Polls are much better as explainers than as predictors.” – Barry Sussman, Washington Post

We lost California before we won it.

Mervin Field of KCBS and Steven Teichner of KABC, both in Los Angeles, proudly projected at 8:01 pm (PST) on November 2, 1982 that LA Mayor Tom Bradley had just been elected governor based upon their scientific calibration of voters leaving polling places at carefully selected precincts statewide.

For the author of Almost DailyBrett, serving as the press director for the rival gubernatorial campaign of then-Attorney General George Deukmejian, it appeared there was going to be a bitter personal pill to swallow. Unemployment was just over the horizon.deukmejianbradley

As a 27-years-young PR practitioner, instinctively I knew my job was to stay positive in the face of crushing news as I was surrounded by swirling pack of vulture reporters on the floor of the Century Plaza Hotel. Meanwhile, Field was on television declaring Bradley’s historic election as the first black governor of California. There was only one problem for the creator of the California poll, my boss Deukmejian was maintaining a comfortable lead.

Yours truly verbally hung onto this lifeline as the night went on.

At approximately 11 pm (PST), ABC News out of New York proclaimed Deukmejian the winner, contradicting Teichner’s projection three hours earlier. Yours truly asked Chuck Henry of KABC, reporting from the floor of the Century Plaza ballroom, WTF was going on.

He didn’t know.

Two hours later, NBC News from Rockefeller Center projected my boss the victor. CBS News in Manhattan completed the trifecta at 5 am (PDT), ending a really bad night for Mervin Field. A bitter Tom Bradley never conceded. George Deukmejian was elected the 35th governor of California by a margin of 106,000 votes out of 7.8 million cast.

What the late-Mervin Field and Steven Teichner missed was the massive distribution of absentee voter applications to high-propensity voters in Orange County and Long Beach by our campaign. For obvious competitive reasons, we did not telegraph this now-accepted campaign practice. How could Field and Teichner reflect these voters, if they never showed up at polling places?

It’s certainly neither the first time political experts have called an election wrong nor will it be the last time.

Missing a Landslide?

“President Dewey warned me not to get overconfident.” – Ronald Reagan

The experts said it was close, but the voters – stubbornly irreverent as usual – made it a landslide. What happened?” – Robert Kaiser, Washington Posttruman

The photo of a beaming Harry Truman holding aloft an early edition of the Chicago Daily Tribune with the banner headline: “Dewey Defeats Truman” is now an eternal part of electoral lore.

Clearly, the pundits got it wrong in 1948. Thomas Dewey never became president of the United States. Certainly, this is the only time the political class got it wrong?

Certainly not.

The pollsters in their infinite wisdom kept telling the American people the 1980 race between President Jimmy Carter and Governor Ronald Reagan was too close to call. Amazingly, two days before the decisive election the Washington Post and Gallup polls reflected Carter leads of 4 and 3 percent respectively.

reaganpollsThe pundits immediately dismissed the polling conducted by Richard Wirthlin and Robert Teeter, citing their obvious bias because they worked for Reagan. As it turns out they saw the landslide that the media pollsters couldn’t or wouldn’t reveal.

From “too close to call,” the race shifted in epic proportions with Reagan ultimately winning the electoral college, 489-49; the popular vote, 50 percent to 41.0 percent; 43.6 million votes to 35.5 million; 44 states to 6 + DC for Carter.reaganlandslide

So what does this all mean as we head into the caucuses and primaries, starting next week?

It’s Down to Clinton vs. Bush: A Battle of Political Dynasties

Remember being told just that repeatedly by the political class: It will be Hillary vs. Jeb in November, 2016

It was inevitable these two familial standard bearers would clash this fall.

Donald who? Bernie who? Cruz who? Marco who?

Let’s see, we have been told that Hillary’s nomination, if not election, was inevitable.

And then there was a Trump surge. Has Trump peaked?

It’s Trump’s race to lose.

It will be decided between Trump and Ted Cruz (What happened to Bush?)

Sanders will win New Hampshire and lose Iowa.

Wait! Sanders may actually win Iowa or at least place well.

Hillary has a firewall in the South …

All of these pronouncements are based in part on traditional polling, based on the laws of mathematics. Let’s see: randomly sampled and selected, neutral questions, 1,000 nationwide respondents, within an acceptable margin of error of 3-4 percent, 95 percent of the time.

The other part of the equation are reporters tweeting each other, bouncing their “theories” off each other (e.g., The Boys and Girls of the Bus), and then colluding to make pious pronouncements.votersNH

But waiting at the lunch counters, the factory gates, the town halls, the bowling alleys, the bars, the PTA meetings are the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire.

The best and the brightest – The Experts — at their second screens may make the pronouncements, but the fickle voters will make the actual decisions.

And who should we listen to?

Almost DailyBrett Note: Very few things in life have a heightened impact on your author’s blood pressure than references to the so-called “Bradley Effect, ” a hidden anti-black bias by the voters. This sentiment does not take account that Bradley stopped campaigning about 10 days before the election, leaving only one campaign for scribes to cover, our campaign. This ill-fated decision was a critical mistake in a razor-thin election. We also directed absentee votes to our high propensity voters as noted above … and (now California Governor) Jerry Brown lost to Pete Wilson by a half-million votes that very same day. Bradley fared better with the voters than Brown. Simply said, it was not a good night for Democrats.

So much for the Bradley effect.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mervin_Field

http://www.latimes.com/local/obituaries/la-me-mervin-field-20150608-story.html#page=1

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_gubernatorial_election,_1982

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barry_Sussman

http://www.pbs.org/now/shows/441/prejudice-campaign.html

 

 

 

 

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