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ThePlumLIneGS whorunsgov plumline
Posted at 03:07 PM ET, 09/25/2012

Obama, Jimmy Carter, and `poll denialism’

I noted this morning that many Mitt Romney supporters are hatching crazy conspiracy theories to explain why the polls show him losing. Among them: the idea that the major news orgs are deliberately mis-weighting their polls with Dem-skewed samples, to create a false narrative of an inevitable Obama victory.

Steve Benen calls it “poll denialism.” Ed Kilgore has similar thoughts:

There are really only three ways to deal with all the evidence that Obama is ahead with time beginning to run out: (1) blame it on a bad Romney campaign; (2) argue some 1980-style “big shift” to Romney is inevitable and perhaps already baked into the cake; or (3) just deny it all on grounds most of the pollsters are wrong, biased or both.
Unsurprisingly, this last approach is wildly popular at the moment...if you don’t like what the current electorate seems poised to do, create yourselves another one more to your suiting that’s older, whiter and more conservative just by putting your thumb on the scale (which is exactly what “Party ID weighting” amounts to, with varying degrees of semi-justification).

Of course, it’s not 1980. The electorate is vastly different; if Obama does manage to holds a several point lead in the key states, it’s unlikely that the shrinking pool of undecided voters will break towards Romney in the overwhelming numbers he needs. And yet, as Dave Weigel notes, Republicans are still convinced that any day now, if only they go at Obama hard enough, they will finally be able to pry off his mask and get swing voters to see him as the second coming of Jimmy Carter:

The theory is that the media’s built him a glass jaw, and no one’s ever taken a hard swing at it.

There are two separate assumptions at work here:

1) Obama simply can’t win, because of the state of the economy, so the only possible explanation is that polls must be failing to pick up what will really happen on election day.

2) Obama can be beaten, but only if Republicans are fearless enough to weather the torrent of criticism that will result if they do what it takes to expose the real Obama lurking behind the one the liberal media continue to protect.

The problem is that each of those assumptions produces strategies that conflict with one another. If the first is true, then all you need to do to win is paint Obama as the nice guy who is in over his head on the economy. If the second is true, you need to go as negative as possible to unmask him as the Kenyan Muslim Marxist that he really is. If Romney does lose, his campaign’s inability to settle on one of these, let alone to seriously entertain the idea that offering a compelling alternative would have been the best route to victory, will explain a lot.

By  |  03:07 PM ET, 09/25/2012

 
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