So over the last two election cycles [2006 and 2008], no Senate incumbent polling exclusively over 50 percent has lost his or her race. And of those polling at least once under 50 percent in a reputable independent poll, 47.5 percent of their challengers have been able to knock them off.I haven't updated those numbers since 2008, but point was, there was definitely some correlation between being an incumbent above 50 and chances of being reelected.
In 2004, President George W. Bush led narrowly in the final round of pre-election polling, but was firmly under 50 percent. Democrats like me convinced ourselves that John Kerry would win because of that 50 percent rule. We were wrong. Exit polling showed that Kerry did win the last-minute vote 52-45, but obviously that wasn't enough to pull him over the top.
Democrats learned our lesson that year, but Republicans clearly didn't notice. Because this year, the 50 percent rule was often cited as rationale for their delusions that Mitt Romney would knock off the president.
The final results? According to exit polling, Romney didn't do nearly as well as Kerry did with the late deciders. President Barack Obama won those who decided "in the last few days" by 50-45, and the last-minute deciders 51-44.
Republicans will blame Hurricane Sandy, of course. But the data simply doesn't show any movement toward the president as a result of the hurricane. That notion is objectively false.
What likely happened is what we knew would happen -- Romney tried to frame the election as a referendum on the president, while Democrats framed it as a choice. When push came to shove, people opted for the choice. And once they did that, it was no contest. The dick didn't stand a chance.