Friday, November 30, 2012


The New Republic's Noam Scheiber gained access to some of the Romney campaign's internal polls, which gave Team Romney a wildly unrealistic sense that Mitt was going to win. How bad was the polling? This bad:
The first thing you notice is that New Hampshire and Colorado are pretty far off the mark. In New Hampshire, the final internal polling average has Romney up 3.5 points, whereas he lost by 5.6. In Colorado, the final internal polling average has Romney up 2.5 points; he lost by 5.4.
Jonathan Bernstein agrees that this doesn't speak well of the Romneyites:
... these polls do not justify the type of confidence that Team Romney was reported to have on election day.
But, he adds,
... it's very hard to see any harm in it. Every campaign needs to act as though it believes it will win.... I see nothing in this story, and generally I've seen nothing in any of the post-election coverage, to indicate that Romney's campaign erred in any way based on their apparent wishful thinking about the polls.
Well, maybe this didn't lead the Romneyites to do anything stupid in terms of campaigning -- but I'm sorry, I don't agree with the statement "Every campaign needs to act as though it believes it will win." Maybe every campaign needs to act as though it believes it can win. But believe that a win is guaranteed? It's appropriate to believe that?

Remember, Romney and his crew were talking as if there was no chance whatsoever that he'd lose. Romney crowed on Election Day that he'd written a victory speech but no concession speech. And remember how confident his financiers were, according to journalist Chrystia Freeland:
I found the absolute confidence that it would work astonishing. On that Tuesday, the big Romney backers I was talking to were sure he was going to win. They were all flying into Logan Airport for the victory party. There's this stunned feeling of how could we be so wrong, and a feeling of alienation.
The Romney people were not just ignoring the Nate Silvers of the world, who were nearly certain that Obama would win -- they were ignoring the Joe Scarboroughs of the world, who said that Romney might win but the race was a toss-up. And they were doing this even though their cockeyed-optimist numbers didn't point to a sure win, as Scheiber notes:
Together, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Iowa go most of the way toward explaining why the Romney campaign believed it was so well-positioned. When combined with North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia -- the trio of states the Romney campaign assumed were largely in the bag -- Romney would bank 267 electoral votes, only three shy of the magic number.
They were 100% certain they'd win because they were "only three shy"! Close, I guess, counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and GOP campaigns.

I think I've said this before, but this is the kind of hubris that leads to Iraq-style quagmires: you believe everything that confirms your worldview and disbelieve everything that doesn't; you get pleasing data stovepiped to yourself, draw conclusions you like, then bump those conclusions even more in your own deluded head.

Can you imagine Romney and his crew in a situation that affected us rather than themselves? What would they have done to America, given the chance, with this kind of power-of-positive-thinking nonsense driving their decision-making?

Romney was supposed to be the data-driven business genius -- but maybe the business in which he made his fortune is so rigged in favor of the dealmakers that you don't have to be particularly good at it to get stinking rich. Maybe he's just not that bright, even in the area that's supposedly his strength.


Never Ben Better said...

And maybe he wasn't even good at a rigged game; maybe as CEO he slid by as front man while the back-office boffins did all the real work that made the deals succeed, ignoring input from the executives whenever it got in the way of what they needed to do to lock down another deal.

aimai said...

Being a politician may require a lot of art, but getting elected requires a lot of science. It is absolutely a huge black mark against Romney that he believed his own sales pitch, that he was foolish enough not only to imagine he could win with a mere tide of "enthusiasm" but that he wasn't canny enough, or smart enough, to run like he was ten points behind and chase down every anomaly in the polling.

One of the most interesting that emerged out of all this post morteming is that the Obama people, top to bottom, were devoted to figuring out "what works" in every aspect of turning out the vote. There was a very long article a while ago about "A/B" testing--the process of learning not to trust your gut, or your experts, but rather to actually test drive things like fundraising requests. Instead of relying on experts and their opinions they actually sent out different sets of requests and tested which had the best return.

I wasn't shocked or revolted by Romney's assertion that he would win because "Enthusiasm!" and even his claim that he believed the economy would turn around because "confidence" struck me as in the realm of predictable, forgiveable, "coach speak" to the team. He's lying, but he knows he's lying and he expects that some portion of his voters know he is lying but what is he going to do? admit that his numbers don't add up and he might not win?

But its unforgiveable that he was so complaisant, and so stupid, that he didn't put in the belt and suspenders required to hold his pants up on the public stage--this,by the way, is also what did in the Big Dig financially. Mr. Big Business stripped out the regulators and the private auditors whose job it was to make sure that public monies were actually spent appropriately. He saved money on their salaries, and lost money to Bechtel et al on the back end. A Typical Mitt decision.


Victor said...

I wrote about this months ago - Mitt was "The Closer!"
After everyone else had done the work, he was the calm, confident voice, with the great name. Well coiffed and attired, with a great suit, a firm handshake, great smile, and the ability to schmooze and assure.

'Hey, I'm Mitt Romney! Of course this will work out!'

And with his staff, he was probably Alec Baldwin from "Glengarry Glen Ross."

He was an empty suit.
Same as Ryan.

We dodged a major bullet!
Or, better yet - we boomaranged that bullet right back at them.

The "Efficiency Expert" and "The Wonk," proved to be figments of their own, and the Right's, imaginations.

John Glover said...

"Romney was supposed to be the data-driven business genius -- but maybe the business in which he made his fortune is so rigged in favor of the dealmakers that you don't have to be particularly good at it to get stinking rich. Maybe he's just not that bright, even in the area that's supposedly his strength."

Maybe? No, if you've ever worked in the LBO, vulture capitalism "industry" (yes, they actually think of themselves as an "industry"), you would know that most of the guys are not very bright. They hire a lot of bright people who produce the data for them, but you can see their eyes glaze over when they actually have to look at it.

Remember, about 3 out of every 4 businesses acquired by Bain fails. You can bet the data didn't show that when they were purchased.

No, this is not surprising at all...

Anonymous said...

Four things helped Bain:
1) Didn't pay back their debts on Bain Consulting.
2) Charged management fees to acquirees.
3) Milken junk bond market to leverage acquisitions.
4) Soaring stock market to sell acquisitions.

The junk bond and stock market environment in the 90's made it an ideal time for leveraged buyouts. On average you would win, even if you didn't turn around most companies. And the higher the leverage the greater the returns.

But in the 80's and 2000's that strategy would have been much more difficult to pull off. To make money you had to be really good at finding value and nurturing it.

Romney is smart and articulate, but he was also lucky in many ways. Romney's luck fostered overconfidence in himself, which is pretty common on Wall Street and among corporate executives.

Kevin T. Keith said...

In addition to Romney's and the GOP's culpable self-delusion, what's fascinating is all those jets showing up at the airport. These were millionaire businesspeople who were not on the Romney campaign, but who still believed he was going to win and were paying their own money to join in the spoils. In other words, it wasn't just Romney and Bain who were incompetent at the data wizardry they relied on, it was the entire cream of the moneyed interests. None of them were capable of reading the data right, or seeing the difference between Romney's press releases and the actual polling reported every day in the press. These are the people who are making financial decisions that affect millions of lives, and are peddling their self-interested economic theories on Capitol Hill. They're all stupid, incompetent, and self-deceived, and they own our country.

Jonny G said...

You have hit on something I have not seen discussed much, probably because commentators are reluctant to kick Mitt when he's down: he really isn't that bright, and his business model WAS rigged in his company's favor. It was an argument the Dems really couldn't make for a number of reasons, and luckily didn't need to (kind of like Mormonism-as-creepy-scam-cult, which you can bloody well bet the GOP would have capitalized on if the shoe were on the other foot). Bain really had to screw up majorly to actually LOSE money on deals, in part because of the tax and bankruptcy laws. And sometimes the law of averages made them a boatload of money.