The Polls Were Right, We Were Wrong, and That's the Good News
Quick Note: This post should've published yesterday. It's late because I asked to be the one to write it. Unfortunately, though, I had a family emergency hit on Election Day morning and, after spending 36 hours in a hospital recliner next to my wife's bed, I'm only just now back at my post. No worries. My wife is fine. All is well. Thankfully, it ended up being a false alarm. But this is my first opportunity since Obama won a second term to be back to work, and I am starting with a….
We were dead wrong about the polls.
Not only did the Real Clear Politics poll of polls end up being almost perfectly precise, but the most accurate pollster of the 2012 election cycle ended up being the Daily Kos' Public Policy Polling (PPP). My guys, Gallup and Rasmussen, didn't even make the top twenty.
There was absolutely no bad faith that went into our pushing back against these polls. We had data, history, and common sense on our side. As far as the data: polls from Pew, Gallup, and Rasmussen told us that the 2012 electorate would have a Republican advantage of anywhere from three to six percent -- or R+3 or R+6. These were polls taken with monstrous samples from three pollsters who have accurately predicted past electorates.
You combine that with a recent history that said 2008's D+7 turnout was a fluke, mix it up with our natural suspicion towards the media, and add a dash of commons sense that said the historic 2010 Republican wave wouldn't crest until after ObamaCare was finally put down with the ousting of Obama and his healthcare plan, and what you seemingly have is what looks like an airtight case against any poll with a sample that says Democrats will enjoy anything more than a D+3 turnout advantage.
According to the media's exit polls, though, the electorate was D+6. According to our own exit poll the electorate was D+3. You throw in the margin of error in both, along with what we now know is the accuracy of the 2012 public polling, and what you have is proof that Barack Obama was able to come close enough to recreating the 2008 electorate to win himself another term.
The whys and hows of this are for another post. But facts are facts, and this is a fact. A sad fact, but a fact nonetheless.
And that's the bad news; not that we were wrong, but that what seemed inconceivable isn't: the 2008 electorate wasn't an anomaly. The electorate (at least with a Democrat presidential candidate at the top of the ticket) has shifted. That doesn’t mean our ideas are wrong or that the GOP must change its core convictions. But it does mean that tactically we have to wrap our heads around the fact that Democrats have the ability to summon enough voters required to eke out victory.
Moreover, Democrats were able to do this during a year in which it seemed enthusiasm would all be on our side, not theirs.
Monday we were 100% sure this wasn't reality. We certainly weren't alone in this belief, but we were wrong -- not the polls, not Nate Silver, not Chuck Todd, not anyone in the media.
The good news is that we won’t be caught off guard again, and that all this talk from the media about how we're now living in a liberal America just isn't true. We lost a tactical race Tuesday night, not an ideological one.
The President doesn't have a mandate, because he didn’t run on a platform. He ran on David Axelrod's divisive tactics, David Plouffe's distraction tactics, and Jim Messina's metrics.
The polls told us this was working. We didn’t listen. That won't happen again.
Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC