Karl Rove: Can We Believe the Presidential Polls?





Karl Rove served as Senior Advisor to President George W. Bush from 2000–2007 and Deputy Chief of Staff from 2004–2007. 

I've seen a movie like this one before. I was in my 20s and director of the Texas Victory Committee for Reagan-Bush. Our headquarters was in an old mortuary in Austin. That seemed an appropriate venue when, on Oct. 8, 1980, the New York Times released its poll on the presidential race in Texas, one of 10 battlegrounds. (Yes, the Lone Star State was then a battleground.)
 
According to the Times, the contest was "a virtual dead heat," with President Jimmy Carter ahead despite earlier surveys showing Ronald Reagan winning. A large Hispanic turnout for Mr. Carter—and the fact that Texas was "far more Democratic than the nation" (only 16% of Texans identified themselves as Republicans then)—meant that Mr. Reagan "must do better among independents" to carry the state. Our hurriedly called strategy session at the mortuary had more than the normal complement of hand-wringers.
 
Then came more hard punches. On Oct. 13, Gallup put the race nationally at Carter 44%, Reagan 40%. The bottom appeared to fall out two weeks later when a new national Gallup poll had Carter 47%, Reagan 39%.
 
That produced more than a few empty chairs in phone banks across Texas. But most volunteers, grim and stoic, hung on, determined to stay until the bitter end. Only Election Day was not so bitter. Reagan carried all 10 of the Times' battleground states and defeated Mr. Carter by nearly 10 points.
 
Every election is different and this year won't replicate 1980. But context might be helpful to edgy supporters of Mitt Romney...


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