WASHINGTON -- Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Tuesday morning took a not-so-subtle swipe at the pollsters who staffed Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, saying that their data had been uninformed and suggesting that they should return their paychecks.
"I was reminded of my old friend [former Rep.] Mo Udall saying, 'May the words I utter today be tender and sweet because tomorrow I may have to eat them,'" McCain said at The Atlantic's Washington Ideas Forum. He then dispensed with the diplomatic caution.
"That is certainly the case with our pollsters and our estimates," he said. "Look, there are going to be a whole lot of post-mortems. They are already going on. But it is obvious they were using the wrong model, and we questioned that model from things we were hearing on the ground as we traveled for two months, without a day off, around this country campaigning for our candidates and for Mitt Romney. We were hearing things on the ground that contradicted these pollsters. One of the first things I would say is maybe some of those pollsters ought to give some of their money back."
The comments reflect a widely held belief from within the GOP that there was something off about the data Republican candidates were relying on in the lead-up to the 2012 elections. The results bore this out.
But McCain is an odd source to air these complaints. The pollster that he used for his 2008 White House bid, Bill McInturff, and Romney's pollster, Neil Newhouse, are both partners at the same firm, Public Opinion Strategies.
Newhouse declined to comment on McCain's statement. But McInturff offered a response.
"Senator McCain is this party's most in demand and effective surrogate," he said in an email. "John has tirelessly traveled, campaigned, and worked for a Republican majority in the Senate and is rightly frustrated by the combination of events over two cycles that have cost us that majority. Our firm has commented about our own thoughts about polling this cycle and posted them on our blog."
That blog post, published on Nov. 12, reads as follows:
Across multiple campaigns with which we worked, our research did what it is designed to do – provide strategic counsel to campaigns about key target groups and messages designed to help them win. That’s how we were able to help the Republican party gain the one Senate seat it did pick up (Senator-elect Deb Fischer in Nebraska), and poll for two of the four GOP Congressional challenger winners, as well as ten new Members of Congress overall.
In the new normal – Presidential year turnout of significantly more Democrats than Republicans, as well as more minorities and more younger voters than ever before – Public Opinion Strategies is dedicated to facing head-on the difficult challenges the industry faces in reaching and accurately measuring our changing nation.