Apparently, if Politico is to be believed (chancy, I know), the entire Republican party apparatus was sandbagged, blindsided, gobsmacked and just plain stunned at the election results of Tuesday night.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee consistently had a more upbeat assessment of races in North Dakota and Montana, among others, than their Democratic counterparts. One GOP poll even showed Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock holding even with his opponent, even as public polls showed the embattled Republican hemorrhaging support. A Republican poll taken by Susquehanna Polling and Research showed Pennsylvania Senate candidate Tom Smith leading Democratic Sen. Bob Casey by 2 points a few weeks before the election; Casey won by 9 points.
In the House, where the Republicans easily held on to their majority, the GOP still lost several races they expected to win. Utah Democrat Jim Matheson, who was down 15 points in a September poll by the firm Public Opinion Strategies, won by a single point. New York Rep. Tim Bishop, who trailed by 5 in a mid-October McLaughlin & Associates poll, won by just over 4 points. Another poll showed Massachusetts Rep. John Tierney trailing his GOP challenger by 17 points less than a month before the vote; Tierney won by a point. California GOP Rep. Mary Bono Mack, who led her opponent by double digits in a mid-October survey by consultant Arthur Finkelstein, lost by nearly 3 points.
One thing which is blindingly clear is that the Republicans vastly underestimated the number of Obama voters who were actually going to vote. But it’s even more obvious that not only did the Romney campaign expect its candidate to win, based on turnout at rallies (!) and internal polls, the whole party’s polling was flawed. The questions for the party are how and why that was so.
Democratic pollster Jef Pollock said it was incomprehensible to him how strategists on the other side so dramatically missed the mark in so many races — especially, he said, since “many of the polls that were in the public domain were proven to be right.”
“The unwritten truth is that there were a tremendous number of polls that were clearly incorrect. And unfortunately, many of those polls seemed to come in congressional and other races by Republican polling firms,” said Pollock, who heads the firm Global Strategy Group and polled for the pro-Obama super PAC Priorities USA Action.
Here’s the best quote from Pollock, though: “Those are unexplainable things,” Pollock continued. “Those are things I can’t explain and it’s not my job to explain.” Heh. It’s probably also not something he has any intention of explaining, even if he figures it out.
When the historians write the history of this election there’s going to be a ton of ink spent on the question of how the Republican party managed to delude itself into believing it was a sure bet to win in both the Presidential and Congressional races.