November 09, 2012
Rich as Croesus But Dumb as a Brick

I find it hard to believe, but

Mitt Romney’s campaign got its first hint something was wrong on the afternoon of Election Day, when state campaign workers on the ground began reporting huge turnout in areas favorable to President Obama: northeastern Ohio, northern Virginia, central Florida and Miami-Dade.

Seriously, the first hint was on election day? This article must be partial recompense to the Republicans’ secret sources of millions for the relative paucity of results those millions, or rather hundreds of millions, purchased. Karl Rove’s standing is likely to be severely compromised amongst those donors, one of whom is complaining about the lack of transparency (!) in these organizations that everyone knows were invented as secret money conduits. Bit of a catch-22, eh?

So Rove and his ilk are now forced to scramble to justify their existences, or at least their fat paychecks (to repeat the immortal line, “Keep your chins up, Karl!”). You could see how excited Karl was about that Tuesday evening in the clip that’s been linked to so many times I’m gonna skip looking it up. He apparently was serious in disbelieving the Ohio results, though one might suspect a Linda McMahon influence. But he had a lot of money riding on convincing rich folks that his fantasies weren’t delusional.

So what’s Romney’s excuse and that of his senior advisors?

… it wasn’t until the polls closed that concern turned into alarm.

[…]

After Ohio went for Mr. Obama, it was over, but senior advisers say no one could process it.

“We went into the evening confident we had a good path to victory,” said one senior adviser. “I don’t think there was one person who saw this coming.”

They just couldn’t believe they had been so wrong. And maybe they weren’t: There was Karl Rove on Fox saying Ohio wasn’t settled, so campaign aides decided to wait. They didn’t want to have to withdraw their concession, like Al Gore did in 2000, and they thought maybe the suburbs of Columbus and Cincinnati, which hadn’t been reported, could make a difference.

Could they possibly be so dense that not one person among the senior staff saw this coming? I realize these folks are constitutionally opposed to the New York Times but they could certainly employ less scrupulous sorts to scan, say, Nate Silver’s blog, or check out TPM’s predictions, or HuffPo’s. Silver was the king this time, correctly predicting all states so far decided and in other ways showing how the state poll numbers can be crunched to yield reliable results. These models have been in existence for more than one presidential election cycle; Silver’s, for example, correctly predicted 49 states in 2008. How can the Republicans have been so disconnected from reality?

My guess is their propaganda machine has become so polished that it can readily convince all the high RWAs, those right-wing authoritarian types who line up to be told what to do, of any thesis the owners of the Mighty Wurlitzer choose to propound. The problem is that most of the high RWAs are already on their side, and the rest of us find their authoritarian milieu offputting. They consider this moral weakness, of course, but that’s an easy argument to make in any case.

The outcome is that when they put out a new thesis, it’s one they already believe, and when they repeat it among themselves we get the well-known and unsurprising echo chamber effect. What is surprising is to find that those at the top of this pyramid who seem to run it for their own benefit actually seem to believe their own propaganda. The numbers from the various publicized models were all pretty much in line with each other, yet the Romney campaign decided not to believe them.

Chomsky used to talk about the Wall Street Journal having some of the best reporting because its audience included actual decision makers who needed facts rather than propaganda. That was, of course, before the era of Murdoch and consequently Mourdock. Nowadays the decision makers, at least those of Republican persuasion, seem to have been persuaded by their own propaganda. And to have had their disregard for demonstrable facts bite them in the collective ass as a result.

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Posted by Chuck Dupree at November 09, 2012 03:20 AM
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I don't remember Democrats being much different in 2004. Is my memory failing me?

Posted by: Buck on November 9, 2012 4:59 PM

I don't think I made my point very clearly last night 8-(. It was to say that modern methods of aggregating polls such as Silver's or TPM's, which were in their infancy in 2004, had by 2008 become pretty reliable; Silver predicted 49 states correctly in 2008. By 2012 one would expect even the Republicans to have caught up with the existing technology.

Democrats in 2004 had a legitimate gripe about voting irregularities, but their candidate was flawed and unexciting, and clearly a member of the same establishment as Bush, both Skull & Bones members for example.

But my point was not about the characters of the candidates as much as the accuracy of the existing models. Anyone watching Silver's model could not have failed to imagine a huge Obama victory; all you had to do was look at the numbers. Instead, the Romney folks and Rove types chose to build models based on their own assumptions, mainly because they didn't like the outcomes of the existing models. As usual, their assumptions about the world turned out to be wrong, but unusually this is a case where the mistake can be measured.

The main point was that once again the Republicans have operated on models of the world that fit their views but not the facts. This time the failure is both obvious and quantifiable.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree on November 9, 2012 5:24 PM
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