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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

So, How Good Was Obama’s 2012 Polling Crew?

David Nir of Daily Kos flags Joshua Green’s Bloomberg Businessweek post, “Obama’s Data team Totally Schooled Gallup,” which observes:

As David Plouffe, then a senior White House adviser, explained in my story, the data team’s models proved to be much steadier and more accurate than even the traditional tracking polls the campaign was also conducting. A number of Obama vets repeated this claim to me, so I asked them to provide some evidence to back it up, and they did. Here, for the first time, is a chart based on internal data that shows how the Obama campaign’s swing state model performed against the much maligned Gallup poll over the last several months of the race. This was the campaign’s daily “horserace” projection of the outcome, based on a nightly survey of 10,000 people.
To me, a few thing jump out: Gallup indicates that the selection of Paul Ryan as running mate hurt Mitt Romney, but Obama’s model really doesn’t; Gallup suggests, incredibly, that the “47 Percent” flap hurt Obama and moved the race back in Romney’s direction; and, biggest of all, Gallup shows a huge drop for Obama–really, an outright collapse–after the debacle of the first debate. At the time, Obama’s staffers were claiming to the press that, yes, their internal numbers showed the president’s weak showing had hurt his support, but that the fall was brief and quickly stabilized right about where his level of support had been all along. As a reporter, you never know if you’re just being spun when campaigns tell you this, because even if they really were collapsing the way Gallup suggests, they’d probably lie about it and say everything was fine, so as not to feed the panic. Based on this data, though, the Obama campaign looks to have been telling the truth.

Green goes on to tell how David Axelrod was so confident of three key states (MI, MN and PA) going Obama’s way as a result of their internal polling and analysis, that he bet his mustache –and won.

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