Romney Pollster Says Obama’s Convention Bounce is Just a “Sugar High”

Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies

Just a quick post to call attention to a memo put out by Mitt Romney’s pollster, Neil Newhouse of Public Opinion Strategies. Buzzfeed reproduced the entire memo here.

“Don’t get too worked up about the latest polling,” wrote Romney campaign pollster Neil Newhouse. “While some voters will feel a bit of a sugar-high from the conventions, the basic structure of the race has not changed significantly.”

Newhouse argues that Obama continues to own the weak economy, and that the issue will soon “reassert itself” as the guiding factor in the election — the chief talking point that has always served as the founding rational (sic) of Romney’s campaign….

The memo notably strays from the straight number-crunching pollsters typically focus on, with Newhouse writing about campaign strategy and ad buys, among other things. It could represent an effort to leverage the pollster’s perceived credibility as a numbers guy — less likely to spin than a political strategist, or the campaign manager.

But what does it mean when a campaign feels the need to tell supporters “Don’t Panic?” At The Caucus Blog, Ashley Parker writes:

The mere existence of the memo seemed to place Team Romney on the defensive, forced to publicly assert that it is still in a position to win on Election Day. But the Romney campaign used the memo to underscore what has been its existing rationale for his candidacy — the struggling economy, which has not improved as quickly as Mr. Obama and most voters had hoped.

“The key numbers in this election are the 43 straight months of 8 percent or higher unemployment, the 23 million Americans struggling to find work, and the 47 million Americans who are on food stamps,” Mr. Newhouse wrote, citing the disappointing jobs report that came out on Friday. “Americans are not better off than we were four years ago, and that is why President Obama has struggled in this race.”

In the memo, the campaign also pointed to the expanding map of swing states, as well as its post-convention cash advantage, as reasons why it expects to win in November.

Now let’s get some perspective from Boston, where journalists are familiar with the history Newhouse’s reassurances and predictions, shall we? David Bernstein of The Boston Phoenix writes: “Well, If Newhouse Says So… PANIC!!!!!”

“[W]e’ve seen this kind of thing from Newhouse before,” says Bernstein:

Who in Massachusetts can forget the mid-October release of a Newhouse memo claiming an internal poll had Charlie Baker 7 points ahead of Deval Patrick, countering the public polls to the contrary — most notably a Suffolk University poll showing Patrick ahead by 7?

And two weeks later, the Newhouse memo claiming that “it appears that Charlie Baker is well-positioned to win this race”?

Patrick won by 6 points.

Or how about 2006, when the Kerry Healey campaign ran around touting an internal Newhouse poll that showed Patrick’s lead cut in half, to single digits, and public opinion of her improving? Healey lost by 21 points.

I’m not saying Newhouse is a terrible pollster. What I’m saying is that when a campaign is touting Newhouse claims to counter external evidence, in my experience that spells trouble for the campaign.

I’ll end with this piece by Salon’s Steve Kornacki, who points out that–despite the media narrative–President Obama has been ahead throughout the entire 2012 presidential campaign.