Inside Mitt Romney’s polling numbers

I doubt that many of our readers want to look back at the election; more likely they have gotten beyond that defeat, as November draws to a close. But a few may find it worthwhile to read this piece by Noam Scheiber about Romney’s internal polling numbers.

The Romney campaign’s polls, taken during the final weekend of the campaign, showed him pulling away in North Carolina, Virginia, and Florida, and trailing narrowly in Ohio. They also showed him ahead in New Hampshire and tied in Iowa. Thus, Team Romney could reasonably believe that if it “came from behind” in Ohio, Mitt would win.

The Romney polling also provided reason to believe that Romney might came from behind in Ohio. His numbers had improved slightly over the weekend, suggesting that perhaps the momentum Romney lost due to the hurricane was returning.

In sum, if one believed (as I did) that the undecided voters were going to break against the incumbent, as they normally have done, then it was plausible to believe (as I did) that the race was a toss-up that Romney might well win. But this leaves two questions.

First, why were Team Romney’s polls well off the mark in states like Florida, Virginia, Colorado, Iowa, and New Hampshire? The answer isn’t clear. I’m told that New Hampshire, for some reason, was a difficult state to poll — it wasn’t just Team Romney that had trouble predicting that state. Similarly, the Obama camp apparently over-estimated Romney’s strength in Colorado. As for the rest, it may be that weekend polling (on which the Romney camp relied) is somewhat problematic. So too with polls taken just before the election, when, according to some, only die-hard partisans are willing to talk to pollsters.

The Romney pollsters apparently were also misled by their finding that those most interested in the race strongly supported Romney. It turned out, of course, that Obama supporters who perhaps weren’t hugely interested in the election nonetheless voted, at least in the important states.

Second, the Romney camp reportedly was confident that Romney would win. Yet, its own polling did not support that confidence; instead it implied that the race was a toss-up.

So where did the confidence come from. Perhaps it came from faith, including faith in the American people, or at least 53 percent of them.

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