Many a pundit, such as yours truly, wrote columns explaining the fact that so many polls in the presidential election were skewed in the direction of Democrats and thus not reliable. And while a poll I conducted in the decidedly "red state" of Georgia very accurately showed Mitt Romney enjoying a stronger result than John McCain in '08, my last poll of Florida -- like that conducted by another pollster for two other Florida newspapers, showing Romney winning comfortably in Florida -- was off. That hurts, because in 2008 it was on the money.
There used to be an old and worn-out joke about a smooth commercial airline flight ending with a very bumpy landing. The flight attendant announces: "That was not the pilot's fault. It was the asphalt."
Now I could try to give all sorts of excuses for why the poll showed Romney winning in a state where the vote remained inconclusive some three days after the election. But better to tell the truth and, in it, state some other blunt but obvious facts, as well.
In objectively weighting our poll, and in the GOP seeking a nominee for and trying to then win the presidency, I think we were all haunted by the "ghost of Ronald Reagan." I certainly don't mean to be turning the late president so many of us loved into a "ghost," but let's stick with the concept for a minute.
In one sense, we were "haunted" by not having learned more from his re-election bid in 1984. Walter Mondale had one strong debate against a seemingly out-of-it Ronald Reagan, much as did Mitt Romney against a really out-of-it President Obama. But Reagan turned things around and recovered from his one poor performance, and Obama did, as well. And President Obama is no Ronald Reagan.
What Mondale, and his team, still haunted by the ghost of FDR, lost track of in 1984 was the so-called "Reagan Democrat" voter that had materialized in 1980. They were blue-collar voters who had traditionally voted Democrat but formed a devotion to Reagan amidst the last few months of a tough Carter economy and ongoing hostage crisis in Iran. Reagan held and built upon his coalition of these Reagan Democrats and the emerging "evangelical movement" in winning re-election.
In choosing to weight a poll in Florida as more even in party affiliation, as likely did pollsters such as Rasmussen and Mason-Dixon, we followed surveys showing a more even split in such swing states. But what we missed, as did much of the GOP, was the fact that a new voter turnout model was about to assert itself in presidential years, particularly one in which an incumbent who is the nation's first minority president is the Democratic nominee.
From me, there will be no excuses. It's not the asphalt ... it's me.