Romney internal polls mystery deepens after New Republic report

National Constitution Center

It may take election experts years to unravel the mystery of why Mitt Romney was convinced he had won the 2012 presidential election, as a new report shows some skewed internal poll numbers, and explains Romney’s two trips to Pennsylvania.

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Image of Romney's "transition" website.

But at the same time, the article from The New Republic’s Noam Scheiber shows inconsistencies with reports from November 5 and November 6 about the numbers that might have convinced Romney and his team that he had a good chance of beating President Barack Obama in Ohio.

Obama’s resounding win is starting to take on more of a resemblance to Harry Truman’s “upset” in 1948, with Romney playing the role of Thomas Dewey.

Obama wound up with 332 electoral votes, taking every swing state except North Carolina. Somehow, the Romney campaign was seemingly convinced that he would win one of the final three swing states, or make a strong showing in Pennsylvania.

In the article, Scheiber goes over Romney’s internal polling numbers from six swing states with Neil Newhouse, the Republican pollster who did the surveys on the weekend before the election. Scheiber obtained the numbers from a source and Newhouse agreed to talk about the six states.

The conclusion is that Romney, based on his internal polls, thought he had at least 267 out of the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election, and the election would be decided in four states: Ohio, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Nevada

The campaign was also convinced it had momentum in the overall election as voters headed to the polls.

The Romney campaign also believed Pennsylvania was a closer race that Wisconsin, which is why Romney appeared twice in the Keystone State just before the election.

There’s little discussion in The New Republic story about Nevada, so you can scratch Wisconsin and Nevada from the swing state list, which leaves Ohio and Pennsylvania as the states where the Romney campaign thought it could win the presidential election.

The New Republic provides Romney’s internal polling numbers for Pennsylvania, which showed Obama with a three-point lead.

So it seems like Ohio was the focal point of the campaign. The New Republic didn’t obtain detailed Ohio internal polling numbers, but it reported that Newhouse said that Romney trailed in their internal polling by just two points in Ohio on the weekend before the election.

There was a widely circulated report about the Ohio internal polling from the Daily Mail on November 5, Election Eve, that said Newhouse had Romney up by one point in Ohio and the Romney team thought the races in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were even.

The Romney team denied the Daily Mail report on November 6, which was Election Day.

But the Daily Mail report also had the Romney team forecasting a three-point lead in New Hampshire, which matches the number supplied to The New Republic.

The difference could be explained by the fact that the New Republic numbers are an average of the Saturday and Sunday polling numbers, and the Daily Mail numbers could be from just Sunday, which could have Romney gaining several points in each swing state.

Moving forward to Election Night, CNN reporter Peter Hamby dropped a bombshell in the early evening, revealing that Romney’s internal polling showed Obama with a five-point lead in Ohio on Sunday.

Then blogger Taegan Goddard published internal GOP exit polls that showed Romney trailing Obama by four points in Ohio and that Romney only had exit poll leads in two swing states.

In the end, Obama won Ohio by 1.9 percent, and we have three different Romney internal polling numbers for Ohio. The Daily Mail report had Romney up by one point; the New Republic report had Obama up by two points; and the CNN report had Obama up by five points.

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The six internal polls published by The New Republic show a difference of between 3 and 7 percent from the actual election results, and all the polls overestimated Romney’s performance.

There seems to be less of a difference of opinion about why the polls underestimate the eventual outcome.

An analysis published by Slate on November 9 is similar to the analysis from The New Republic: the Romney team over-counted Republicans in their polling and underestimated Obama voter turnout.

“When anyone raised the idea that public polls were showing a close race, the campaign’s pollster said the poll modeling was flawed and everyone moved on. Internally, the campaign’s own polling—tweaked to represent their view of the electorate, with fewer Democrats—showed a steady uptick for Romney since the first debate. Even on the morning of the election, Romney’s senior advisers weren’t close to hedging. They said he was going to win ‘decisively,’” said Slate’s John Dickerson.

There also seems to be little doubt that Romney thought, like Thomas Dewey, that he would win the election.

He didn’t have a concession speech prepared, and Romney paid for an eight-minute fireworks display over Boston’s harbor.

The permit for the fireworks expired at 12:30 a.m. Wednesday, November 7.

The Romney team also accidentally published a victory “transition” website.

Scott Bomboy is the editor-in-chief of Constitution Daily.

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