Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan both believed the public polls were wrong, and that they'd win on Election Day. Their wives did, too. "I don't think there was one person who saw this coming," a senior adviser told CBS News' Jan Crawford. An advisor said of Romney, "He was shellshocked." When Romney claimed on Election Day that he hadn't written a concession speech, it sounded like trash talk. Apparently it wasn't. How could they not have seen it coming?
In the last weeks of the campaign, Romney's campaign sounded super confident -- New York's Jonathan Chait wrote that they were bluffing when aides said they could win Nevada, or when Romney surrogate Rob Portman called Ohio a "dead heat." That sounded ridiculous because Romney never led Obama in polling averages of Ohio, and Obama was ahead or tied in all of the last 30 polls done in the state except one by Republican-leaning Rasmussen.
Conservatives began claiming the polls were wrong, that they vastly overestimated what turnout levels would be among blacks, Latinos, and young people. UnSkewedPolls.com changed the number of Democrats and Republicans in polls to show Romney leading everywhere. You'd expect Romney's campaign to play this up publicly to maintain supporters' enthusiasm -- like when political director Rich Beeson said the Sunday before the election that Romney would win more than 300 electoral college votes. But you don't expect them to actually believe it. But Romney, his wife, Ryan, and his wife apparently did. Crawford reports:
Romney was stoic as he talked the president, an aide said, but his wife Ann cried. Running mate Paul Ryan seemed genuinely shocked, the adviser said. Ryan's wife Janna also was shaken and cried softly.
"There's nothing worse than when you think you're going to win, and you don't," said another adviser. "It was like a sucker punch."
Their emotion was visible on their faces when they walked on stage after Romney finished his remarks, which Romney had hastily composed, knowing he had to say something.
The Atlantic Wire noted earlier in the campaign that Romney kept getting in trouble when he'd repeat memes from conservative blogs -- like the infamous 47 percent. But that they actually bought blogger denial of cold, hard numbers is surprising. Did it have an actual impact on their strategy? A statement from Brett Doster, seems to suggest so: "The numbers in Florida show this was winnable. We thought based on our polling and range of organization that we had done what we needed to win. Obviously, we didn’t, and for that I and every other operative in Florida has a sick feeling that we left something on the table."