What did we learn Tuesday night?
I think we learned a lot. I wonder if the Republicans will learn the same things everyone else did. If so, the 2014 mid-term elections will show it and the candidate for 2016 Presidential election will swing back in the Republicans’ favor.
I want to look at a few lessons from Nov. 6, 2012.
The difference between the pollsters who correctly predicted elections and those who are on FOX News and right wing radio shows is as simple as the difference between two statements. Dick Morris, Karl Rove and all of the pundits who they inform got it wrong because they said, “I think.”
The pollsters like Nate Silver who got it right said, “My research shows.”
We will never know what went on behind the scenes. Were the FOX News pundits trying to create self-fulfilling prophecy by continuing to put out the message that Romney was riding momentum as his poll numbers fell? Were they just completely wrong?
The difference between misguided and misstated are important for future elections.
When you look at polls, you have to remember that assumptions are important and individual poll reports aren’t. You have to weigh the data correctly. When you follow polls, you watch trend lines. Every poll has a built-in margin of error within which it is accurate. But when you look at polls using different methodology and yielding different results, you have to watch for trends through all of them to make a solid prediction.
The weighting of poll data can’t come from anecdote or gut feelings.
The reason the accurate pollsters predicted the number of Democratic voters correctly is that they used historic data combined with current data.
Morris and Rove never allowed themselves to believe that turnout would be what history and current information were indicating.
That’s why they missed this election so badly.
“It would be wrong to say the polls are wrong,” Morris said. “They just aren’t being read properly.” I don’t think “properly” means what Dick Morris thinks it means.
To quote Brit Hulme, a FOX News anchor, “Apparently all of the polls were right. They were criticized for weighing the Democratic vote at levels similar to 2008. The exit polls are showing that to be very accurate.”
Some polls are trying to predict results. Other polls are obviously trying to encourage one candidate’s supporters. Those polls may help fundraising efforts, but they have the scientific data of asking your eight-year old what he thinks is going to happen.
Remember, some late polls showed Todd Akin leading Claire McCaskill in Missouri’s Senate race. McCaskill scored 54 percent of the vote to Akin’s 39 percent. The poll could not miss by that much without malpractice or incompetence.
The strangest part of Tuesday night was watching Karl Rove explain that Mitt Romney could still win the election is he won eight of the last nine swing states even as Romney trailed in seven of those races and was losing ground in Virginia – a state he eventually lost.
It was over and he was still spinning.
A good friend used to tell me, “Hope is not a strategy.” At some point you will face reality. The sooner you do, the better off you are.
Speaking of Akin
The Republicans have to learn that as good as the TEA Party has been for keeping the base fired up, they have also cost the Republicans several eminently winnable elections.
Akin in Missouri, Mourdock in Indiana, McMahon in Connecticut, Angle in 2010 in Nevada and O’Donnell in 2010 in Delaware all beat good, credible opponents in the primary. Democrats won those races because of Republican mistakes.
Republicans often vote against their own interests by forcing their candidates to win primaries by being extremists. When they continue that campaign into the general election, they have no gravity to draw in conservative Democrats or Independents.
Republicans have to do two things to turn the tide. They need to find good candidates who are true fiscal conservatives but not viewed as social extremists.
Social conservatives are popular. Social extremists scare away voters.
The current modus operandi is giving away seats in the House and Senate and the primary race Mitt Romney had to run against