So, that didn’t go as I predicted. But I wasn’t the only one, and in fact a lot of people are surprised. The numbers which are finally becoming a lot clearer paint a rather interesting picture. There will be a lot of speculation and postmortem analysis in other posts, but here are some factual observations that can be made as to why my prediction was so off. This post is more about the prediction failure than the campaign failure.
Most people that adhered to the line of thinking that I based my prediction on guessed that turnout would be closer to 2004 or 2010 numbers across demographics, than they would 2008. In the end, that assumption was wrong. Not only was it wrong, but it failed to account for the fact that turnout would be down across the board, including Romney possibly ending up with less votes than John McCain had in 2008.
So overall, turnout ended up being one of the biggest factors. While Obama saw enthusiasm, his numbers were down as well. Romney should have been able to seize on that and win. He didn’t and so the assumptions on down poll areas like independents, cross-overs, women, and Catholics didn’t matter because even with wins in many of those areas Romney didn’t get enough R’s out there.1 He did well in the areas that I had said he would, he just didn’t get it done overall.The numbers are a little shakey but overall the electorate seemed to be a national D+6.2
As I said, Romney won the I’s. Overall there was a 12pt swing from 2008. McCain lost Independent’s by 7%, and Romney won them by 5.3 Overall what this number shows is that the people willing to vote did so, and that Romney performed ok here… but it also means he WAY underperformed in other areas. Especially overall and in a few other key areas. This category is not why my prediction was wrong though, in fact, it was pretty close to where I thought he should be.
Who were the missing votes?
The story on this one isn’t 100% clear yet. It looks like the Catholic Vote ended up 50% – Obama to 49% Romney4 for all Catholics. This too is another post for another time. But it seemed the young and “recently young” went overwhelmingly to Obama. This didn’t necessarily hurt my projection as I assumed it, but when you add the turnout problem, this number hurts when it is even just a few percentage points of an uptick as it was.
It seems though the big missing vote was social conservatives. There is at least anecdotal evidence of this. The big one being: that in the 4 states where the “Traditional Marriage” issue was on the ballot the issue outperformed, or received more votes, than Romney did. Add to that this stat: all for propositions failed. So what that means is that the issues themselves didnt do amazingly well and are therefore some statistical anomaly, but instead it shows that people in mostly blue states came out and voted on important issues to them. As we know, down ballot issues are low turnout, unless they are hot button issues. For social conservatives this means that it is usually the first or second issue voted on. So that means many skipped over Romney and never came back. Again… this adds to the D+7 and failure to GOTV.
Was this a technical/logistical loss or a policy/person loss?
I would say it was an everything loss. Yet, when it comes to GOTV and other things, it isn’t like there was some super major faux pas, outside of a few technical things here or there. They might have had some influence on the results but were not a major contributor. The big issue here is that Mitt Romney at the end of the day was not someone that inspired people to go out and vote for him. We can talk about demographics, the “black vote,” the “youth vote,” or the “hispanic/latino vote,” but at the end of the day Romney got less votes than John McCain. If this number holds, and even if he eeks out McCain in the coming days, it speaks volumes to the fact that he just didn’t inspire people.
As for my prediction, I wonder if inside the forest of the campaign world, we couldn’t see the trees. I wonder if people like me that work inside of politics just figured that everyone felt like us. That even if he wasn’t our first, second, or even third pick he had to be better than Obama, and therefore everyone with any doubt in their head or heart would come to the same conclusion. We were wrong. We didn’t count on so many people on both the left and right of the that “Independent” middle saying, “They aren’t much different.”
Overall, Nate Silver was right. Was he right for the “right” reasons? I dont know. Was he lucky? Maybe, but that is part of this business. In the end he was right, and I [and many others] were quite wrong. It is time to re-evaluate not only how I project things, but mesh that with something that I will touch on in my “What went wrong in the philosophical/political sense” post – don’t believe your own press releases. I think the #1 reason why I was wrong is that my theories supported my desires. I wanted this one too bad, and therefore it clouded my judgment. I am a very principled person, but I am also very realistic. That realism became clouded, not by emotion but desire.
- There is an argument to be made that party ID is no longer what it once was, but this is hard to determine, so we will assume it remains fairly consistent with past results. [↩]
- I had argued that Romney had to get somewhere in the D+2 to R+2 to win. [↩]
- Two points: 1) I had suggested he was in the 6%-15% range so had he done that he might have won? 2) More importantly this shows that the race was in his grasp…. [↩]
- Mass attending Catholics overwhelmingly went Romney [↩]