COLUMBUS, Ohio—Until late last night, hoping against hope, conservatives clung to their favored data. The average of polls at RealClearPolitics looked lousy for Romney. So did Nate Silver's projections. But Rasmussen Reports, which had consistently seen a fall-off in Democratic party identification, saw a close, winnable race. Romney had surged into a tie in Ohio, a tie in Wisconsin, a two-point lead in Florida, and a small national lead.
So what happened? "In general," says Scott Rasmussen, "the projections were pretty good. The two differences I noted were share of white vote falling to 72 percent. That’s what the Obama campaign, to their credit, said all along. We showed it just over 73 percent. Also, youth turnout higher and senior turnout lower than expected. That’s a pretty big deal given the size of the generation gap. I think it showed clearly that the Obama team had a great game plan for identifying their vote and getting it to the polls."
The problem with these polls—which are automated, as opposed to using live callers—was that they missed the correct model of the electorate. "The reality is that there were eight toss-up states," says Rasmussen. "Some people projected Romney would do a couple of points better than the polls and sweep those states. Instead, it was Obama who did a bit better and swept them. I look at the campaign as about fundamentals. Obama job approval on Election Day was 50 percent. That meant there was a good chance he would get 50 percent of the vote. Also, 36 percent said their finances were in good shape. Up from 35 percent the day Obama took office. In other words, the fundamentals were just good enough for the president to keep his job."