever even wondered why their poll results were so out of line compared to other polls being taken over the same periods by independent sources.  The differences appear to be misguided assumptions about the demographic make-up of voters who would turn out combined with a belief that Romney was experiencing a surge of momentum in several of the states (helped on, no doubt, by all the people clapping hard for it to be true).

But before you schedule the fireworks display and invite all your big donors to fly their private jets in and help celebrate (to the extent that the airport was apparently in danger of running out of plutocrat jet parking spots) and decide to forego the concession speech, wouldn’t you want to, you know, nail down your figures a little more?  Take a hard look at the assumptions and reconcile them to the assumptions being made by the pollsters who weren’t projecting a Romney landslide?  Question things just a leeetle bit more?  So poor Tagg didn’t have to melt down and Egg didn’t need to cry?  No stiff upper lips for the gob smacked after all.

Not if you do things Mitt Romney Style I guess.  Which brings me to the central point.  What a bullet we dodged!  Someone who is so ready to believe in the complete veracity of their polls when all the other polls are saying “no, no” (well, not all, exactly; Faux News was still out there, but still) wouldn’t even have to try and fake the WMD stuff to take us to war with Iran.  He’d just send the troops in with that smirk on his face.

And we never did see his tax returns, did we?

Posted by marindenver on 11/30/12 at 05:40 PM • Permalink

Categories: PoliticsElection '12MittensOur Stupid MediaWar In Error

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What brings out my “hah” or derision is that Romney was the reputed data guy and turn-around artist—yet he never capitalized on any possibly bump-worthy campaign event and in many cases his campaign just didnt get things right. A good piece of that was the cheapness—I joked about them being “off-the-shelf” with respects to their policies, but team Romney/Ryan literally did get their software from Staples. (The “Easy Button” is not necessarily the smart button when you’re going up against Team Obama techies.)  They invested in useless stuff like generating fake Twitter followers and Facebook likes trying to get a bandwagon effect—and invested nothing in trying to have a bandwagon for folks to properly get on. (I’m sure Jen Rubin did all she good to turn that pumpkin into a coach in her columns, but….no….)

But just for another thing—okay, fireworks—given when election night usually wraps up when Ohio isn’t already a done deal before bed-time on the East Coast, that display could have been pretty dickish for people along the harbor who had a job to go to in the morning, huh?

According to the article they were prepared to set the fireworks off as late as 12:30 a.m.  Given that Romney lost MA by double digits that probably wouldn’t have gone over too well with the locals. ;-)

There’s layer upon layer of juicy schaden here that doesn’t seem to want to let up giving me freude.

The arch-consultant, epitomizing the worst of the breed, parachuted in with a slick sales pitch promising short-term salvation to a desperate conglomerate in return for what passes for their souls (and ultimately the contents of their bank accounts), falling prey to consultants parachuted in ...

Here’s some of the postgaming:

Unfortunately, Mitt Romney’s senior adviser Stuart Stevens didn’t give himself that admonition. (It is noteworthy that Ed Gillespie, who tried to take charge of the campaign late in the game and did make huge strides in steadying the ship, has been silent. He has always been a class act.)


But Stevens fails in precisely the way in which the campaign failed: a refusal to acknowledge real and material incompetence by himself and others on the campaign. The piece stubbornly refuses to express regrets or apologies for a campaign that, as evidence has come forth, makes “The Perils of Pauline” look like the Rockettes.

The case against Stevens started months ago, but the op-ed where he trumpets that the campaign won with all the right people, except for losing with the people who came out in droves to vote against his candidate is particularly clueless and compounds the idea the the 47%-erism was endemic to the campaign. But labelling Gillespie a class act for being a better-behaved company man than Stevens and those late of the failed McCain-08 effort, and herself indicating Stevens has a reality-attention deficit disorder, is special coming from the WaPo Team Romney Head cheerleader who now has to figure out why the “better” campaign didn’t win.

And even after all that they hired Sylvester McMonkey McBean.

Yeah, Vixen, during the election, to the very dregs, Rubin used her column to overhype Mitt and how masterful his campaign was at every opportunity. Now she writes:

But Stevens fails in precisely the way in which the campaign failed: a refusal to acknowledge real and material incompetence by himself and others on the campaign. The piece stubbornly refuses to express regrets or apologies for a campaign that, as evidence has come forth, makes “The Perils of Pauline” look like the Rockettes.

The closest Stevens comes to admitting any responsibility for a campaign with grossly defective polling, weirdly ineffective ad buying and a get-out-the-vote operation that will forever give Orca whales a bad name is this: “In my world, the definition of the better campaign is the one that wins.”

Well, that tautology pretty much sums up the attitude during the campaign, in which “in his world” the press was at fault, Obama was at fault, conservatives were at fault, the other pollsters were at fault and foreign policy hawks were at fault but never the Boston team.

As we and many, many others documented in great detail and at some length, the Romney campaign was a disastrous freakshow from beginning to end, and this was abundantly clear to anyone who didn’t don partisan blinkers.

And whatever happened to that story that the Romney family, dissatisfied with the way Mitt was being allowed to be portrayed, took over campaign direction late on? That seems to have been airbrushed out of history (assuming it was true).

I’ve hesitated to write much about the aftermath and pick over the bones of Mitt’s failure because what’s the point in solving the Republicans’ conundrum for them? By the looks of it, they’re intent on not learning any lessons anyway, so I may rethink all that and just go for the pointing and laughing and see if I can’t help stoke the fires of division a little (and apply some reverse psychology).

As you said:

They invested in useless stuff like generating fake Twitter followers and Facebook likes trying to get a bandwagon effect—and invested nothing in trying to have a bandwagon for folks to properly get on.

I believe they thought they had a ready-made bandwagon in the rightwing blogs—remember those fawning mutual backscratching puff pieces at Big Journalism. As for the MSM, it’s hilarious if they’re being blamed for Mitt’s failure—in all my time of observing politics, I can’t remember a more craven lack of inquiry from the broadcast and print media than we saw this year. For example, how the hell did we get to November without Mitt’s refusal to release even ONE FULL YEAR’S TAX RETURNS being a significant and persistent storyline? The whole Mittmentum myth was self-serving concoction to keep up the appearances of a horserace, and it was eggs all round when the poll to end all polls revealed the truth.

I think a major problem was Mitt’s historic lack of any real ideology or concrete plans for governing beyond what he imagined it would take to get elected. For instance, we still don’t know what his job creation strategy would have been beyond “Hey, there’s one of us in the White House again, so throw the rubes some crumbs to keep them happy.”

Not being an echt rightwinger himself, he tried to fill the vacuum by coopting the noisy, obnoxious online echo chamber that already existed, I suppose assuming it embodied a real and suitably numerous social force rather than the inane burblings of an incestuous bunch of overrated extremist deadenders, and pandered to it way beyond the time when everyone thought the Etch A Sketch would be shaken up.

Given all that, I don’t think even a competent campaign staff could have saved him. And by all accounts, he hadn’t assembled a competent campaign staff, just a gaggle of yesmen and grifters with too little money to throw around early on after he won the nomination when it really mattered, then far too much directed ineffectually and wastefully when it was too late to rescue the situation.

The main thing is, the problem with Romney’s campaign was the problem with McCain’s campaign (which I always called “McCampaign” when covering it, as a beast with its own dimensions in attributes, which Romcamp distinctly did not even own, itself), to wit: there is no small amount of grifterism extant in conservatism as a whole these days, and a political campaign, owing to the money issue, attracts grifters like nothing we’ve seen previously.  It’s like throwing out stale cereal where birds are known to congregate—swarms appear.

Bird mess, however, is cleaner than having industry lobbyists (where, after all, is the money coming from?) writing campaign policy. Did Romney’s “clean coal=jobs” plea make sense either inside or outside of the Apppalachians? Or can a misdirection like the Jeep fib really survive being aired where thinking people can see, and not just ideologues? 

I actually wonder if the upshot of CU (nt) will be that we end up with cleaner financed elections because people with money recognize that it’s just a waste, and a political election would be just as fit for a mafia cash-laundering op as a business investment.

@YAFB - the incompetence of RMoney’s staff/hangers on was monumental.  The Schieber piece just highlights it.  The scary part is that Mittbot COULD have won.  I didn’t think he would and went off to Italy (after voting early) secure in the knowledge that he probably wouldn’t but, as I said, damn, we dodged one hell of a bullet.

And, yeah, those Romney tax returns never did show up, did they?  But we people don’t have to give a shit about that now so have a nice life Egg!  And buh-bye!

Here’s a fun nugget from BuzzFeed that seems to further call into question Mittens’ choice of campaign staff and illustrate how closed the internal loop was:

If Mitt Romney really was surprised by his defeat on Election Day, it might have been because he ignored the projections of one of his longest-serving number-crunchers.
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.
Gage gained fame in GOP circles for his data savvy in 2004, when he helped George W. Bush win reelection by applying private-sector marketing techniques to campaign micro-targeting. But he had already helped Romney become governor of Massachusetts with a similarly sophisticated approach, earning the admiration of the venture-capitalists-turned-politicos running Romney’s campaign. When Romney threw his hat in the ring in 2007, Gage was quick to sign on.

He wasn’t on the Romney campaign’s payroll this time around, and a senior campaign strategist told BuzzFeed he had “never seen [Gage’s numbers] or heard any reference to it.”

They invested in useless stuff like generating fake Twitter followers and Facebook likes trying to get a bandwagon effect—and invested nothing in trying to have a bandwagon for folks to properly get on.

I think this was worse than useless because so many of those “fans” were patently false.  There’s too much transparency in the social media to pull off such sock-puppeting on a grand scale, so Romney’s social media ineptitude became just another source of ridicule.

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