Mark Blumenthal | May 13, 2008
Topics: 2008 , Barack Obama , Hillary Clinton , Newsweek
On the night before Indiana and North Carolina, [Obama chief strategist David] Axelrod appeared unusually grim and gloomy. The final night of internal polling showed Obama 12 points down in Indiana against Clinton--a disastrous collapse after two or three days of closing the gap. The campaign's pollsters cautioned that the last night's sample seemed weird and they should rely instead on the three-day rolling average of 2 points. But Axelrod feared the worst, that Wright had sunk the campaign in Indiana and possibly in North Carolina, too.
The next day, after visiting some polling stations, Obama arrived back at his hotel and stopped by the coffee shop, where he urged some curious bystanders to vote for him. When a NEWSWEEK reporter asked him about Axelrod's gloomy prognosis, Obama shrugged and said: "It is what it is. We've had a month, two months of bad stuff. It's been hard to change the storyline." He smiled and walked out to get ready for his now traditional Election Day game of basketball. If he was at all worried, as his senior staff was, he hid his concerns successfully from the outside world.
Smith concludes that this story is a "great anecdote reminding journalists -- and campaign staffers -- to be careful when looking at polls, especially the daily tracking polls." True, but the bigger caution ought to be about putting too much faith in any survey result -- and that includes quite a few in the public domain -- based on just a single night's calling.
Also, for what it's worth, Mark Halperin has a video interview with Axelrod that includes words of praise for the campaign's four pollsters.