One of the most peculiar stories that came out after election night was that Mitt Romney and his staff were completely stunned when they lost. They didn't see it coming. In fact, they were so confident of victory that they didn't even have a concession speech written. Despite my dislike of Mr. Romney, I actually feel sorry for him. He should've known he was about to lose, but his advisers and supporters in the media completely let him down and allowed him to be blindsided.
The polls before election day were almost unanimous. It was going to be a pretty close national race, but Obama had a stranglehold on the states he needed to win. He had a lead above the margin of error in enough states to acquire 270 electoral votes. Nate Silver gave Romney only a 9% chance to win on election night. Other websites that did polling averages had the same results and Princeton's Sam Wang was even more confident than Silver. Romney's prospects weren't completely hopeless (and in fact were better than McCain's 4 years ago), but there was no reason he should've thought he would certainly be the winner.
So why then did Romney go into election night so confident of a victory? The simple answer is that his supporters and staffers let him down. By supporters, I mean conservative media pundits and talk show hosts who largely predicted a Romney win. Syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer predicted a half point popular vote (and narrow electoral) victory for Romney. This was reasonable compared to others. Dick Morris was predicting a 325 electoral vote landslide for Romney. Michael Barone and George Will also predicted 300 electoral vote numbers for Romney, with Will hilariously suggesting Romney would win Minnesota (which hasmt gone Republican since 1972).
There's no doubt that it's smart media strategy to have consultants and supporters keeping a positive spin for your campaign going in the media. In 1984, even Mondale's campaign manager made victory predictions to the press. It's also smart politics for conservatives to rant against the liberal bias in the media to make it look like Nate Silver and others were trying to make Obama's position seem stronger. However, it's apparent that Romney's surrogates were doing more than painting a positive picture; they actually believed the tripe they were spewing and sold that line to Romney.
Why did they believe this? Most of it was based on the theory that most of the major polls were biased and oversampling Democrats. They believed that the partisan gap, which favored Democrats by 8 points in 2008, would be more like the 1 point gap the Republicans enjoyed in 2010. A website called Unskewed Polls ran with this theory and recalculated all the polls based on what they felt would be the correct partisan gap. The major flaw in this theory is that most pollsters do not use a system that weights their polls by Party ID. They capture the party identification based on the responses they get, which has been proven to be the correct method all along and is why Nate Silver gives such polls a higher ranking in his formula. That method proved to be correct once again.
The conservative pundits had no scientific basis for their theory. Instead, they based their theory entirely on generalities. They were making the assumption that much of Obama's core coalition would be less enthusiastic and less likely to turn out and since Romney was winning Independents, he would win the election. However, the polls already accounted for this with likely voter screens meant to weed out registered voters who might support a candidate but aren't likely to show up on election day. Other bizarre unscientific reasoning included Barone's hilarious assumption that Romney would win Wisconsin because "you don’t see many Obama signs on campuses" and Will's argument that the anti-gay marriage amendment would turn out conservative voters in Minnesota.
Sure you could argue that Romney should be smart enough to understand this. And there's no denying the sweet justice of the tired liberally biased media attack backfiring into a cruel blindside when it turned out that the so-called liberal media had nailed the race (Nate Silver called all 50 states correctly and is now 99 out of 100 in the last 2 elections). Still, people like Karl Rove and Romney staffers like Rich Beeson and Matt Rhoades are all pros that should've known better. I think Romney would've made a terrible president, but I can't help but feel bad for the man. He paid alot of money to experts who gave him historically bad advice. Because of this, he woke up on November 6th thinking he was about to be elected President, only to be denied later that night. That's got to suck.