Republicans have decided that all the available evidence must be wrong and that Mitt Romney is headed for a certain victory next Tuesday. Many expect a landslide win that will rival Reagan's ten-point victory over Jimmy Carter in 1980. It's hard to recall another example of an entire political party deluding itself to such a degree that it has lost any connection to objective reality.
Romney can certainly win this election. There is no doubt about that. But he is just as certainly the underdog. Talking-Point Memo's Poll Tracker currently projects Obama to win 285 Electoral College votes to Romney's 191 (270 wins the White House); without toss-up states, Real Clear Politics has Obama with 290 Electoral College votes; Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight model gives the incumbent an 80.9 percent likelihood of victory; Sam Wang at the Princeton Election Consortium is even more bullish, projecting 318 Electoral College votes for the president and giving him a 97 percent chance of winning re-election.
Many conservatives simply refuse to accept this state of affairs. There are two reasons. The party hacks – including those in the Romney campaign – worry about turning out their base. People like to vote for winners, and if they believe their candidate is likely to go down in defeat, they may decide to stay home and do some laundry next Tuesday. They fear that if their candidate looks like he will be beat it can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. Projecting an image of a strong candidate with good momentum keeps their voters engaged and enthusiastic.
For the rank-and-file, there's something else going on. Research suggests that political conservatives tend to have a greater need to avoid cognitive dissonance than liberals. The right has spent 4 years painting Obama as not only a failure and an incompetent, but a dangerous radical; a crypto-Muslim with dictatorial tendencies who may not even be an American citizen. The idea that such a horrible monster could be re-elected causes painful cognitive dissonance, which they're trying to manage by grasping at any straw they see.
This can lead to some truly comical efforts to twist reality into something that conforms with their world-view. Here are 5 examples, from the top of the Republican ticket to the bottom of the right-wing fever swamps.
1. The Romney Campaign: Independents
On Wednesday, after one of Romney's worst days of polling, the campaign held a conference call for reporters. According to Talking-Points Memo, “Romney’s top staff offered reporters an endless number of reasons they’re going to beat President Obama on a conference call Wednesday. Not included on their list of Romney advantages: a clear lead in the polls.”
“Obama has a political environment problem,” Romney pollster Neil Newhouse said. “He’s got an intensity problem, he’s got an image problem and he’s got a ballot problem — and they all add up to a challenging Tuesday next week.”
The campaign's primary talking-point is that Romney is leading among “independents.” The problem is that there aren't many true independents – most who identify themselves as such usually vote for one of the two major parties. But here's the thing: these categories are very fluid.
Right now, more people identify as independents than Republicans or Democrats.And if you look at the chart above, you can see that there was a major shift around the 2010 mid-term elections, with a lot of people who had identified as Republicans deciding to call themselves independents. This probably correlates with the rise of the Tea Party movement, which is a partisan Republican operation that claims to be independent of the two major parties.
So, as Josh Marshall notes, it's quite possible that Romney can win a majority of “independents” and still lose the election.
2. Karl Rove: Party ID
In Wednesday's Wall Street Journal, Bush's Brain wrote, “It comes down to numbers. And in the final days of this presidential race, from polling data to early voting, they favor Mitt Romney.”
Desperate Democrats are now hanging their hopes on a new Quinnipiac University/New York Times/CBS News poll showing the president with a five-point Ohio lead. But that survey gives Democrats a +8 advantage in turnout, the same advantage Democrats had in 2008. That assumption is, to put it gently, absurd.
Here's what's absurd: the idea that anyone is “hanging their hopes” on a single poll. Obama has led Romney in 18 of the last 20 polls of Ohio.
In the poll Rove mentions, you'll also be had-pressed to find any “assumptions.” They asked respondents how they identify themselves. 29 percent said they're Republicans, 37 percent said they're Dems and 30 percent called themselves independents.
3. Joel Pollack: Feel the Christiementum!
Moving down the food chain, we get to Joel Pollack, the “editor-in-chief and in-house council” for Breitbart's Big Government. Pollack decided that Chris Christie's decision to snub Mitt Romney and sing Barack Obama's praise is rock-solid proof that Romney's going to clean Obama's clock next Tuesday. “The truth about Christie’s outreach to Obama is blindingly obvious,” he wrote. “Mitt Romney is now running away with this election, freeing Christie to praise the president without fear that doing so will tip the scales.”
4. Dick Morris: The Pollsters In My Head Say...
Perhaps the best sign for Obama is Dick Morris predicting a “landslide” win for Romney. Morris is arguably the wrongest person in the universe with a mainstream platform (he has a column in The Hill).
But how does he come to this analysis? By inventing poll numbers. Compare and contrast Morris' universe with that compiled by Real Clear Politics' average of state polls.
“His erosion began shortly after the conventions when Indiana (10 votes) and North Carolina (15) moved to Romney (in addition to the 179 votes that states that McCain carried cast this year).”
So far, OK. Indiana is leaning heavily toward Romney. North Carolina is a toss-up, but Romney's leading.
“Then, in October, Obama lost the Southern swing states of Florida (29) and Virginia (13). He also lost Colorado (10), bringing his total to 255 votes.”
Romney is up by 1 point in Florida, which is a toss-up. Virginia is tied. Obama is up by a point in Colorado.
“And now, he faces the erosion of the northern swing states: Ohio (18), New Hampshire (4) and Iowa (6). Only in the union-anchored state of Nevada (9) does Obama still cling to a lead.”
Obama is up 2.3 points in Ohio and by 2 points in New Hampshire and Iowa. Obama's lead in Nevada is similar to his lead in Ohio, at 2.7 points.
“In the next few days, the battle will move to Pennsylvania (20), Michigan (15), Wisconsin (10) and Minnesota (16). Ahead in Pennsylvania, tied in Michigan and Wisconsin, and slightly behind in Minnesota, these new swing states look to be the battleground.”
Remember, this guy gets paid for his “analysis.” It is a few days later, and Obama's up by almost 5 points in Pennsylvania, 3 points in Michigan – Romney's home state – and 5 points in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
5: Dean Chambers: Unskewed Polls and Nat Silver Trutherism
Having seen Dick Morris' imaginary polling data, consider this gem of a sentence: “While many conservatives look to former Clinton political consultant Dick Morris to understand the polls and political surveys on the elections, or even a site like UnSkewedPolls.com, those on the left look to New York Times blogger Nate Silver.”
That was written by Dean Chambers, who runs UnSkewedPolls.com. And Chambers does not like the New York Times' numbers-cruncher. Mostly because Chambers thinks he's dumb, but also girly.
Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the “Mr. New Castrati” voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program. In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound.
OK, obviously someone has issues. But Chambers then betrays his complete ignorance of how modeling works.
Apparently, Nate Silver has his own way of “skewing” the polls. He appears to look at the polls available and decide which ones to put more “weighting” on in compiling his own average, as opposed to the Real Clear Politics average, and then uses the average he calculates to determine that percentages a candidate has of winning that state. He labels some polling firms as favoring Republicans, even if they over sample Democrats in their surveys, apparently because he doesn’t agree with their results.
No, Nate Silver doesn't “decide” anything. His computer model gives different weight to different pollsters based on their past track records. The more accurate a polling firm has shown itself to e in the past, the more weight its results get in the FiveThirtyEight model.
Dean Chamber, on the other hand, is “unskewing” the polls based on the wholly erroneous belief that partisan ID is an immutable characteristic, like race or gender. Here was his projection when he wrote that post on October 25.